Talking maps in the California sun


February is one of my favorite months. Each year, I get to spend the last week of February in California, hanging out with my buds.

It’s because the blind guy goes to this conference in San Diego dedicated to making life better for people with disabilities. A lot of blind people come to this conference, and they bring their service dogs—also known as my buds.  It’s a good plan.

The conference has a big, important, official name: the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. But we just call it CSUN, after the university that hosts it: California State University at Northridge.

If you’ve ever been to a conference, you know how confusing it can be to figure out how to get around.  If Workshop A is in Meeting Room B, how do I get there?  And where is the closest bathroom, especially for guys like Ed who drink too much morning coffee (which is really not necessary because he wakes up hyper—if you understand what I’m saying.)

Now, imagine this: CSUN is held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, four floors of conference rooms, restaurants, terraces, escalators, and bathrooms.  If you add in 5,000 participants and a whole bunch of service animals, it gets pretty crazy during breaks.

But not to worry. Ed and his intern came up with some cool SAS technology to help blind participants. Ed & Intern have created a detailed map for all four hotel floors.  If you open their web page on your iPhone (or other iOS device) and turn on VoiceOver, you can select a point of interest and their interactive map will help you navigate there.

site index of accessible map of Manchester Grand Hyatt - San Diego

In this image, the user has gone to the Site Index and selected Manchester Ballroom. With assistance from VoiceOver, she can drill-down to a map of the conference center’s second floor and her current location or room of interest. From there, the user can determine her location relative to other facilities on this floor.


We designed the website for the operation and maintenance of blind users, especially those who bring their service animals (my buds!) to the conference.  The map is not drawn-to-scale, but if the blind users know that all they need to do is (for example) turn right and move forward, service animals are smart enough to figure out the rest, like there is the bathroom (for humans) and terrace (for me and my buds).

Hope to see you there. And stop Ed if you encounter him. He loves to talk!


About Author

Willie the Seeing Eye Dog

SAS Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology

Willie the Seeing Eye dog has been part of the SAS Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology team for four years. He helps Software Development Manager Ed Summers get around SAS Corporate Headquarters without breaking his neck. He plans to blog about his many adventures with Ed as they work to ensure that users of all abilities can succeed using SAS software.


  1. Tamara Shaffer on

    Willie, your posts are a highlight of my day. I hope you and Ed have a wonderful time at the conference, and safe travels!

    By the way, I was in Cary last month, and I think you two entered Building F. I was in a classroom, and hurried out of the room to go meet you two (don't worry, the meeting wasn't in session at the time), but by the time I got to the lobby, you guys were gone. You move quickly!

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