Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

How to Use Bump Dots to Maximize Accessibility

by Laura Legendary

Whether you are a person with a slight visual impairment, have low vision or no vision, you'll find that these tiny helpers can make tasks at work or home more accessible. What are they? You may not have realized it, but even if you have no vision loss at all, you've been using them for most of your life.

"Bump dots," also called "high marks," are raised bumps found on keyboard key caps, usually on the first fingers of the PC keyboard home row, as well as on the five or center key of a ten key numeric keypad. They are simply tactile locators that can help you orient yourself to the keypad more quickly. You have probably noticed them on ATM machines, telephones and calculators. However, for a person who is blind, or who has low vision, high marks can be used almost anywhere in your home or workplace.

There are a number of manufacturers of these tactile dots, and they are available in a variety of sizes and colors. They can be as large as one half inch in diameter, or as small as a Braille dot. You can find them in black, blue or fluorescent neon brights . Some are even clear. Usually, they are made of some sort of resin or plastic, and you buy them in packages of small sheets from which you can simply peel off the adhesive dots when you need them.

How can you use them to assist you around the house? Since the dots are adhesive, they stick on most surfaces. Bump dots are a great way to locate, identify and organize.

Here are some of the ways I use them:

  • I stick them on each wash cycle indicator line on the washing machine, those that indicate gentle, heavy or normal wash.
  • Apply them to the high, medium and low settings on the clothes dryer.
  • Apply them to the indoor thermostat to indicate that perfect 68 to 72 degrees.
  • I have them stuck to the oven temperature dial. One at 350, one at 400 and another at 450 degrees. those are my most often used oven temps.
  • I use them to differentiate between two of the same thing. One has a dot, the other doesn't. For example, if I know I have one of the items in black, another in white, the black one has the dot.
  • I've even used them in hotel hallways to mark my door! It's faster than examining each Brailed door plaque, I just stick a dot on the wall preceding my door. Have you found one of my dots in your travels?
  • Stick them on your electronics to indicate where a plug inserts. For example, “video in" has a dot, “video out" does not.
  • I put a dot at the exact spot on the microwave dial that is the precise setting for the perfect bag of popcorn.

There is no limit as to how you can use these markers. You may be wondering how the dots can be used if the surface isn't smooth. Well, there is a solution for that, too. Dots can be purchased in a tube containing a soft putty or paste. Just squeeze out a drop onto a porous surface, a slanted surface or even wallpaper. When the droplet dries, you have a tactile marker.

With a bit of imagination and some creativity, you'll be "spot on" when trying to locate and identify items throughout your environment. bump dots can make life a little easier for anyone who has vision loss. What are some of the clever or unique ways you've used them?

Laura Legendary is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, accessibility and assistive technology. Visit Eloquent Insights at to request Laura for your next event. Find Laura's Accessible Insights blog at

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