An excerpt from the webinar “Reinforcing Braille Literacy Using the iPad,” presented by Dr. Betsy Flener.

Why use an iPad for tactile input? Voiceover is a wonderful accessibility feature, as are some of the other accessibility features within the iPad, but in our field, we often talk about the problem of students only using audio. Literacy basically is impeded when students only use audio. With an iPad and tactile overlays, students can use the same apps as their peers to learn important braille literacy skills.

For example, you can use the iPad with tactile overlays to match and identify shapes and textures, which is a very important pre-braille skill. Other skills that can be learned with an iPad and a tactile overlay include identifying one’s name in braille and tracking activities. Tactile input can reinforce phonological skills by asking the student to identify environmental sounds such as vehicles, things in the home, things in the community, rhyming sounds and words, and finally, letter sounds. The iPad with tactile overlays can be used to identify letters and whole word signs, braille contractions, phonics, word identification, and spelling.

Using a tactile overlay, you can modify already existing apps to teach braille literacy skills. Here are the important features to watch for when you are choosing apps for classroom use.

Simple navigation. You don’t want an app so complex that a student can’t get back easily to a previous screen or proceed through the app. There should only be one or two overlays per activity so that time isn’t wasted in constantly trying to put the overlays on the iPad.

Audio feedback. When a child selects something on the iPad, they should hear what they have selected. Other exciting audio features include being able to import songs, being able to import sounds, etc. Audio features also help to keep the attention of very young children.

Page simplicity. You don’t want an app with images moving around. Graphics need to be very stationary. You need ample room for embossed images between cell locations.

High quality. You want to use an app that really reinforces and assists with some meaningful supplemental instruction. So, you want something very high-quality that doesn’t have a lot of bugs in it and is going to be very, very good at teaching an important skill.

There is a lot of room for imagination as you choose apps to teach braille literacy on the iPad and create tactile overlays for them. This method of teaching can make things very exciting for kids and allow them to learn using the same tools as their sighted peers. The possibilities are limitless!

To learn more about recommended apps for teaching braille literacy on the iPad and tips and tricks for creating tactile overlays, check out the AFB eLearning Center webinar “Reinforcing Braille Literacy Using the iPad,” presented by Dr. Betsy Flener.