Taking Control of Your Appliances with Custom Overlay Labels

Date Posted: 12/03/2016

by Bill Holton, AccessWorld Correspondent

My microwave has three adhesive dots placed on the touchpad: one for Start/Resume, a second for Cancel, and a third for 30 Second Plus. My dishwasher has two dots: Start and Rinse/Hold. Sure, it would be great to use some of the numerous other features offered by these and other household appliances, but I do need to keep things simple. Otherwise my memory is likely to fail and I will accidentally turn my oven down to 225 degrees instead of up to 475. Like most blind individuals, I look forward to the day when all, or even many touch screen appliances work with speech. In the meantime we each find our own solution, from adhesive dots to full braille overlays, either handmade or obtained from one of a very few appliance makers that offer them.

Recently, I came across one interim solution which offers tremendous potential. The product is called the Home Appliance Label and Overlay System (HALOS) by Tangible Surface Research, LLC. They are produced by Anne DeWitte, founder of Tangible Surface Research, LLC. and they are a great gift idea for a visually impaired friend or family member, or even for yourself. For $30 DeWitte will create a custom silicon template for your oven, dishwasher or microwave, using easily identifiable tactile icons for each function. The overlays are transparent, so they won’t interfere with a sighted person’s use of the touchpad controls. And unlike other appliance overlays you don’t need to know how to read Braille to use them. Instead of raised dots, these overlays use different shapes to signify what each control does. For example, a raised right-facing triangle shape to signify the Start button on your dishwasher, and a popped kernel shape to represent a microwave’s Popcorn setting.

A second option is to purchase a set of appliance Tactile Icons, individual stick-on shapes that cover specific controls. DeWitte offers sets for ovens, dishwashers and microwaves, and they are just $5 per set. She is also seeking feedback for what shape icons would work best for clothes washers and dryers. HALOS are available through DeWitte’s Etsy shop.

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