It is easy to jump to the conclusion that you need specialized or expensive tools when the word “accessibility” is mentioned. However, there are so many simple and low-cost strategies that can make everyday items more accessible. Hopefully these general ideas can help you get started. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the activity pages on this tool kit for some fun DIY with your child as well. There are endless ways these ideas can be applied once you get started. Making accessibility a non-issue in your home will help maintain high expectations for your child. They will learn to use these tools and build their skills along with their peers, which will contribute to their overall success.
Braille and Tactile Labels
Many items around the home can be easily adapted just by adding a Braille or tactile label. For instance, you can add tactile dots or Braille letters to appliances, remotes, favorite toys, and much more. Braille label makers or sheets of adhesive that can be inserted into a Braillewriter can be purchased online and in the NFB Independence Market. You can find tactile stickers from places such as American Printing House for the Blind. Alternatively, you can use cabinet and drawer bumpers from your local hardware store as “bump dots,” which make great tactile markers. You may be surprised with when and how these simple tactile indicators can be useful.
Other Tactile Adaptations
You can make common household items accessible, simply by adding tactile markings. For example, add tactile notches to a set of plastic measuring cups by using an Exacto knife to make cuts into the handle. You can have a simple system such as one notch for 1 cup, three for ¾ cup, two for 1/2 cup, etc. If you don’t have access to a Braille ruler or protractor, create a simple one by adding notches at 1-inch or ½-inch intervals. Although not extremely accurate, this approach will work for teaching beginners the concept of measuring that they can build on with a more accurate measuring tool as they advance.
DIY Tactile Graphics
You can use a tactile drawing board, such as the Sensational BlackBoard, to create simple tactile graphics for beginners. Have your child practice identifying shapes tactilely. Move on to small pictures and then more complex ones. As they build their confidence in recognizing these graphics, they will also be more confident interpreting tactile graphics for academic settings. You can even use pre-printed coloring pages or other images and trace them with a drawing board to create the tactile version.
Other ways to create tactile graphics include using a hot glue gun, puff paint, tactile stickers, or textured paper. Cut and glue tactile craft items to create maps, diagrams, and fun art for your child. Of course, encourage them to create their own as well.
DIY Tactile Models
You can help your child learn and experience STEM, and other subjects using tactile models. Get creative with household items such as craft supplies, kitchen ingredients, or basic woodworking items from the local hardware store. It’s important to bring your child into the fun of building the models. This is a great way for them to gain an understanding of the concept, use spatial thinking skills, and work on basic nonvisual skills.
Get Inspired by Parents Like You!
For an inspiring story about some DIY parents, check out the article “Books, Maps, and Other Touching Experiences” from Future Reflections magazine. Maybe your DIY project doesn’t have to be this elaborate, but the takeaway is the same. The more access, experience, and opportunity your child gets, the more successful they will be.
You can also check out “Instilling Curiosity and a Love of Science,” a video on the NFB YouTube Channel. This video outlines how two sighted parents found simple and fun ways to instill a love of science in their blind daughter. Allowing her to throw stones in a creek, explore a tactile model of Mount Everest, and cutting open a golf ball for her to investigate are just some of the ways they encouraged and inspired her. You will notice that most of their ideas and actions were really simple to implement and still had a major impact on their daughter. Maybe you’ll think of some awesome ideas for your own child.
Braille label sheets, bump dots, and other labeling tools can be purchased from: