BERKELEY - This fall, visually impaired students have
a new navigational tool: a 3-D, tactile model of UC Berkeley
in the lobby of the campus’s Disabled Students Program.
The model replicates campus terrain, architecture and landscaping,
including pathways, sidewalks, fences and even Strawberry Creek.
What distinguishes it from traditional models is the use of
textures and Braille. Two small rods, for example, indicate
crosswalks; smooth wires mean pathways; a rough surface marks
a paved street; saw-toothed edging stands for fencing; a gritty,
sand-like substance indicates building entrances.
The model also will assist students with mobility issues. Students
with cerebral palsy or chronic fatigue syndrome, or those who
use wheelchairs, can use the model to see the terrain of the
campus and choose the best route to their destination.
Earth and planetary science professor George Brimhall designed
the model with staff research associate Abel Vanegas and several
students in the Earth Resources Center Digital Mapping Lab.
Equipped with portable pen tablet computers and global-positioning
units mounted in special vests, the students walked every inch
of the campus to map its terrain. It took nearly two months
to plot every nook and cranny.