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Making Back to School Shopping Meaningful, Accessible and Fun

Back to school shopping with children who are blind, visually impaired can be a fun and meaningful experience if it is made accessible.

My son Liam, who is deafblind, will be starting first grade in a couple of weeks in a mainstream classroom. Last year, I bought all of Liam’s supplies and labeled them myself.  This year I wanted Liam to be part of the process. And of course I wanted it to be a good learning experience as well.   It took a little preplanning on my part; here is what I came up with: 

Step 1: Accessible Tactile School Supply List:

To be created sometime before the trip

A tactile school supply list will look different for every child and their own unique needs and levels.  I wanted Liam’s to be simple with just a few items on our list (I picked 4 ). I glued on an object symbol to represent the items we needed to buy along with the braille.  I also used “puffy paint” to draw horizontal lines to clearly separate the items on the list.  We will take the list with us to the store to follow together and buy the items we need.  

scissors glue glue stick and crayons labels
Tactile school supply list: scissors, glue, glue stick, crayons


  • You could  think of a way to “cross” off items on the list, such as a tactile sticker to show that you already bought the item.  
  • You could  Velcro the items onto the list you want to buy and then take them off once you purchase them. 
  • You could create the list together before you go shopping.  
  • Your list could use braille only.  
liam and mom with labels
A young boy explores the tactile shopping list.
liam with list
Liam feels the tactile list while his mother signs to him.

Step 2: Create Labels

Ahead of time (by yourself or with the help of your child) create labels for the items you are purchasing.  For example:  “glue” to stick on the glue bottle, “crayons” to stick on the crayon box, etc. 

liam and scissors label
Braille and print labels with the child’s name and the names of the items on the list

Also, create “name” labels ahead of time to use to label your child’s new supplies with their name.

Step 3:  

Introduce the List – Go Shopping!

Before you go to the store, introduce the list and read it over together. Once at the store use the tactile list to begin searching for the items you need to purchase with your son/daughter! This should be fun! Allow your child to have as much choice as possible.  

Liam signs to his mother about the items on the list.
Liam signs to his mother about the items on the list.
liam at the store holding glue sticks
Liam puts glue sticks into the cart.
liam at checkout
Liam places items on the conveyor belt at checkout.

Step 4:  

Label! Label! Label!

As soon as you get home (or as soon as you can:), label all of the supplies together and load them up into their backpacks – ready to go!  

liam labeling
Liam signs with his mother before placing labels on the new school supplies.

Other ways you can use a tactile list:

  • Grocery shopping list – The list can “evolve” as your child grows and learns.
  • Chore list
  • To-do list
Liam using the low tech restaurant book
Activity and strategy

Communication Tools in the Community for Students who are Deafblind

A boy using a video magnifier
Tips and guides

Video Magnifiers or CCTVs

Illustration of desktop computer monitor
Tips and guides

Steps for Completing the Screen Magnification Software Assessment