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Re: Maps and accessibility

From: Kristina Seyer Smith <kristina@bonair.stanford.edu>
Date: Mon, 06 May 2002 17:14:02 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: Rebecca Cox <rebecca@cwa.co.nz>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, rtaketa@sjsu.edu, "Moyaert, Lysee" <LMoyaert@sjc.org>, "Ken Blankinship \(E-mail\)" <kblankinship@esri.com>, dan.berman@autodesk.com

I did explore this topic in a paper that I wrote about a year ago for my 
Master's program at San Jose state.  Theoretically, there would be alt tags 
associated with specific features in the map allowing a person to "explore" 
adjacencies (once orientation of the map is known).

When attempting to create an image map with java-script rollovers that 
"spoke", I had problems with the java-script launching when the minimum 
bounding rectangle associated with the original object in the vector file 
(used to create the image map) was hovered over.For example, line objects 
that crossed the entire map "spoke" at inappropriate times.

The need to make websites that contain maps accessible is being discussed 
in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) circles - most recently this was 
brought up at a meeting of the Bay Area Automated Mapping Association 
(BAAMA) in the SF Bay Area. (See www.baama.org).  The issues are being 
raised by public agencies in response to requirements of the government to 
make web sites accessible.  Some agencies are working to provide similar 
information in a text-based form, especially if maps are providing 
directions to a location.

We do need to recognize that GIS technology offers specific capabilities 
that may need years of development for a sight impaired person to utilize - 
such as visual analysis of map overlays, buffer studies, and distance 
queries where a user interacts with the map.  One area where there has been 
increased interest is in using GIS "behind the scenes."  In this case a 
user would be queried for information (entered through a web form), then a 
GIS system would process information spatially behind the scenes, then 
return text-based information to the user. In this case, accessibility to 
information would be similar to that of a sighted person.

Interactive mapping technology/web-based GIS is still relatively new to the 
web. Web sites may require plug-ins to obtain the full functionality of an 
application. Many are still behind firewalls - accessible only to employees 
of an organization, and are still being implemented to help improve 
information coordination and dissemination.  Those agencies that have 
developed sites for the public may have done so with off-the-shelf 
applications. Therefore the agency currently has little control over what 
level of accessibility the vendor has provided.

As XML standards such as GML and SVG come on-line, it will be important to 
build in standards so that each element that is clickable or viewable, has 
metadata associated with it that can be translated.

We need to encourage those vendors who make web-based GIS and graphics 
applications to build in this capability.  A few of these companies include 
Autodesk, ESRI, Intergraph, MapInfo, Microsoft (GIS) and Adobe, Macromedia 
(graphics).  I believe a few of these have representation already through 
the W3C, though I am not sure of their direct involvement with WAI initiatives.

I'm sure it would be helpful to these companies to know what level of 
capability is reasonable and expected from the sight-impaired community.

And finally, another area that needs more clarification is what type of 
instrument (mouse, digitizer, special pin-type interface etc.) would be 
most appropriate for exploring a web-based map.

Best regards,

At 05:43 PM 5/6/2002 +1200, you wrote:
>Does anyone know of any work that has been done on making maps - the 
>geographical sort - (or the information within them) accessible?
>The sites that I have had a look at don't seem to tackle the problem at 
>all, even this one which says it is "accessible" just has an alt tag for 
>the map on this page:
>Rebecca Cox

Kristina Seyer Smith, Manager of Maps and Records
Spatial Information/GIS

Phone: 1-650-723-0594
FAX:   1-650-723-7905
Stanford University, Facilities Operations
327 Bonair Siding, Stanford, CA 94305-7274
Received on Monday, 6 May 2002 20:08:45 UTC

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