Coloring Inside the “Tactile” Lines

Lots of colorful crayons in a basket with a blue background.

Coloring Inside the “Tactile” Lines

My mom, who was also blind, had been a teacher before I was born. She understood child development and was determined that I would participate in the same activities my sighted peers were doing, even if that meant I did them slightly differently. Sometimes it also meant that she, as the blind parent, also had to modify activities. This included art, and there was never a shortage of crayons in my house. I distinctly remember a time when I decided the basic box of eight crayons was simply not advanced enough for my four-year-old artistic needs and begged my parents for a bucket that must have contained at least 120 crayons. My parents purchased the bucket and also undertook the task of putting Braille labels on each crayon. This helped me learn my basic colors and gave me an understanding of how many hues there really are in the world and their relationships to each other.

I would have been happy sitting at the table scribbling away on blank paper, but my mom wanted to make sure I was developing the same fine motor skills other kids by learning to color inside the lines. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about many accessible coloring books, and the ones she could find were prohibitively expensive. What she did have was a large collection of cookie cutters. At some point she realized that she could give me the bag of cookie cutters, I could place one on the paper, and color inside that. This kind of worked, except I had a hard time keeping the shape still while I was coloring it in. She also wasn’t nuts about the fact that I was getting color on the cookie cutter as well as the paper, since that meant they weren’t very good for cutting out cookies unless you wanted an aftertaste of Crayola in every bite.

Ultimately, she found a solution. She would take a towel and fold it so it was reasonably thick, place a piece of paper on top of the towel, and put the cookie cutter on top of the paper. She would then hold the cookie cutter still with one hand, and punch holes around the outside of the shape with a stylus. When the cookie cutter was removed the holes in the paper made an outline of the shape that I could color in.

Thanks to advancements in technology, creating tactile graphics is much easier than it was when I was growing up. Even so, I think it is important to remember that accessibility doesn’t have to be done using fancy or specialized tools. Sometimes it means using things you already have in your house to make it possible for your child to color inside the lines.