OSM for the blind
OSM is the map for everything and everyone, so some projects have been started to provide accessibility to the OSM services for blind and visually impaired persons.
OSM for the blind is the name of this group of projects.
How to map for the blind
If you want to make the map accessible for blind persons, these are the things to pay attention to:
- Accuracy is important. If you estimate a POI, add fixme=position estimated to your entry, so the next mapper will check the coordinates
- Learn to know and use the tags for the blind, see below.
- Add POIs that are of interest:
- Public transportation stops with platforms, use tactile_paving=yes/no,
- pedestrian crossings with and without acoustic guidance traffic_signals:sound=yes/no, vibration traffic_signals:vibration=yes/no and sloped kerbs (look at DE:Rollstuhlfahrer-Routing,
- pedestrian crossings with islands crossing=* + crossing:island=yes
- elevators with or without braille writing or embossed printed letters
- meeting locations of organizations of the blind and visually impaired
- shops for optical glasses, eye doctors and hospital departments for eye diseases.
- POIs that offer special products for the blind.
- POIs that offer special accommodations for the blind like Cinemas with narrator, museums with acoustic / mp3-guides, braille menus, etc.
- If you add POIs, it is better to add buildings and put an exact entrance node at the entrance. Try not to add POIs as the estimated middle of a building.
- If you map house numbers with Karlsruhe Schema, put an exact entrance node at the entrance.
- If mapping streets, add parking lanes, bicycle lanes and footways as lanes with number of lanes and/or width-tag.
- Add surface=* tag to footways - this is appreciated when a white cane (blind man's stick) is used.
- You can check your edits on http://blind.accessiblemaps.org
- If a name=* has an unintuitive pronunciation, use the name:pronunciation=* tag to ensure that screen readers pronounce the name correctly.
Web services for the automated generation of tactile maps
- blindweb.org is a web service started from a research project in 2014. Tactile maps can be generated from arbitrary addresses and printed by embossers, on microcapsular paper or by 3D printers. Blind users can use hotkeys for panning and zooming of the map. Maps include normal features such as buildings, roads as well as blind specific features such as building entrances, traffic light signals etc.
- hapticke.mapy.cz produces detailled map excerpts for microcapsular paper prints for maps of the Czech Republic since 2014. Maps for other countries are planned as future work. Generated maps can be downloaded and printed locally.
- Touch Mapper (touch-mapper.org) allows easy creation of 3D printed tactile maps for the blind, based on OSM data. The maps include roads, buildings, railways, and water areas. Maps can be either downloaded for printing on a local 3D printer or produced for a service fee.
- http://tmacs.eng.niigata-u.ac.jp/tmacs-dev generated tactile maps for microcapsular paper which integrates a tactile route from public transport stops to a desired address.
A new map for the blind: an interactive audiobook atlas called "Look and Listen Map"
- Oct. 21, Look and Listen Map wins Torsten Brand Preis 2011.
- Online map and routing portal for blind persons, see Look and Listen Map
- Look and Listen map won a prize in the German WissensWert competition for project ideas about open data / open knowledge.
- Programming of the Look and Listen Map has started in 2011 in Paderborn, Germany.
- Sponsors wanted!
I am blind - How can I help ? - Project blindOSM
If you want to support the OpenStreetMap project, here is how you can do it:
- Symbian cellphone with a screenreader (e.g. N80 with Nuance Talks) and Loadstone-GPS from  or
- Windows Mobile cellphone with a screenreader (e.g. with Mobile Speak) and a logging software.
You can donate your tracks
Do the following steps once:
- Get GPSBabel for your computer operating system.
- Go to https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/new and register for an OpenStreetMap user account.
Do the following steps whenever you want to donate a track:
- When you walk, ride or drive around with Loadstone, turn the tracking function on. Choose a filename including:
- When at home, download the files to your computer.
- Use GPSBabel to convert the .nmea files to .gpx.
- Go to https://www.openstreetmap.org/traces/mine and Browse for one of the files, add the description you know from the filename and add "blindOSM" and the parts of the filename mentioned above as keywords. Click the public checkbox to make sure the other users can see your tracks! (I will publish that the tracks with "blindOSM" are collected by blind users and that other users are welcome to create streets from them.)
- Repeat 4. for each file.
- Find the tracks with "blindOSM" as a tag: https://www.openstreetmap.org/traces/tag/blindOSM
- Find the information if it has been worked on your tracks here: blindOSM
- If you collect tracks for streets that are missing in OSM, then make separate tracks for each street and put the street's name in the description.
- Walk up and down on both sides of the street to get a good result.
- Do not start the tracking function until your GPS has at least 5 satellites in view.
- You can check if somebody has worked on your tracks by using the OSM converter on the Loadstone web page.
Other things one can do
- Translate wiki pages to your language.
- Translate http://www.loadstone-gps.com/ to your language and send the files to the owners of the site.
- Get in contact with the local OSM community by searching for your city's name in this wiki.
- Collect POIs in Loadstone and name them well. It is planned to import this information to OpenStreetBugs.
- Join the discussion. Join the mailing list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Test navigation applications that use OpenStreetMap data. Write to the developers for accessibility improvements. Publish your testing results here in the wiki.
- If you are a developer, get in contact with Lulu-Ann - There are many ideas for small and big projects.
- Take part in the OSMtracker display resolution survey and vote for the option to support screenreaders.
- Put hiking trails for the blind into the map like this one: , marked with "BL".
I can see - How can I help ? - Project blindOSM
Help to work on tracks
Find tracks recorded by blind persons at:
You can help to work on them.
IMPORTANT: Please add the status here, when you have worked on the tracks: BlindOSM
- Add relevant tags in your area for the blindmap.
Of course you can also do things from the list for the blind like translating wiki pages (see above).
I am a developer - How can I help?
Mailing list / Twitter
There is a mailing list about accessibility and OSM:
Sens an email to  to join.
See this page in other languages for the mailing lists in those languages.
Mapping Parties / Testing areas
- Hannover, Germany: "Park der Sinne"
- Hannover, Germany: "Landesbildungszentrum für Blinde"
- Marburg, Germany
- ... list your mapping party for the blind here.
Sponsors and Contributors
OSM-Contributors, who support this project, can add the category to their user page
Special thanks go to
- DanielH - Programmer of LoroDux
- Wunni for loaning a Nokia N80 Symbian OS phone.
- Torsten Brand from Nuance Talks & Zooms for a developer license of the screenreader.
- Greg Fields from R.I.M for loaning a Blackberry.
- Hönigsberg & Düvel International Group for paying the programmer for an internship.
- Higa4 for translating wiki pages to Japanese.
- Arimo64 and maheshinder for uploading tracks to BlindOSM.
- Lulu-Ann and Bahnpirat for working on the tracks from the blind.
- Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Dennert-Möller for offering Lorodux as a bachelor task at Fachhochschule Hannover, Germany.
Projects from the "OSM for the blind" team from Hannover
- HaptoRender for tactile maps
- LoroDux for non graphics pedestrian navigation (for use with a screen reader)
- Look and Listen Map
- OSM Braille True type font with OSM compatible license.
Projects from other teams
- Routago An advanced routing app for the blind with an online testbed, focussing on finding secure pedestrian pathways (As of 2020 available for the DACH region)
-  Osmarender output printed by a viewplus graphical embosser (pictures only)
- Loadstone GPS tool for Symbian OS Phones for use with a screen reader
- OpenVoiceNav OSM Direction tool for Visually Impaired
- Interactive Audio-haptic map is one application of project HyperBraille
- AmauroMap research project describing maps in words. Test map: . Focussing on Maps for blinds based on OSM data - it does also many interviews with blinds upon their needs but does not publish them. The research project AmauroMap started 2009 tries to describe maps in words so that they are accessible with screen readers or Braille; status April 2010: first prototype ready, but lacks of semantic translation
- WikiProject Indoor and outdoor human sized objects
- Accessible Routing - a routing web service for disabled people
- Ways4All - research project for routing and navigation in the case of public transport of visually impaired and blind people
- Accessible Map App - routing-service for blind and visually impaired enriched with orientation points contained in the route (trees, fountaines, surface of street etc) only in switzerland.
-  GetThere - Android-based GPS navigation app for blind and visually-impaired pedestrians. Automatically describes intersections as the user walks along a street, and/or gives turn-by-turn navigational guidance.
- Mapbox GL Accessibility – plugin for Mapbox GL JS that integrates with the system screenreader
- Mapbox iOS SDK – compatible with Apple’s built-in VoiceOver screenreader
- BigSpender iOS app using OSM data to help guide dog owners find suitable spending areas
- Compas – Mapping and Multisensory Tools for Spatial Accessibility (research project)
- GPX/Loadstone to dotwalker converter - data converter for Dotwalker app for the blind
- Import Loadstone-GPS POIs to OpenStreetBugs
- Load a .gpx track and tell the route in words
Tags / Proposals
- tactile maps
- tactile paving
- schools for the blind
- DisabilityDescription Free text information relevant for disabled persons.
- amenity=vending_machine, vending=excrement_bags - for simple selling point for dog-excrement-bags for guide dogs (de: `Spender für Hundekot-Tüten)
- entrance=yes on nodes
- automatic doors at entrances
- Public computers with equipment for visually impaired people
- Dunkelrestaurants (A restaurant that is totally dark, where blind people are the waitors and seeing people eat to learn how it is to be blind as an event.)
- Portugal: [www.acapo.pt] Supermarkets with assistence for blind persons + braille printing / We need a tag for that!
- (add your needs here)
- (red-green) Some color blind persons can work with OpenStreetMaps better than with Google Maps, because they contain less green. However, grey buildings blend in with pink roads, as people with red/green color-blindness don't have a strong response to red, so for others OpenStreetMaps are harder to use than Google Maps.