an ascending bar chart created with colorful legos.
Guide

No-tech solutions for drawing graphs with low vision and dysgraphia

My favorite no-tech solutions for drawing graphs and creating charts with low vision and dysgraphia-no screens required.

For some of the practice problems in my classes, I have to draw graphs or plot points by hand, a task that can be difficult as a person with low vision and dysgraphia. While there are lots of ways to draw graphs in a digital format, I received a request for ideas on using no-tech solutions for drawing graphs with low vision and dysgraphia, as educators look for tools to help decrease screen time for students who are already at a higher risk of eye fatigue. Here are some of my favorite no-tech solutions for drawing graphs with low vision and dysgraphia that I use for my classes and that are suitable for students of all ages.

What is dysgraphia?

For those who are not familiar with it, dysgraphia is a type of learning disability characterized by illegible handwriting that frequently co-exists with low vision and visual impairment. Some other signs include uneven letter sizes, awkward pencil grip, incomplete letters, and for some, trouble with drawing lines and shapes. Dysgraphia cannot be cured, but occupational therapy services and other handwriting programs can help tremendously with improving handwriting and coordination.

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Whiteboard or other erasable surfaces with dark markers

One of my favorite ways to draw graphs is by using a dark-colored dry erase marker on a small whiteboard since it is easy for me to erase mistakes. In addition, I find it easier to hold a large marker compared to a thin pencil and I can easily adjust the board so it feels more natural to write on.

Don’t have a whiteboard? No problem! Other whiteboard/dry-erase surface alternatives include:

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Drawing graphs and plotting points with magnetic drawing boards

Due to limited sensitivity in my hands, I don’t personally use magnetic drawing boards for low vision and dysgraphia. However, I’ve worked with many students who love tracing the raised magnetic dots with a stylus, and appreciate that I can also use additional dry-erase markers on top to draw on the raised magnets as needed.

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Transparency paper and ballpoint pen

Transparency paper or acetate sheets are thin, flexible plastic sheets that have historically been used for overhead projectors. However, these sheets are also awesome for creating tactile graphics by placing the transparency sheet against a thin piece of foam and tracing over designs with a ballpoint pen, which creates a raised surface. I prefer to use a dry-erase marker to roughly sketch out a design in advance before tracing it with a pen for improved visibility.

Sticking thumbtacks on a corkboard

One of my professors had me practice viewing different charts and graphs by adding thumbtacks to a corkboard, which allowed me to easily see/feel where the curve of the graph was and other important information. In return, I would demonstrate how to plot points by sticking thumbtacks on a smaller corkboard, which was actually a cork hot pad from Ikea. It worked out very well, though was a bit more time consuming than the other methods.

Using masking tape on a dark surface

For students who need basic accessible graphics, a music stand or similar dark surface can serve as the perfect backdrop for making simple accessible graphs or graphics with masking tape or painter’s tape. While this works best for graphs that involve straight lines such as linear graphs or bar charts, users can easily personalize their creations by coloring the tape with markers or adding text-based labels as needed.

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Writing on cardstock with permanent markers

If I have to draw a graph on paper, I prefer to use cardstock whenever possible so that my beloved Sharpie pens do not bleed through the paper or onto my desk. I ordered a package of 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock on Amazon, and love using it for writing and drawing as I can easily hold the page close to my face and don’t have to worry about it shifting on my desk as much while I’m writing.

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Building with Legos or other plastic bricks

Legos are a fun way to create tactile graphs and plot points, as users can feel like they are building something fun while working on their homework. My favorite types of charts to create with Legos or similar plastic bricks are bar charts because it is easier to visualize the size of the bars with the larger stacks of Lego bricks. Users can also use rounded or curved pieces to show points on a chart or parabolas/curved lines on a graph.

Submitting alternative graphs/charts

Just like I would with traditional hand-drawn charts or graphs, I scan in images of my alternative graphs using the free Microsoft Office Lens app or the 3D scanner built into my HP Sprout computer, as I have found these options work the best for inserting images into my assignments. I typically include a note to my professor telling them which materials I used for each graph/chart, and have never had a problem with submitting these alternative images since I already receive accommodations from the Disability Services office for low vision and dysgraphia.

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More resources on no-tech solutions for drawing graphs

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

Updated January 2024; original post published ay 2020.

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