Campus Orientation via Electronic Access for Blind and Visually Impaired


Scheduled at 4:00pm in WB IV on Thursday, November 16 (2017).



  • Jim Kessler, Senior Access Consultant, AHEAD
  • Lauren Copeland-Glenn, , Northern Arizone University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


Access to campus (orientation) information readily available in electronic and print through out the campus is not available to blind/visually impaired students, who, after the initial basic O&M training , have no resources for independent way finding. A proposal to integrate GIS ‘mapping’ and ‘word maps is a feasible solution.


Wayfinding information on any campus is readily available in a number of formats: online, print (street, building, hall signs, etc.) with information that allows faculty, staff, students, and guests to independently get around. This information is not available to visually impaired. O&M Specialists are not practical surrogates for available digital information that allows people to navigate the world independently. A pilot program at Northern Arizona University, in partnership with AHEAD, seeks to utilize existing mapping technologies (GIS) combined with Word Maps to create a wayfinding experience for visually impaired individuals equal to sighted individual. Utilizing GIS technology any user will access the same map but provided in usable formats – a sighted user will see a path of travel and visually impaired user will hear the path of travel described using Word Map conceptualizations of space. This is one approach to a challenging question: How do we provide equal access.


  1. Creating accessible campus orientation information for blind/visually impaired promoting independent travel.
  2. Utilizing existing technology (GIS) and accessible updatable formats (.docx) to create information.
  3. Provides equitable information is an time and format that is readily accessible

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Alternate Format, Legal, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Jim Kessler

Jim Kessler's professional training is as an Orientation & Mobility Specialists. He has worked in private, public and state/federal agencies and in disability services (Accessibility Resources) at the University of North Carolina for 32 years (16 years as Director). He serves as Senior Access Consultant for AHEAD and for the past decade has created 'word maps' for AHEAD conferences for blind/visually impaired attendees.

Lauren Copeland-Glenn

Ms. Copeland-Glenn is a coordinator within the Equity and Access Office and serves as co-chair for the Commission on Disability Access and Design (CDAD) at Northern Arizona University. She earned a BA in Sociocultural Anthropology from Northern Arizona University and is currently writing her master’s thesis in educational anthropology at Northern Arizona University. As part of her master’s program she became interested in GIS-based mapping. Ms. Copeland-Glenn’s current role has provided her the opportunity to utilize her collaborative skills and GIS knowledge to work with a number of campus stakeholders toward a vision of a completely accessible campus map. She also works closely with the university’s accessibility analyst to help departments develop and create accessible media, forms, and documents. She also works closely with NAU’s Facility Services Department to ensure compliance with ADA as well as promote Universal Design in the built environment. She is a 2013 recipient of the CDAD’s Leadership Award.