CSUN Session Preview: Interactive Maps – How Do You Make Them Accessible?

Maps are a very important source of information for blind users. Maps designers should never assume the data they prepare won’t ever be used by people with visual impairment.

In the third of her three CSUN presentations this year, Gian looks at what makes an interactive map inaccessible, and what can be done to make it accessible.

Session Details
Session: Interactive Maps – How Do You Make Them Accessible?
Time: 3.20pm, Friday 23 March
Location: Hillcrest CD, 3rd Floor, Seaport Tower

In fact, map accessibility is important to people with the following disabilities:

  • Blindness
  • Colour-blindness
  • Low vision
  • Deafness
  • Motor impairments
  • Cognitive impairments.

Online maps are inaccessible to vision impaired people so a textual alternative (long description) must always be provided. It is also important to include accessibility features within the map so it is accessible to people with other disabilities e.g. by making the map non-reliant on JavaScript and keyboard accessible.


Screenshot from Google Maps of the San Diego, California area


Accessibility principles specific to the use of maps include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing a long description of the map in text or HTML.
  • Providing an ALT attribute for image-based maps.
    • Ensure client-side image maps have accurate ALT attributes to indicate areas of a map or important markers
  • Making the map keyboard accessible.
  • Making an HTML version of any JavaScript features of the map.
  • Using only high contrast colours
    • Ensure that your map design complies with the 4.5:1 colour contrast ratio.
  • Not relying on colour to differentiate important parts of the map.
    • Ensure that your maps use:
      • borders to separate one area from another
      • different types of shading and change of colour to indicate different areas
      • label markers with an ASCII character and individual colours for different markers.
  • Allowing users to increase the size of the map, legend and any text.
    • Often maps do not respond to browser requests to increase size, therefore additional methods may be required to:
      • provide a “large” version of the map, where the user has increased the normal text size by 200%; and
      • maximise a particular point/area, or add a highlight box that shows the particular point/area in a larger size.

If you’re at CSUN, come along to Gian’s information session to see how to put these principles into practice: Interactive Maps – How Do You Make Them Accessible?