Light Tech Eye Gaze: A Place to Start

Colorful image of instructions for making an eye gaze board.

When we consider eye gaze AAC, we often think of really expensive devices with built in “magic” cameras (actually infrared cameras, but they seem like magic to me).  We don’t have to go straight to super high tech to enable someone to communicate using their eyes. We can start with materials that don’t cost a lot.

What do we know about how our person is using their eyes?  Can they fix their gaze? Do they gaze at preferred people and things?  Can they shift their gaze from one item to another? Can they blink to indicate Yes and No?  

Even if we are not sure of the answer, we can try out light tech eye gaze as a way to introduce communication to someone with a complex body.

So, what do you need?

Image of instructions for making an eye gaze board.
A picture containing an image of an eye gaze board and the instructions listed below.
  • A piece of Plexiglass or similar see through material.
    • Dimensions: 24 X 48 (or up to you)
  • Duct Tape
  • Velcro dots
  • Clear contact paper or packing tape
  • Tagboard
  • Glue stick
  • Clear images of objects, locations, icons, etc…

Once you have these, you can start by putting duct tape around the edges of the plastic sheet.  We don’t want anyone to cut themselves on a sharp edge! Velcro dots can be placed in the corners of the plastic and on the sides. I recommend putting the soft velcro dots on the eye gaze board, and using the hook side on the images.  

If you are using photos, keep in mind that “busy” photos may make it difficult for your person to distinguish what’s important.  Make the of your photos as clear as possible. You can also think outside of the box and use food wrappers, product logos from cardboard boxes, and Google Images. Google Images is a great place to find photos of someone’s preferred places!

Take you images and cover them in contact paper or clear wrapping tape.  You may want to glue your images to a piece of tag board first to keep them stiff.  

HINT: Before you seal your images, write the name of the image on the back!  That way, the communication partner knows for sure what the person is looking at!

Cartoon image of an eye gaze board with icons

If your individual is brand new to the idea of using their eyes to communicate, you may want to start by working on making choices.  Velcro one choice on the left and one on the right. See if their gaze is drawn to one of the two images. Then use that opportunity to model what you see; “You’re looking at the park.  I think you want to go to the park.”

Follow through on a choice once it has been made.  The person you are supporting needs to know that their choice was meaningful.  As they gain skill with using their eyes to select, you can increase the number of images from two to four, etc…

Light Tech eye gaze boards are not just for requesting. You can use this system to teach core vocabulary.  Use icons for words, such as GO, STOP, or WATCH. Some people use them as alphabet boards for spelling words and sentences.  Where you start will depend on the person.

Image of an alphabet-based eye gaze board.


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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