We report on a novel nondestructive and reversible method for coupling free space light to planar optical waveguides. In this method, an elastomeric grating is used to produce an effective refractive index modulation on the surface of the optical waveguide. The external elastomeric grating binds to the surface of the waveguide with van der Waals forces and makes conformal contact without any applied pressure. As a demonstration of the feasibility of the approach, we use it to measure the refractive index of a silicon oxynitride film. This technique is nondestructive, reversible, low cost and can easily be applied to the characterization of optical materials for integrated optics.