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Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from BBC Radio 4, In Touch, October 17, 2006.

Blind and partially sighted people will be able to feel their way around some of London's busiest Underground stations for the first time thanks to a new initiative launched today by London Underground (LU), the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and Describe Online.

Blind passengers will be able to receive free books of tactile maps, made up of raised lines, which are read by touch instead of sight, to help them find their way around Old Street, Westminster and Earl's Court Underground stations.

The maps, which are also available in large print for partially sighted people, were commissioned by LU from RNIB as part of a pilot project to provide information to passengers with sight problems.

The tactile and large print station maps were developed by RNIB with the help of 15 blind and partially sighted underground users who took part in research to specify their travel needs and review samples of the maps to evaluate their effectiveness. Station layout, including the location of the ticket office, manual gate, platforms, stairs, escalators, lifts and exits are all detailed in the plans.

Books of tactile and large print station maps can be borrowed from: RNIB, Tel. 0845 702 3153; and National Library for the Blind, Tel. 0161 406 2525; or from braille libraries. They can also be viewed at the station or obtained free of charge from: London Underground's Customer Service Centre, Tel. 0845 330 9880. They have been designed to complement detailed online station descriptions at:

www.describe-online.com (opens in a new window)

Passengers are likely to get most benefit from these if studied before they travel.

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