Protect the Tech! DIY and iPads: Mounting, Keyguards, and an iPad Carrying Case

Image of an iPad carrying case made from macaroni and cheese duct tape.

It is natural to be concerned about keeping your tech safe and clean.  After all, an iPad + AAC app is expensive.  We want to protect both our investment and our client’s voice! Our instinct is to keep the device away from potential messes. This is well meant, but can conflict with the need to make sure that an AAC user has access to their voice everywhere (okay, maybe not the bathtub, but there is a workaround for that, too).

Having obtained a speech generating device, we may still have questions about how to transport it and how to position it.  How do we solve these problems without spending even more money? Fortunately, we can often do the job with low tech materials and a little inventiveness. The fix doesn’t have to be pricey at all.

Picture of duct tape and foam boards

The following ideas would fall into the DIY, or LIfe Hacks realm.  And making something yourself can be immensely satisfying!  The typical work day does not allow a lot of room for creativity.  Let’s look at how we can problem solve, and use our creative energy, to support clients who use AAC.  Here are some challenges and potential low tech answers.

Question:  “How can I take my iPad to work?  I cut produce at a grocery store and the counter is usually wet.  But I still need to communicate with my peers.”

Answer:  You can make a simple wall mount using hooks, such as the Command hooks by 3M:  

You measure the width of the iPad and case, leaving a little wiggle room.  Position two hooks on the wall with the curve of the hooks facing up.  Above, place one hook with the curve facing down.  Slide your iPad in.  Instant wall mount!  

image of adhesive wall hooks


Image of DIY wall mount for iPad.

DIY wall mount: Click on the following link for further details.

Question:  How can we bring our student’s iPad to art, or to lunch, or cooking class?  Won’t it get messy?”

Answer:  This answer is as simple as using a Ziploc bag.  Place the iPad in the bag, and use a little tape on the back to pull the plastic  tight across the screen.  This will still allow you to access the touchscreen!  Most storage bags are capacitive.

image of iPad in a Ziploc bag


Image of tape on the back of an iPad in a Ziploc bag

You might also want to go into settings and adjust the time the screen stays awake under “Auto Lock”, so that it takes longer for the iPad to go to sleep.  Just change it back after you are finished, so you don’t run down your battery.

For a really quick fix, buy a bunch of cheap, clear shower caps with elastic.  Pop one over the top of the tablet prior to getting messy.  

iPad in a clear shower cap

Question?  “How do I position my iPad on the table?  It didn’t come with a stand.”

Answer: There are some simple solutions to this if you have access to office supplies.  Take an old metal bookend and two large binder clips.  Place the clips on the forward, bottom edge of the bookend.  The will hold the tablet at a nice slant, making it easier to access the screen.

Image of a bookend with binder clips attached at the bottom          Image of iPad on a stand made of a bookend and two binder clips.

Do you have an Ikea near you?  They sell an inexpensive slant board, called the BRÄDA.  It is sold as a laptop support.  You could easily add shelf liner, or a piece of sticky backed Foamie to the surface to provide greater traction.  

Image of Ikea slant board          Image of foamie with adhesive back

Another “quicky” positioning solution is to use an industrial twist tie.  These can be found at most home improvement stores. They are not the twist ties you find on a loaf of bread!  These are big enough to support a tablet. Padded industrial twist ties contain a wire to help them hold their shape.

In the photo, you can see the PIAT team using them as impromptu stands at the ATIA Maker Day on February 3rd. In a pinch, you can use a business card holder as well.

Image of Kathryn and Kim sitting at a table with an iPad mounted on an industrial twist tie.

Industrial twist ties can also be used to create a stylus for use on the iPad by adding a capacitive tip to the end  The other end can be bent around someone’s hand to support holding the stylus.  Therese Willkom, a rehabilitation engineer at UNH, has also crafted mouth pieces out of InstaMorph for the end of the twist tie.   She has done this to create mouth sticks for people who don’t have use of their hands.

Question:  “How do I help my client with his fine motor or visual discrimination?  She just needs a little support to keep her from hitting the wrong icon on her device?

Truthfully, there are companies that sell keyguards that are not very expensive.  But you might be working with a client who needs a short term solution, or a tactile guide to help them navigate the grid.  

Answer: This can be done with a screen protector from Five Below, or an old sheet from an overhead projector.  It also works with clear pocket sheet protectors. On top of the plastic, use puffy paint to carefully trace the outline of the icons.  Do this before you attach the screen protector. It will need to dry for at least 8 hours before you can affix it to the tablet, or the paint will smear.  You can also try using Wikki Stix. You can use scrapbooking glue dots to attach the acetate to the screen.

Image of a pack of glue dots.

If your client needs a place to rest his hand at the bottom of the screen, you can use a foamie with a sticky back (pictured below) to block the bottom of the screen.  This will work if you are using a customized layout for your vocabulary set where the bottom of the screen is not being used (yet).  

Image of iPad covered with clear acetate and a foamie boarder at the bottom

Dana Nieder, author of the wonderful blog, Uncommon Sense, has also created keyguards using the Viva Decor Glass Effect Gel Pen.  For her instructions, follow this link:

Now, a big question for adults using AAC who need paratransit:

“How do I carry my tablet and keep it safe while I’m on the van?”

You can make a carrying case out of a padded mailing envelope, duct tape, and velcro.  A strap can be attached to carry the case cross body, so the device is not separated from the user.  Below are instructions for the bag I made (from my endless hoard of duct tape).

Image of an iPad case with strap made from duct tape

I hear they even use duct tape on the International Space Station!  You can never have enough.  

Supplies Needed:  

  • Padded soft mailer
  • Scissors
  • Duct tape (choose a great pattern, or just use the gray)
  • velcro

Image of a padded mailer, duct tape, and velcro sitting on a counter.

Make sure the padded mailer you choose will be big enough to accommodate the iPad with the case you plan to use.  Obviously, this won’t work for all devices. Start by wrapping the mailer from the bottom up.  Overlap the pieces of duct tape, both going around the envelope and as you add pieces going up.  Seal the bottom as well.

Image of a padded mailer being covered in duct tape.

It really helps to use a pair of titanium-coated non-stick scissors.  These often appear as one of the deals of the day on

Image of titanium non-stick scissors.

As you reach the opening at the top of the mailer, you may want to add a stripe of another color of thin duct tape.  This gives your client some visual information as to where the opening is located, as well as looking kind of cool!

Image of a padded mailer being covered in more duct tape.

Finish by covering the flap, making sure to cover all gaps with duct tape. Add velcro so that the case seals shut.  

Image of a padded mailer being covered in duct tape., with velcro closure.

And, how about a strap?  I created one by folding a piece of wide duct tape in half.  I sealed it with a piece of the thinner tape, just to err on the side of caution.  I then taped the strap to the back of the bag, adding extra duct tape to make sure it stayed in place.  You might want to be cautious and use some double sided tape or other adhesive before applying the duct tape.  

Image of duct tape being folded in half.          Image of thin tape being used to cover the edges of a duct tape strap.

I made my strap a total of 36” long, but it could be longer. The case could then be worn cross body.  

Image of attaching duct tape strap to a duct tape iPad case.

I am very proud of my do-it-yourself mojo.  Making the bag took under half an hour.  It should be water resistant and last a good long time.  Duct tape now comes in so many wonderful colors and designs that you can really get creative! Even if you use the gray duct tape,vest the end user in the design by inviting them to add stickers or other bling to the bag.  

Image of an iPad carrying case made from macaroni and cheese duct tape.

I have also used duct tape to personalize iPad cases.  If a school district bulk purchases cases in the same color, personalization can help a student to identify their SGD and may prevent the wrong device going home with a student.  

There are many, many people out there creating great low tech assistive technology solutions.  Here are a few of the links that I have found helpful.

Therese willkom at the University of New Hampshire:

Scroll down to her “How-To” documents.  I also highly recommend her books!

Judith Schoonover from the Loudon County SD:

She has a site on ideas for making art and music accessible:

Image of low tech materials for making adapted art.

And I promised ideas for the bath!  If someone uses a high tech system, take screenshots of relevant pages, such as the hygiene folder.  Print them in color, mount on oak tag, and cover the photos in clear packing tape or contact paper.  Tape these communication boards to the wall in the bathtub or shower.  The layout of these boards will be familiar, since the pictures come from the user’s own vocabulary set.  You can also print the following Bath Time communication board from our website.

Image of core communication board for bath time.

We can make communication available pretty much everywhere.  Please leave us a comment and share your ideas for your favorite low tech AT supports!


Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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