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Tactile Overlays for the iPad

Contributed by Lori Markland, Director of Communications, Outreach and Development, MDTAP

For students with visual disabilities, tactile overlays on an iPad can be helpful when using apps that don’t “slide” across the screen, such “Scene and Heard” or “Book Creator.” By creating an overlay with tactile cues, the student can more easily navigate the screen interact with the app. Below are a few tips for starting out:

Start with an overlay that can be modified, such as

  • see through plastic page protectors
  • overhead projector sheets
  • see through plastic baggies
  • or mylar

Either slide the iPad into the plastic baggie or protector OR attach the projector or mylar using double-sided sticky take along the plastic edge of the iPad.

Place a tactile cue (such as a stick on rhinestone, puffy paint, fabric sticker, etc)  in the top left corner of the overlay in order to help the user orient the top from bottom.

Then, use tacile cues on the overlay that coincide with the app that is being used. For example, if the student needs to press the “next page” button to go from page to page in the book they are reading, place the tactile cue on the overlay where the “next page” icon is. Remember, if you are using a tactile cue that the student will press on/interact with (instead of the cue serving as just a guide), then the cue needs to be conductive between the user’s touch and the idevice screen.

It’s that simple! And if you’d like to see examples of some DIY tactile overlays for the iPad, Pinterest is a great place to find these!Tactile overlay being used with the Toy Story Read-a-loud app. The tactile cue indicates where to press on the screen.

Here’s my attempt at a tactile overlay using the Toy Story Read-a-Loud app that both reads the text and highlights the words. I used a green felt sticker as a tactile cue to help orient the user as to where to press on the screen to turn the page. The sticker itself is not conductive. so the user needs to press next to or above the sticker, not on it. I also used clear stick dots on the overlay along the bottom to help orient the user to the page.

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