Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Important Tactile Skills for Literacy

Image of Karen Poppe

This 43-minute video presentation by Karen Poppe from American Printing House for the Blind (APH) provides a comprehensive overview of the progression of tactile skills that are prerequisites for an understanding of tactile graphics. The stages of tactile skills are:

  1. Exploration of real objects
  2. Symbolic understanding
    • using thermaforms to represent objects
    • flip books with photographs and raised illustrations
    • tactile beads to match with cards with raised images
    • Picture Maker for tactile maps with miniature landmarks to greater abstraction
  3. Spatial concepts
    • Tactile Treasures with shapes and shapes inside/outside of shape; near/far; left/right/center
    • Picture Maker can be used to put shapes above/below, inside/outside
  4. Scanning techniques
    • lines from top to bottom, left to right
    • point symbols
  5. Understanding perspective
    • trace top of tapered cup and bottom of cup.  How are these the same? (round) Different? (big/little)
    • 3 dimensional textured house with cards that show house from different perspectives
    • press objects or shapes into clay and look to see what happens when the objects are pressed in from different vantage points
    • pair real object, such as a cube, with tactile representation
    • use Wikki Sticks to wrap around outer edge of cube and see how it stays a square (illustrating how a 3-dimensional object can be represented by 2-dimensional)
  6. Understanding tactile terminology through basic elements of tactile graphics
    • point symbols used to represent capitols
    • line paths, such as those used to represent borders
    • aerial patterns or textures, e.g. those used to show rain forest
    • labels
  7. Recreation and leisure activities

General tips:

  • Start early!
  • Be sure that graphics are meaningful.
  • Provide a variety of different textures.
  • Encourage the use of graphics in recreation and leisure activities, so that there is a positive association.
Posted on August 28, 2017
Updated on: February 23, 2018