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 /ADVANCE/NEW YORK, April 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority today announced a pilot program to introduce the first braille subway maps, which will make the subways easier to use for visually impaired customers.
 More than 200 braille or "tactual" maps are available free of charge for selected low vision and blind subway passengers through a special program with the Baruch College Computer Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI).
 (The program was announced at a press conference at 10 a.m., Thursday, April 15, at the Grand Central end of the Times Square/Grand Central Shuttle train.)
 The maps immediately available are an overview of Manhattan lines and line-specific maps of the 4, 5 and 6 trains between Bowling Green and 125th Street and the E train in Manhattan.
 "We are committed as part of our `Fare Deal' to improve information for all our customers. For the first time, we are offering visually impaired customers and potential customers a convenient guide to help them get around the city quickly and efficiently," MTA Chairman Peter E. Stangl said. "We recognize that visually impaired people are an important part of our community who demand and deserve a more accessible transit network."
 Transit Authority President Alan Klepper said: "The city's subway is a valuable commodity that is to be shared by all. Making the system more easily accessible in this case is accomplished by the introduction of tactual maps for the visually challenged. Under the MTA's `Fare Deal' policy, we are fully committed to implementing innovative service plans and investments so our customers continually get a more reliable and improved ride."
 "These maps will make it much easier for people to travel in the subway with confidence and ease," said Karen Luxton, director of the Computer Center for the Visually Impaired at Baruch College. "The maps provide the visually impaired with more and better information and thereby enhance their sense of autonomy."
 The idea for the maps was first brought to the attention of the MTA in 1989, when the Tactual Graphics Committee was formed by CCVI to explore strategies for increasing independent travel by blind and low vision subway customers. As a member of the Committee, the MTA applied for nearly $80,000 from the Federal Transportation Administration for a "technical studies" grant to test the usefulness of these maps.
 The first step in the project was to sketch out in braille form the 23rd Street/7th Avenue station as well as an overview map of Manhattan. A group of eight people field tested the maps for a few weeks to determine their readability and usefulness. What the test revealed was that the blind participants wanted even more detailed information on the maps for more stations and subway routes.
 To put this concept to work, a group of 30 people were selected to further test the capabilities of these travel aids; this time using an expanded map showing all the different subway lines and stations in Manhattan. This three-page fold-out was made by joining together three sheets of vacuum formed braille plates. The map, which is also printed in large type, has a separate legend explaining the seven different symbols and the nine lines on the map.
 The most popular product used in the study was a strip map of the Lexington Avenue Line in a pocket-sized "Triptik" style. This map of the 4, 5 and 6 lines from 125th Street to Bowling Green illustrated the platform lay-out for each station, indicating how passengers could transfer to other lines; across the platform or on another level.
 Building on this early success with the pilot project, the CCVI applied for and received a grant from the Federal Transit Administration through Project Action, an initiative of the National Easter Seals Society. This one-year training and marketing project is now prepared to offer a set of free maps to blind subway customers, many of whom are being recruited by the MTA's Half-Fare Program for People with Disabilities. With the help of CCVI, the technical staff of the NYCTA and other organizations for the blind, free training sessions will be held in each borough to orient these passengers on the use of the maps.
 -0- 4/15/93/1000
 /CONTACT: John Cunningham or Tito Davila of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, 212-878-7178/

CO: Metropolitan Transportation Authority ST: New York IN: TRN SU: PDT

SM-SB -- NY083 -- 5863 04/14/93 15:58 EDT
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Date:Apr 14, 1993

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