Imagine a three-dimensional campus map installed at the C4C, where it could be used as a resource by anyone regardless of disability.
A few years ago, Karen Rosenschein, Assistant Director of Disability Services at the C4C, had this very idea.
“So, a wheelchair user could identify wheelchair accessible campus routes, a blind person would be able to use braille labeling of buildings and feel routes and visitors would have enough information to get around,” Rosenschein said. “I also thought it would be a great art-like structure that would symbolize the intent of the Center for Community.”
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t raise the funds,” she said.
Because this idea was limited due to a lack of monetary compensation, Rosenschein decided to try something different.
“I had heard of a small, one person company which is now called Click and Go maps, started by a man named Joe Cioffi,” Rosenschein said. “He is a certified orientation and mobility specialist who teaches people who are blind how to navigate their environments.”
Cioffi is a mapmaker who inspired Rosenschein to start funding the project.
“He had just started a digital mapping program where a blind person could download descriptive directions to meet their needs,” Rosenschein said. “I was interested in this but posed the idea of making it universally designed to be used by anyone.”
With idea in hand, Rosenschein was able to get $5000 from the CU Parents Association, and with the help of student intern Teresa Nguyen, they had raised another $17,000. This $17,000 came from the Vice Chancellor’s office, Parking and Transportation and the ADA Coordinator’s Office.
“From then on, a number of students with and without disabilities assisted in developing the maps, including Jarad Christianson, who did most of the detailed and stair free routes,” Rosenschein said.
Meredith Banasiak, Senior Instructor in the Environmental Design program at CU, said that universal design was the driving force behind these way-finding maps.
From making sure font is the appropriate size online, to making sure the campus is accessible to every type of person, Banasiak said universal design tried to include the widest range of human abilities.
“This is also a very homogenous campus, and so these way-finding maps make it easier for everyone to navigate,” Banasiak said.
In the future, Banasiak hopes to have an online certificate available for disability studies, one that a group is currently working on now, where more ideas like these way-finding maps can come to fruition.
To Rosenschein, this whole project was very collaborative in nature, which was one of the major highlights.
“[This] was a great project because it was so collaborative and students from so many different disciplines participated and learned more about universal design concepts and disabilities,” Rosenschein said.
In an interview with the CUI, Jarad Christianson offered why he thinks this was a great project to work on.
Introduce yourself. What is your name, age, and major?
Jarad Christianson, age 22. My major is environmental design and architecture.
For people not familiar with way-finding maps, what purpose do they serve?
Way-finding maps organize places into collections of definite sensory cues, and uses those sensory cues as points along a path or navigation route. In contrast to traditional maps, which often lead you along streets and existing infrastructure grids, way-finding maps are more about learning the feel of a place by presenting levels of sensory information to users. They are meant to present navigation in three-dimensions, and will denote major sensory cues as a way of orienting yourself in space. Using a way-finding map can help a person integrate themselves into the existing environment faster than a traditional map; it will ingrain a place into your brain more quickly.
What did you contribute to this project?
My biggest role was collecting way-finding data for about 75 routes on campus and presenting that data as text for walking routes and accessible routes. I worked under Karen Rosenschein of CU Disability Services and Joe Cioffi of Click and Go Maps. Karen was who I saw as the coordinator of the whole project, and really made everything come together. She was able to secure funding, involve other student groups around campus and make everything keep going forward. It was a great experience working with her and being exposed to a part of CU that I had previously not been involved with. I met about twice a week with Karen and we would discuss my findings, as well as try to hammer out details of how this project would be accessed and presented online in the future.
Joe Cioffi is a way-finding professional and the groundwork for this project was laid upon much of his existing work. He collected navigational data for blind users and provided the framework for putting all of the way-finding data online. Additionally, I had the pleasure of closely working with Teresa Nguyen, whom at the time worked for Disability Services as well. They would give me lists of routes between major points of interest on campus, and I would go experience those routes myself, taking note of all accessible entrances to buildings on campus, and the most efficient and accessible routes between those points.
I would also meet with Meredith Banasiak and discuss different levels of sensory stimulation in the environment. Having discussions about sensing things in different ways and how different people may feel when presented with different types of sensory stimulation really made in impact in how I collected route data. I started to get a different feeling for navigation and what people are actually picking up on as they go through an environment.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me was changing my descriptive vocabulary and making very detailed, sensory-cue-laden observations succinct. I had to learn how to pick out the most impacting sensory cues and describe them in a sensible way.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while completing this project?
At that point in my life, I had not had a good amount of interaction with people who cannot navigate places using all five senses and all limbs or mental capacity, which is something that I am used to. Talking to and putting myself in the shoes of people who experience environments in completely different ways than I, has changed how I looked at almost everything I encounter. Like I touched on before, the role I had in this project was a small piece of the puzzle, but the impact it made on me personally was very large. Losing the use of a sense or losing physical or mental capability is not something to take lightly, and the perspective that’s gained from anyone in that situation is very valuable for everyone to understand.
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Where will you go from here? Will you keep refining the way-finding maps?
I would like to keep advancing the available navigation tools at CU, and I am looking into what I can do for them in the future.
Anything else you want to share?
I am very grateful to Karen Rosenschein for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this project, and she deserves an enormous amount of credit for what was produced. She and Joe Cioffi really allowed the whole project to move forward and become a reality, and I appreciate being able to help them advance the way-finding map database at CU.
Lastly, I recommend that if you have an opportunity to work with Disability Services of any kind, run with it.
For more information on disability services, visit this link: http://disabilityservices.colorado.edu/
To try out the way-finding maps for yourself, check out his link: http://www.colorado.edu/campuswayfinding
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Zachary Cook at Zachary.firstname.lastname@example.org.