Future Reflections                                                                                                      Fall 2001

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Labeling Clothing

by Dana Ard

Reprinted from the Winter 2000 Gem State Milestones, the newsletter of the NFB of Idaho.

Editor’s Note: Learning to dress oneself is an important milestone in the independence of a child. Most kids then move to the next stage of independence in dressing – choosing their own outfits – without too much fuss. Blind kids can make this transition smoothly, too, if parents put a little advance thought and planning into a clothes labeling system.

Dana Ard, a rehabilitation counselor with the Idaho Commission for the Blind, shares some helpful tips about labeling clothes in this nifty little article. In her job, Dana works mostly with newly blind adults, however, she has a lot of personal knowledge about independence for blind children. Born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and mild cerebral palsy (CP), she was the first totally blind child to be educated entirely in the public school system in Boise, Idaho. Although the CP limits the use of her right hand, she is a good, fast left-handed Braille reader, and, as secretary of the NFB of Idaho, regularly takes notes with a slate and stylus. She and her husband have 6 dogs, including her guide dog, Fringe, and a deaf-blind Dachshund they rescued. Dana is an active member of her church and community choirs, a 20-year member of the Toastmasters Club, and she loves to read, cook, and take walks. Here, now, is what Dana has to say about “Labeling Clothing.”

Dana Ard
Dana Ard
Recently a newly blind client told me about a very embarrassing situation that happened to her. She and her grown daughters were meeting for lunch. When she arrived at the restaurant, they told her that she was wearing two different colored shoes, one black, and the other white. She was humiliated and told me that she was waiting for her daughters to coordinate her clothing before she dared to go out again. 

Certainly, both blind and sighted people alike can report such embarrassing moments, but if you’re blind and have no method for identifying the colors in your wardrobe, you risk having such moments more often.

Obviously, the simplest way to keep clothing straight is never to buy two items that are exactly the same except for their color. This approach is not always practical. I have a favorite brand and style of shoes, which I like because they fit my hard-to-fit feet. To keep them from getting mixed up, I place the pairs together in a shoe bag. I attach a stick-on Braille label on the side of each shoe where it will not bother my foot. I use Braille letters such as “nb” for navy blue, “br” for brown, “bl” for black, etc. I also use such stick-on Braille labels to identify my belts that are similar. I have two brown belts; one is designated “lbr” for light brown, and the other “dbr” for dark brown. If you don’t know Braille, you can buy a package of stick-on raised shaped adhesive markers, which you can use in the same way as the dymo-tape labels. You might use a raised rectangle for navy blue and a raised circle for black, for example.  Of course, you need to keep track of which shapes represent which colors.

I use different shaped craft beads attached to safety pins to identify colors of clothing items that are similar. I pin these beads to the inside label of the item. A very small bead symbolizes red or pink, a rough-textured bead is used for white, and a bead with little projections around it is used for black. I use a safety pin in the label for blue, and cut the label down the middle if the item is green. You can be as creative as you want to with your labeling system, as long as it meets your needs.

I am aware of three commercially available tactile labeling products: Braille aluminum clothing tags, Do Dots, and Matchmakers. The aluminum tags can be sewn onto the label of the garment. Do dots are Braille identifiers that attach to the item like a tie tack. They have Braille that signifies both the color and whether it is light or dark.  This product seemed very bulky to me when I tried it on my pants. Matchmakers are labels with different dot designs on them. They can be pinned in a garment, and like the craft beads, you determine which design of dots will symbolize which color.

Editor’s Note: State or local public or private agencies for the blind will often carry clothing labeling products as a convenience to clients, students, or patrons. However, there are national resources, too – national non-profit organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and for-profit catalog companies – which specialize in products for the blind and visually impaired. Here are a couple:

3M Braille Label Writer: This is a hand-held device with Braille and print letters on a wheel. It includes a tape cutter, the alphabet, plus 18 additional Braille symbols. To make Braille labels on the tape, align the letters and squeeze the handle. It uses 1/2-inch labeling tape. Label Writer and labeling tape is available from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. For more information about prices and how to order contact the Materials Center by phone (410) 659-9314; fax (410) 685-5653; online  at <www.nfb.org>; or by e-mail  at <nfbstore@nfb.org>.

Matchmakers, Aluminum Braille Labels, and other tactile labeling systems are available from LS&S Group, Inc. For more information or to request a catalog contact them by phone (800) 468-4789; fax (847) 498-1482; or e-mail <lssgrp@aol.com>.

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