What are Tactile, Low-Vision, Non-Optical Devices?

Optical vision aids use glass and light, things that directly affect vision. Low-vision non-optical devices use other senses besides sight. You can use inexpensive raised stickers to act as landmarks around the house. They help you navigate dials on the appliances such as the microwave oven, and buttons on the TV remote.

Tactile devices allow you to use your sense of touch to landmark where you are. For example, “bump dots” are small pieces of plastic you attach to the phone, oven, or similar device. You put the dots on dial settings. Then use your sense of touch to turn the dial to the desired setting. 

Stores sometimes refer to touchable, non-optical devices as “Braille Devices,” but that can be a bit of a misnomer. Braille is a raised-dot system that communicates concepts. Dots and stickers are raised landmarks, but they are not “Braille.” They are tactile communication devices. You use them to get your bearings. So take the word “Braille” lightly in those cases.

What are Bump Dots?

Orange and red bump dot stickers
Orange and red bump dot stickers

Bump dots are silicone half-circles with sticky backs. Place them on household objects to get a feel as to where you are.

Bump dots come in clear and colored varieties. Even well-sighted people cannot see the clear ones very well. So they are fine if your patient is unable to see high-contrast colors. You might use clear bump dots with macular degeneration low-vision. Clear bump dots are just about invisible to guests visiting your home.

Glaucoma patients often do better with higher-contrast colors. For this type of low vision, orange and red bump dots can provide visual as well as tactical information.

How Bump Dots Stick to Objects

Manufacturers do not add super sticky glue to bump dots. You can easily remove them. For a successful application, clean and dry the surface first. The area must be both clean and dry for good adhesion.

Why Use Bump Dots as a Low-Vision Non-Optical Aid?

Low-vision people have successfully used bump dots on microwave ovens, stoves, telephones and TV remotes. Use bump dots to identify dials and buttons. Use them anywhere you want to identify a specific spot on an object. They are non-invasive, relatively cheap, and easy to use.

Four Bump Dot Strategies

All of these strategies are valid. Which one is the best bump dot strategy will depend on your specific situation. Here are four bump dot strategies to label home objects with tactile silicone “bump dots”:

  • Place different shapes on different button functions.
  • Place a dot on a button or two to landmark those spots.
  • Use high-contrast colors for glaucoma patients.
  • On flat button objects, put dots on each button to create a raised-surface version of the interface.

How to Use Bump Dots on Telephones

Phone bump dots on the 5 and the Intercome
Phone bump dots on the 5 and the Intercome

Landline telephones are already tactile devices. The buttons are separate from one another. They are raised from the surface. For a low vision person with lots of experience, this might be sufficient. If your patient is frustrated with the phone, though, then a bump dot or two might help.

On my phone, the “Intercom” button is one of three buttons across the bottom. So a dot on this button will tell the me that I am touching the middle button in the bottom row, which I know to be the Intercom button.

You might put the bump dots on the “5” button and the “Intercom” buttons. When your patient finds a button, she can determine if there are any keys below that button. If there are, she is on the “5.” If there are not, she is touching the “Intercom” button.

If your patient is always calling one number, you could put the dot on the “redial” button.

Many phones are not friendly to this process. Tactile landmarks work well when a device has one button per function. Anything that makes you scroll through options is still going to be hard for a low-vision person to use. I will show you some excellent low-vision phones in an upcoming article.

If landline phones are not great for low-vision people, typical cell phones are a disaster. Flip phones are more tactile than modern touch screens. Rather than use a typical mobile phone, it is better to get a device engineered for low-vision people. I will show you those in an upcoming article.

How to Use a Bump Dot on a TV Remote Control

I would put the bump dot on the most frequently used buttons. Alternatively, put one or two dots on landmark buttons. People often put the buttons on “channel up” and “volume up.” You can figure the other buttons from these landmarks.

Flipper TV Remote
Flipper TV Remote

Instead of using TV remote bump dots, you could get a very simplified TV remote control. The Flipper has just volume, channel and power buttons. You can program it to flip through a subset of the available channels, and to skip over the others. This allows you to repeatedly press “channel up” to tune into your favorite stations.

Another option is to use a jumbo TV remote control. The QFX remote is a 16-inch tall remote control offered for under $10. Yes, it is a 1 ft. 4 in. tall remote. The buttons are slightly over 1 in. high. They are backlit for easier viewing.

How to Use Bump Dots on the Oven and Stove

Oven dial bump dots
Oven dial bump dots

The bump dots work best with dial settings that point to specific temperatures. They do not work well with ovens that display the temperature setting in an LCD display.

If you have a dial that includes the temperature setting, you can align a bump dot with a specific temperature as a landmark. Put the dot on the panel next to the dial. For example, put the dot where the dial points when the oven is set to 350 deg. F. In the example picture, you can see bump dots at the Keep Warm, 350, 450, 550, and Broil settings.

In How to Bump Dot a Stove for a Blind Person, you can see a video of a stove outfitted with bump dots. The author put a square bump dot to the left of all the dials. The square dot is a landmark for the edge of the stove controls. The left-most dial is the front stove burner. There is a bump dot at the bottom of that dial, which is the medium heat setting for that ring. The middle dial is for the oven. The author places the bump dot at the oven’s 350 deg. F. setting.

What are Tactile Stickers?

Tactile stickers are also sticky-backed, touchable landmarks. They have different shapes you can use to symbolize different landmarks in the home.

Halos makes stickers for the microwave, the washing machine (“washer”), and the oven. The common symbols such as “Start” and “Cancel” are the same shapes in each package. The “Start” is a triangle. The “Cancel” is a letter “X.”

The microwave stickers include:
  • Start
  • Cancel
  • Power Level
  • Add Time
  • Popcorn
  • Pizza
  • Potato
  • Defrost
  • Cook Time
Microwave tactile stickers
The oven stickers include:
  • Start
  • Cancel
  • Bake
  • Broil
  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Timer
  • Clock
  • Clean
Washer tactile stickers
The washer stickers include:
  • Start
  • Cancel
  • Heavy
  • Normal
  • Light
  • Temp
  • Rinse
  • Spin Speed
  • Soil Level
Washer tactile stickers

Crystal Letters

Tactile identifying crystals letters numbers stickersTactile Identifying Crystals Letters & Numbers is a set of 54 letters and numbers. Each individually peels off the back to apply to an appliance or object. You can use these to add specific symbols throughout the house.

Related Questions

Embossing label maker
Embossing label maker

Is an embossed label a low-vision, non-optical device? Yes, you can print your own labels using a hand-held label maker. The newer label makers do not print tactile labels. To get a tactile result, use the older label makers that emboss vinyl tape. The only drawback is that the letters will be smaller than you might like. You would have to experiment with the label maker.

One workaround is to print a space between each letter. Then your fingers will have enough room to discern the individual letters in the embossed label.

Senior Home Central