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Design of a map and bus guide to teach transferable public transit skills.

In the field of orientation and mobility (O&M), we are presented with the task of teaching transferable skills. This task can be daunting at a state school for students who are blind, where the students are often far from home and unable to easily apply learned skills to their home areas. I work at the California School for the Blind (CSB) in Fremont, California. Having taught travel on public transit to students during my 32 years in the field, this year I decided to create a set of flexible lesson plans to teach bus travel with the hope that I would be able to use the lesson plans with a variety of students. I also hoped that I could offer students information and experiences that would better enable them to apply O&M skills they learned at home.

I selected two students for this project, both of whom had some usable vision. One was an 11 year old from a rural part of the state. He had the underlying skills to be an independent bus user, and his family recognized that he might spend time in areas that are more urban than his hometown during different times of his life. The other student was in the mainstream high school program of CSB. He and the 11-year-old student both had the potential, with instruction, to plan and execute bus trips and to solve problems, although perhaps at different levels, given the differences in their ages.

GETTING STARTED

I began by making a tactile-visual map of the central part of the city. I used 11 x 17-inch pieces of capsule heat-sensitive paper for the Pictures in a Flash machine (PIAF, a tactile graphics image enhancer) backed by cardboard. Two and a half sheets were cut and fit together to indicate main streets in the city, including one highway and a railroad track near the school. Six primary locations were tactilely indicated on the map, including CSB, the nearby rapid-transit station, and the local community college. Street names were indicated by small pieces of Braillable Labels from American Printing House for the Blind. The map measured about 21 inches square. Because of its size, it was therefore meant to be used for travel planning in the classroom, rather than while traveling in the community. The map is pictured in Figure 1.

It should be noted that the carbon from the high-carbon pencil used on the capsule paper tends to leave a residue on other parts of the map and on one's fingers. If a different type of map is made (such as out of cardboard, cork, or foam pieces), it would likely be more labor intensive but would not have this effect. Or one could try using a marker instead of a high-carbon pencil on the capsule paper and experiment with results using a PIAF tactile image maker.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND TASKS FOR THE STUDENT

The map I created was accompanied by two spiral-bound notebooks created using the Tiger Software Suite and embosser by View-Plus (technology that allows a user to emboss images as presented on the computer screen, including braille and interlined print or graphics when using a print-capable embosser). One notebook contained basic information about how city bus systems work in a general sense. The information is as follows:

* City buses have numbers, such as Number 217. They often also have names referring to the direction they are traveling in or where they will end.

* City buses run on "routes." A route is a specific fixed course along streets and includes specific places to turn.

* City buses make stops at bus stops. Bus stops are identified by poles with signs, bus shelters or benches, painted curbs, or a combination of these items. * Bus stops can be placed before an intersection, after an intersection, or mid-block.

* A bus route may cross one or more other bus routes. The bus stop closest to where two bus routes cross is an easy place to transfer from one bus to another.

* You may need to walk one or more blocks to transfer from one bus to another if the two routes do not actually cross or meet.

* When you need to take a bus from one place to another, you need to know where the closest bus stop is to your starting point, where your ending point is, if you need to transfer or change buses, and if you need to cross streets.

* Buses usually run with a particular frequency. For example, a bus may run every hour, every half hour, every 20 minutes, or every 15 minutes.

* The bus company can tell you if a particular bus runs, for example, on the hour or 10 minutes after the hour or 22 and 52 minutes after the hour at a particular bus stop. This schedule helps you know when to leave to get the bus, when you can connect to another bus, and when you will arrive at your final destination.

* Some buses have different schedules at midday, during rush hours, at night, or on weekends and holidays; some operate only during rush hour.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Also in the notebook were three sets of tasks that the student should be able to complete using the map and documents. Examples from each set of tasks are as follows:

Find the following intersection: Paseo Padre and Grimmer.

Trace the approximate route of the Number 211 bus.

If you were on the west side of Mowry, south of Paseo Padre, what buses could you take to get back to school?

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

The second notebook contained two sets of information. One set, "Important places on the map," described nine locations frequented by CSB students in terms of cardinal directions and the streets by which they are bordered. An example is: "Lake Elizabeth, east of Stevenson, between the railroad tracks and Paso Padre Parkway." The other set of information offered general descriptions of the bus routes frequently used by CSB students. An example is: "Number 217, from Ohlone College along Mission, left onto Walnut, to CSB stop, down Walnut to BART." The following disclaimer regarding the descriptions of the bus routes was also included: "Assume reverse trips travel on same streets unless indicated." Figure 2 shows a student using the notebook.

STUDENT OUTCOMES

The younger student had success using this bus guide. He enjoyed the different facets of the materials and the interchange between the braille-and-print documents and the map. This student successfully completed three "drop-off lessons," in which he was required to travel to CSB from three different points in the city while being supervised from afar. While traveling, he had the spiral-bound notebook that described the bus routes with him for reference. The high school student also used the map and documents, but did so by "previewing" the destination and then confirming information that he received via the transit company phone operator and transit agency bus maps in print, which he accessed with a closed-circuit television.

IMPLICATIONS FOR USE

By using the map and the two bound notebooks, students can

* Learn how bus systems typically work.

* Find locations of interest on the map using information in the notebook or information received from friends, staff members, family members, the Internet, or store personnel reached by telephone.

* Explore how one bus route intersects with another or estimate the approximate distance one would have to walk to catch a bus or transfer from one bus to another.

* Plan and confirm bus travel with information gathered by telephone, the Internet, or from printed paper bus schedules with or without such devices as a closed-circuit television (CCTV) or an AMIGO (a portable CCTV).

* Experience drop-off lessons in the comfort of the classroom before real drop-off lessons occur.

* Master or solidify skills related to cardinal directions, organized search patterns, coordinating print or braille information with a tactile map, and concepts like between, next to, intersect, before, and near.

This map-and-lesson plan project allowed me to offer students sequential lessons that lend themselves to transferring skills to other geographic areas either in the near future via lessons with me or in the more distant future with other O&M instructors, no matter where the students live or go to school. The map and notebooks can be shared with other instructors at my school or in the area. Advanced O&M students can make their own maps of their home areas and gradually gather information on buses and destinations, putting the information in a format that is similar to the one described here. They can do so with various amounts of assistance as dictated by their experience and cognitive levels. Also, I had the opportunity to use a number of types of technology to create my materials, but it is not necessary to do so; similar materials could be created using regular braille and large-print pages (rather than the Tiger materials) in three ring binders and typical mapmaking materials, such as cardboard and yam. My ultimate goal was to enable my students to master skills that could be generalized and to handle drop-off lessons with calm organization and a reasonable plan of action. This project helped me to accomplish my goal. If you would like to contact me about this project, please feel free to do so.

Cheryl Besden, M.Ed., orientation and mobility specialist, California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536; e-mail: <cbesden@csb-cde.ca.gov>.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Practice Perspectives
Author:Besden, Cheryl
Publication:Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:1569
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