Feeling label on test tube

Labeling Lab Supplies Using Non-Visual Methods

Labeling ideas for graduated cylinders and centrifuge tubes in the science lab for students with visual impairments.

By Caroline Karbowski

I am a Research Assistant in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Pharmacology at Ohio State University and I created this video to share some labeling ideas for graduated cylinders, Falcon tubes, and Eppendorf microcentrifuges tubes. I demo Touch-and-See labels, Braillables – Cut Sheet Braille Labels, DYMO tape, and the PenFriend 3 Voice Labeling System.


Hello, my name is Caroline and I’m in Chuck Bell’s lab at the Ohio State University. I’m going to show some ways to label Falcon tubes and Eppendorf tubes, so that way a blind person or someone with low vision could be able to identify the tubes independently for their experiments.

Braille Labels

I want to show you this really cool braille label sheet. It has braille labels and print labels that are all raised — even the print. It’s called Touch and See labels and I got them from the NFB Independence
Now, one drawback is the labels are only just one letter or one number, so it’s pretty minimal on the information that you can fit on your tube. A single letter though, such as “m,” could represent a larger concept and then you could make a key.

If you want to have longer braille labels, you could use these brailleable labels from American Thermoform. They come in a large sticker sheet and then you use a slate and stylus or a brailler to make your own labels. Here I’m using a slate and I’m writing the number one on the label and then I can cut it out and place that on a tube.

You can also use another labeling tape called DYMO tape. This is a thicker label and it’s harder to push down when using a slate, but the braille is really nice. They also make magnetic DYMO tape. This is great because you can make reusable braille labels for your metal containers at the lab. I made a label that says “water” and I placed it on a metal cylinder. The only issue is when I touch the label it falls off easily. I think it’s just because the cylinder isn’t strong. But when I place the label on the shelving that’s magnetic, that label stuck.

I made DYMO tape labels and brailleable labels for graduated cylinders. It would be interesting to see if they hold up through multiple washes.

CanDoAble accessible labels are another option. These reusable labels for the science laboratory have braille and large print labels on an elastic band that can be put on different containers in the laboratory space. Each label contains print and braille for accessibility of both sighted and blind persons.

Labels at Different Temperatures

I’m curious to know if these various labeling methods work out well in the different temperatures I use at the lab. For example, I use 4 degrees Celsius, minus 20 degrees Celsius, and minus 80 degrees Celsius. I’m curious if some of these braille labels are going to curl off the tubes in the cold temperatures and so that’s what I’m going to find out.

I’m going to put labels on these tubes using the different methods and then I’ll come back later and see how well they held up. I have three falcon tubes that would hold 14 milliliters. The first tube has a Touch and See label with the number four, along with DYMO tape and brailleable labels with the date. The second tube has a number two for the minus 20 degrees C and the third tube has a number 8 for the minus 80 degrees.

Labels Using Hair Ties

Another way you can label tubes is by using hair ties. For the 4 degree tube I’m putting a kid’s hair tie with a plastic flower on the end. This could help me quickly identify the tube. On the number two tube for the minus 20 degrees, I’m putting a hair tie with small ridges, and on the third tube I’m going to put a hair tie with large ridges. I would recommend using hair ties that are made of plastic compared to ones made out of fabric because if they get wet it won’t hurt the hair tie.

Using plastic hair ties to mark test tubes
Using plastic hair ties to mark test tubes

Labeling Eppendorf Tubes

I’m also going to try this with three Eppendorf tubes. Eppendorf tubes are very small, so you can’t fit a lot of labels. I first tried using DYMO tape to put a single braille cell label, but the label fell off because the tube is so curvy and DYMO tape is thick. I then tried using the brailleable labels and, since they are thinner, they fit on the tube and they stuck on. I could fit up to five cells. I could also put a brailleable label for a single braille cell on the top of a tube.

Using Pen Friend Labels

On the first two tubes I put labels from the Pen Friend. I use the circular ones and they’re really small so they fit right on the lid. For the third tube — the minus 80 degree one — I put the Pen Friend label on the
side. What’s cool about the Pen Friend is it will play back a recording for the labels that you create and they’re reusable. You can also buy additional sheets, if needed. You can even save the data from your recordings on the computer so you can have a backup.

I’m going to do a demo. So I’m holding in the power button to turn it on and I’m going to press the record button and record my label. “4 degrees Celsius. Braille label test. Caroline, January 2nd, 2022.”

Also I recommend checking your labels to make sure your recording worked. To play back on the Pen Friend you just touch the tip to the sticker, but I’m trying that and it’s not really working so I’m trying to rotate the pen until I can get it to work.

Using a Pen Friend to label a test tube
Using a Pen Friend to label a test tube

[Pen Friend reads “4 degrees Celsius. Braille label test. Caroline, January 2nd, 2022.” ]

Awesome! Let’s make this one.

[Pen Friend beeps.]

“Minus 20 degrees Celsius. Braille label test. Caroline, January 2nd, 2022.”

[Pen Friend reads “Minus 20 degrees Celsius. Braille label test. Caroline, January 2nd, 2022.”]

And you could also put your Pen Friend label on the side. “Minus 80 degrees C. Braille label test. Caroline, January 2nd, 2022.”

[Pen Friend reads “Minus 80 degrees C. Braille label test. Caroline, January 2nd, 2022.”]


Now I’m showing some clips of me putting the samples in their respective environments. The four degrees one in the fridge; minus 20 went in a freezer, and the minus 80 degree sample went in a very large freezer that’s taller than me. I had opened a big door and then there were smaller doors inside
that were secured with latches. There’s a lot of snow throughout the freezer and it gets on my gloves.
I think it’s kind of funny. I close the door with a latch and then the big door I secure with a very large handle that I pull down.

Collage of labeling lab supplies

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