Tactile Rotor made out of a foam circle with a line (dial) and short pieces of Wikki-Styks flaring out like rays from the sun.

Simple Tactile Representations of iPad Features

Using tactile representations to explain iPad concepts to a first grade blind student.

Layout of the Apps and the Dock

In order to make a quick and easy tactile representation of the layout of the iPad, I used a piece of printer paper and some hot glue. I laid the printer paper on top of the iPad as it was displaying the home page. I traced around the apps with a pencil and then went over the lines with hot glue. I’m not saying it looks pretty, but it only took me 10 minutes and provided the needed tactile representation for my student!

Tactile representation of iPad Home screen

Layla explored the tactile layout as I told her that each square represents a small picture and the print word. Then I helped guide her pointer finger from left to right across multiple rows so she could make the connection between the tactile representation and what’s on the screen.

I asked her to go back to the tactile representation and find the horizontal line separating 4 apps from all the rest. I told her the part below the horizontal line is called the “dock.” The special thing about the dock is that the apps in the dock stay the same from page to page.

She used the R chord to listen to the home page and then turned to the second page and used the R chord again. She noticed that the last 4 apps were the same on both the home page and the second page.

The Rotor

There are currently two reasons Layla uses the rotor during a lesson: to adjust the speech rate or to change from characters to words when editing text in a Pages document. I made a simple tactile representation to help her understand the rotor settings.

The rotor is very similar to a dial on a washing machine or other appliance. It is a “virtual dial” that you use to access different options on the iPad, such as adjusting the voice over speech rate. (You can select which options appear on your rotor in the accessibility settings of the iPad.)

Tactile image of the Rotor: Sun-shaped graphic consisting of a foam circle with a line (dial) and short pieces of Wikki-Stycks flaring out like rays from the sun's body.

Again, this tactile representation isn’t fancy, but it served the purpose! I dug through my box of tactual materials and found a circular foam piece to use as the dial; then I cut some Wikki Stix into small pieces. I glued one small piece on top of the dial and I placed the others around the dial to mirror what the rotor looks like.

As I showed Layla how to turn the knob clockwise one increment at a time, she felt the piece of the Wikki Stix on the dial perfectly line up with each piece of the Wikki Stix placed around the dial. I listed the order of the options aloud as she turned the dial.

When using the rotor, you can move clockwise or counterclockwise. If you pass the rotor option you want, you can either continue go around the circle to get back to the option you want or you can “turn” the dial in the opposite direction.

3 Ways to Access the Rotor

VoiceOver gesture

Rotate two fingers on the iPad screen (clockwise or counterclockwise)

RBD Commands

To move clockwise: Press 5+6+space

To move counter clockwise: Press 2+3+space 

Blue Tooth Keyboard Commands

To move clockwise: Press up+right arrows

To move counter clockwise: Press up+left arrows


More posts about Layla:

By Rachel Harris

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