PCS High Contrast: A valuable resource

This morning I have been making up a couple of communication books that I want to trial with students in the coming term. The following photo of my dining table is submitted as evidence! (And I’m hoping the Christmas decoration still on the table is extra proof that I actually took this photo today!)

I find cutting, laminating, pasting and trimming very relaxing – and it also gives me lots of time to think.  Today, I was thinking about how cool these two books are going to be and how I hope they are going to work for two very different students. I was also thinking about how exciting it is that we now have high contrast symbols to use with students with Neurological or Cortical Vision Impairments – and that made me realise that I have never blogged about this great resource from Mayer-Johnson!

In mid 2012, Mayer-Johnson released a new symbol library for Boardmaker. The PCS High Contrast library was developed in conjunction with Linda Burkhart and Gayle Porter. There are over 1450 symbols in the library – each is drawn within the guidelines for working with students with low vision. They have been excellent for making resources for many of the students I have seen this year – and for helping us to provide great communication books and aided language resources.  As we all know, visual stimulation is proven to help students with neurological vision impairments to improve the way they use their vision – and these symbols are a great addition to the toolkit of anyone working in this area.

Recommendations for instructional strategies/materials with children with neurological vision impairment include:

  1. Materials, such as pictures, should be simple in form, high contrast (the colors of a picture or object should be different such as a yellow toy against a black background instead of an orange one)
  2. Color vision is usually intact, and color can be used effectively. Yellow and red are possibly easier to see and can be used to outline numbers, letters, or pictures, to color code, or to attract attention to something you want the child to look at.

These symbols help us to meet both of the above needs, and it is then up to us to put the other recommended strategies in place – such as good positioning, being consistent in our language (and our aided language stimulation) and giving the child time to respond, plus others (see the great fact sheet from California Deaf-Blind Services.)

It’s going to take me a while to re-make my resources with these new symbols – but I am slowly working my way through that task as I have seen this year what a critical difference these symbols can make for many students. And in the meantime, a big thank-you to Linda, Gayle and Mayer-Johnson for putting this great resource together to help us to provide more appropriate communication books and tools for the students we work for!

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Comments (9)

  1. Jeanne Tuthill


    Another great resource that means no more laminating is Igage weatherproof mapping paper! It is also not very shiny so it cuts way down on glare! http://www.igage.com/mp/wpp/igage_weatherproof_paper.htm. I started making PODD books with this paper recently after seeing some that Linda had at her training and it is awesome paper! The big PODD books are so much lighter, too!

  2. Reply

    Jeanne – I’ve been using it recently too and love it as well! It’s a lot less work too – we worked out at one school it was much cheaper to use the weatherproof paper than ordinary paper and laminate when you factor in the time that laminating takes (plus if you buy lightweight matte laminate that can cost a fortune too!) I’ve only been using it for about 3 months so looking forward to seeing how it wears long term 🙂

  3. Reply

    is it possible to download this nice high-contrasted-symbol-pages?
    perhaps on boardmaker-share?
    thanks a lot – it would be a great idea for one of my pupils!!

    • Reply

      HI Romana, the pages are still something I’m trialling. Once I’m happy with them I can put them up on BM Share – but you might still need the high contrast symbol add-on to use them pages. I’m not sure how that works. Jane

  4. Sarah


    Hello! I am wondering if you may have a copy of this or a layout to follow so I could make this myself? I have been looking for a way to incorporate high contrast symbols into a PODD, specifically a 9-cell

    • jane


      HI Sarah – sorry I can’t share it due to copyright. Hopefully the PODD high contrast resources won’t be too far away. Jane

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