February 12, 2020

Creating Tactile Overlays in Minutes for iPads and Books

- Therese Willkomm, PhD, ATP

person reading braille text

Tactile overlay materialsCreate Tactile Overlays in Just a Few Minutes

Various graphics and drawings on the iPad and in books are not accessible to individuals who experience blindness. However, creating tactile graphic overlays that can be secured to the glass on the iPad or to the pages in a book can quickly be made in minutes.

Materials Needed to Create Tactile Overlays

About a year ago, I discovered that transparency film was being discarded since professors were no longer using overhead projectors. I ended up with hundreds of sheets of this transparency material donated to me. I discovered five different uses for this material. Since the transparency film is a thicker material and does not tear, it makes an excellent overlay on an iPad. In addition, it is thin enough so that it doesn’t interfere with the conductivity of one’s finger interacting with the iPad.

These overlays are made with: removable tape; transparency film; a tactile graphic board made using Foamie and corrugated plastic; a Sharpie or  dry erase marker;  a pair of scissors and a ball point pen. The transparency film is cut to the size of the iPad or the size of the book page. It is then secured to the iPad or the book using Remo One tape. The marker is then used to trace all the lines and images on the page. This image is then removed and turned upside down on top of the tactile graphic board (a piece of self adhesive Foamie attached to a 8″x10″ piece of corrugated plastic). A ball point pen then traces over the top of the lines. The pen causes the plastic to stretch down into the Foamie material and thus will create a raised image when flipped over.  After the image is traced, the transparency film is then turned back over and attached to the screen of the iPad or to the book.

Tactile Overlays Can be Reused Many Times

These transparencies can be easily removed from the glass on the iPad and attached to a smooth plastic sheet protector and used over and over. If the overlay loses its stickiness, another thin layer of tape can be applied.

The first picture below shows an example of how the garage band app has been adapted with an overlay for the guitar. The strings on the guitar raise up off the glass. The second picture shows a child’s book in which the tactile graphic overlay is on top of the pages. The outlines of the images raise up off the page.


Tactile Overlay for iPad


Tactile Overlay for books


Want to learn more?

Attend the Creating Tactile Overlays Workshop coming up on March 2, 2020!