More OSM for visually impaired

OpenStreetMap is the project that picks where products that are driven by commercial incentives end. One of those areas is mapping the world also with respect to accessibility for people with disabilities. I’d like to talk about OSM for the blind (4).
(I will also use the term short term blind while I mean visually impaired)
I think its important, because its one of those topics where the affected can’t really help themselves and need the help of others.
First of all, it appears that many projects mentioned on the wiki page have been discontinued and the topic isn’t as popular as the length of the page would lead you to believe. I suppose it’d deserve a cleanup.

In summary, it appears that only features that are established and mapped (eg. in StreetComplete, MapComplete) are tactile paving on crossings and bus stops, and sound signals on traffic_signals.
I don’t think this is enough, and I’d like to expand on these with features for the blind I’ve noticed myself. I’d like to create tag proposals for these, but here is the problem; I don’t know anyone who is blind, and I am not familiar with the topic. Therefore, please comment, let’s talk about it, lets talk about drafts like Proposal:Detailed_tactile_paving (1)

There is a system of remote control activated navigation speakers in public areas at least in Czechia (2) (required by building code in public places and on public buildings) and Helsinki (3).
These navigation speakers can be triggered to speak the name of the building, further information, name of a bus stop, buses speak the number and direction, on complicated intersections speakers inform about the directions. (Same remote control can trigger the traffic_signals:sound)
So for dedicated accessibility features, I’d like to propose something along



  • navigation_point
  • navigation_speaker
  • human_assistant
  • hazard


  • rf_remote
  • bluetooth
  • app
  • button

Even with the already existing tags, I think if people would know about them, they could be mapped more frequently.
For example, there exist handrails that have visible tactile writing on the visible side or interestingly, on the backside, where the fingers go. These should be tagged with tactile_writing:* (12)
Or some traffic signals have a tactile map of the crosswalk (number of lanes/direction, refugee island) on the button housing (11). Should be tagged as information=tactile_map ?

Lets have a discussion. Help me understand if mapping more features for the blind makes sense, if you are familiar with the topic. Tell me if tags like these make sense, or propose others. Lets have a discussion.
(Please be mindful of your bubble - if a feature is not common where you live, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense to map it universally)

External links

  1. Proposal:Detailed tactile paving - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  2. (Czech) Unified organization of blind and visually impaired: Navigation beacons - examples of phrases, translated CZ>EN
  3. Our Audio Beacons Guide Blind Users at the Helsinki Subway
  4. OSM for the blind - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  5. How to map for the needs of people with disabilities - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  6. Disabilities - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  7. Disabilitydescription - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  8. Tag:information=tactile_map - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  9. Tag:information=tactile_model - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  10. How to map for the needs of people with disabilities - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  11. Tag:information=tactile_map - OpenStreetMap Wiki
  12. Key:tactile_writing - OpenStreetMap Wiki

I agree, the wiki page should be cleaned up. I think, you can safely shorten (and change to past tense) the sections about unfinished projects which seem to be dead for multiple years (e.g. Look and Listen Map which is an FAQ about an unfinished but awarded project). Proprietary projects which are gone/not working can be removed completely.

[I’m an abled OSM mapper, not a disability expert!]

Affordance-first tagging

Re the terms. Accessible features are not only for rather exclusive disability-centric categories like “the blind” or “the deaf” - they help everyone. I don’t think the term “immobile” is used at all, and it just sounds insulting.

Let’s invert what we’re trying to say, this is about affordances, the extra accommodations that should be everywhere so that life can be good for everyone.

Accessibility really matters, and extra accommodations on things help everyone, not just because they age or get injured. How do we say how a thing has extra affordances to help you out?

Maybe this way. Some hypothetical examples (list)
  • accessible:mobility:handrail=yes
  • accessible:mobility:kerb_cuts=yes (general, along a street)
  • accessible:mobility:ramps=yes
  • accessible:hearing:signed:bsl=yes
  • accessible:hearing:text=yes
  • accessible:vision:large_print=yes
  • accessible:vision:spoken_assistance=yes (or <scheme-name>?)
  • accessible:vision:braille=yes
  • accessible:cognitive:simple_language=yes
  • accessible:sensory:quiet_hours=yes (overlaps quiet_hours=<times>)

I’m specifically choosing a different prefix to avoid all the -ility endings jangling in my head for the mobility one! But it also says “more accessible for diverse folks, here’s how” to me.

Composition is better than semicolons.

These have the pattern accessible:<affordance-category>:<what-affordance>=[yes/no/how]. They compose nicely and say, to me as an English speaker who’s familiar but perhaps a bit unpracticed with person-first language:

“It’s more accessible for (some) people with impaired hearing because it is signed in British Sign Language”

For “affordance”, read “accommodation” in some legislation (US ADA act? I only vaguely recall how people talk about it, I’m not American)

Getting the right communities involved

Anyway, enough tag wonkery from me. There’s a risk here of all us abled OSM mappers prattling on about things we know nothing about. How will we be getting feedback from actual disabled people? Reachout on social media? Please make sure that disabled folks are involved!

Quick idea for thread: if you know you are not a disability expert, please flag yourself as such in your comments.

[I’m an abled OSM mapper, not a disability expert!]