Hines VA Making Custom 3D Maps to Help Veterans Navigate Life

The local Hines VA says it’s the first in the nation to produce custom 3D maps for Veterans who are visually impaired.

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3D printing technology is being used to manufacture incredibly-detailed maps at the Hines VA facility, part of an effort to help visually-impaired military veterans navigate their daily lives more easily.

The hospital just started rolling out the maps, which can be printed in just over an hour, according to officials.

Daniel Smith, a Blind Rehab Technology Specialist, says the maps can be made for just about anything, including parks, rooms, neighborhoods and even the VA hospital itself.

“We used to make tactile maps, but it would take us four hours because we would cut and paste tactile elements and paste them onto a background,” said Smith. “Sometimes the maps help supplement the mental map they have.”

Smith says federal funding and “time” during the coronavirus pandemic made this project possible to complete.

U.S. Army veteran Marvin Gaye, says he finally knows how many homes are on his block. Gaye is legally blind and compares his visual impairment to “looking through a straw.”

“The only way I was able to make it home was because my guide dog was tired of going back and forth and he just pulled me along the right way,” said Gaye. “Other than that, I was lost. I would have called the center to come get me.”

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