Maps for All – Building Accessible Maps

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Eastern Time Zone


Maps are important tools in providing information about the world. They help us travel from one location to another, organize information and orient ourselves so that we can determine where we are and how to get to where we want to go. Federal and state agencies use maps to inform members of the public, policy makers, and to assist agency employees in conducting their missions by providing vital information. Online maps, designed without accessibility features, present barriers to individuals with disabilities.

This session will introduce the concept, development, tools, and benefits of creating and using accessible maps. Presenters from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources of the State of Minnesota will discuss how they create accessible maps in different formats to meet their missions of informing and educating the public . Presenters will also review some barriers, solutions, and implications to making accessible data visualizations.

During this webinar, presenters will share the following information.
  • Common barriers to accessing maps for users with disabilities.
  • Useful design principles that make maps easier to use.
  • Best practices for creating accessible static digital maps.
  • Designs to ensure interactive web maps can be used by a mouse, keyboard, or voice commands.

This session is intended for entry-level to intermediate audiences, but all are welcome to join. This webinar will include video remote interpreting (VRI) and real-time captioning. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the live webinar.

Continuing Education Recognition Available

Certificate Credit hours
Certificate of Attendance 1.5


Kelley Bailey, Section 508 Application Testing Team Lead, CTFL, CTFL-AT, Certified Trusted Tester, Federal Aviation Administration

Amy Ellison, Cartographer and Special Event Coordinator , Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, State of Minnesota

Questions for presenters:

1 In my line of work, we find that we are often required to make maps designating different boundaries or areas. Some of these areas may overlap in order to designate the difference between what buildings are part of a college campus and what areas of a city university police patrol. Is there an ADA compliant way of displaying this in a single map, or would you need different maps in order to make this accessible?
2 Can you please address tactile maps for specific sites, such as a temporary event. How practically useful are they to individuals who are blind or have low vision?
3 My husband has retinal dystrophy and has problems reading the labeling in some maps. His condition causes visual distortions that are similar to those experienced by people with macular degeneration. Arial, ArcMap's default font, is particular difficult for him to read due to the spacing between vertical elements. Can you recommend specific fonts that are easier for people with this type of impaired vision to read?
4 I am hoping you will address accessibility best practices for both static maps (i.e. PDF) as well as interactive maps?
5 Can you please describe how one would create an online interactive map that is aimed at collecting geographically-based public input?
6 As an online geography instructor, I sometimes have to have questions relating back to a map. Sometimes, those maps are can be relatively complex and thus would require a fair amount of description in the alt text, but the Learning Management System limits the alt text on images to 120 characters. What would you suggest is the best way to approach explaining these images with sufficient detail that provides enough information to allow the student to be able to answer the associated questions in that character limit? What about on exams when you don't want to make sure you are providing the answers in the alt text for the images?
7 I work in postsecondary education. I'm interested in creating maps to put online and also maps (maybe apps) that students may be able to download on their phones to navigate around our campus. We have a fair number of low vision and blind students who attend our college. Any suggestions?
8 What guidelines are there for maps shared on social media? What about maps in gifs or videos, for example, on Instagram?
9 I am looking for guidance on addressing basic accessibility on a vast campus built on steep grades. In providing guidance on pedestrian paths, and how steep those grades are, what advice do the presenters have about calling out those grades. I was thinking of how that would "live" on a map legend. I was considering identifying pedestrian exterior routes that are 1) Mostly flat, 2) Route does not exceed max ramp-grade or 1:12 slope, and 3) Very steep slope grade, will not be accessible to many people with disability. While we may have access to more granular data, that data is hard to translate into an easy to create and easy to use map that would help people who visit the campus. I welcome any input about how to make the information useful.
10 What is best practice when certain color combinations or other map features are widely accepted in a particular field, but are not accessible? For example, the red to green color scale is easily recognizable for maps showing a normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), but not an accessible color ramp. A more accessible color ramp may not be intuitive for those familiar with NDVI.
11 Can you please share any guidance and examples for writing alt text for static maps?

Session Questions

This session is accepting questions from registered users. After you have registered to participate in this session you can submit your questions on your Account Manager page. Please note: the number of questions will be limited and submissions will be closed well before the session starts to provide time to prepare answers.

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