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Activity and strategy

CVI Bead Bar

Learn how to create your own CVI Bead Bar using Mardi Gras beads for students with cortical visual impairment.

CVI bead bar

The students I currently serve all have the diagnosis of cortical visual impairment (CVI) along with other significant disabilities. For two of my students who are also sensory seekers, I wanted to make an activity that met their visual and sensory needs. I also wanted to make an activity that would encourage sustained gaze and visually guided reach. Both students have a preferred color of red and require movement to elicit fixations.

One benefit of this bead bar is, for some of our students with significant disabilities, their preferred visual field and their ability to reach/touch do not match up. One of my students has limited motor skills in her arms, but her preferred visual field is in the upper visual field. The bead bar can meet both her vision and motor skills by just adapting the height. The bead bar can be made tall enough to meet the needs of the her upper preferred field while having the beads long enough for her to touch them without having to lift her hands/arms to reach the beads.  Just a slight movement of her hands will move the beads.


  • Use ½ inch PVC pipe cut to the following lengths:
    • (3) – 12 inch pieces 
    • (4) – 3 inch pieces
    • (2) – ½ elbow connectors
    • (2) – ½ T connectors
    • (4) – ½ end caps 
  • PVC glue
  • Industrial strength glue (E6000 found at craft or hardware stores)
  • Approximately 18-24 Mardi Gras bead necklaces in your student’s preferred color


The photo shows how easy it is to assemble.

Black PVC pipe frame with red Mardi Gras beads hanging over it
Black PVC pipe frame with red Mardi Gras beads hanging over it

I used PVC glue to make sure the pieces wouldn’t fall apart, then spray painted the whole thing black to add higher contrast. I added red Mardi Gras beads using industrial strength glue so they would stay put. To adhere the beads, I put a layer of glue on the top PVC pipe to secure the beads onto the pipe then added another layer of industrial strength glue on top of the beads to make sure they were secure.  I left the beads in one long strand by only making one cut in the necklaces.  This allowed me to lay them over the PVC pipe to position them evenly prior to gluing them down.   If the height needs to be taller, then I would adjust the beads so that one end would hang lower to reach the student’s hands. 

Of course, supervision should be always be provided when using beads or any small manipulative in case the student pulls off the beads and puts them in their mouth, but so far my students haven’t been able to pull any off!


For students who may knock over the bead bar, you can use clamps to clamp it to their desk or table. 

For students in wheelchairs who have to be reclined, you can make a taller floor version that can be positioned on either side of their wheelchair.  The frame would be taller and wider but the beads could be added as described above.

Collage of Make your own CVI Bead Bar
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