What are Tangible Symbols?

Tangible symbols are objects or pictures that stand for or represent something about which we need to communicate.

Tangible symbols may be:

  1. whole objects
  2. parts of objects
  3. associated objects
  4. textures or shapes
  5. line drawings
  6. photographs

These different types of symbols illustrate progressively more abstract levels of representation.

What Makes Symbols Tangible?

There are several properties that make symbols tangible:

  • They are permanent, that is, they exist in a permanent display and don't have to be recalled from memory.
  • They may be manipulated by both the user and the communication partner.
  • The relationship between symbol and referent is obvious to the individual user, since it is based on the user's own experience.
  • Three-dimensional symbols are useful for people without sight, since they are tactually discriminable.