USF student develops 3-D tool for visually impaired students

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A new kind of 3-D map is helping students with visual impairments learn the literal ins and outs of the University of South Florida campus.

The technology has the potential to help students navigate everything from crosswalks to classrooms.

USF College of Engineering graduate student Howard Kaplan is leading the project to create 3-D tactile maps for visually impaired students.

"It allows them to have more freedom. It allows them to have more confidence in their navigation," Kaplan explained.

He and his team developed software that prints plastic symbols, duplicating classrooms and common areas around campus, including emergency exits and classroom doors.

"We provide them with the map and, on that map, they are able to discern where the evacuation route or routes are, for where they are located in that particular room," Kaplan said.

The software allows students to easily and quickly create maps.

"It really expands well beyond just the university and goes elsewhere, which we have already seen with the office spaces and other training facilities we have been working with," Kaplan said.

Ultimately, he hopes the software helps make the college experience fun and safe for everyone.