ICT resources and assistive technologies to help meet the needs of visually impaired learners

TiddlyWiki in a JAWS Screen ReaderImage by psd via FlickrThe range of assistive technology for visually impaired learners has grown over the last few years, with interactive experiences becoming more sophisticated and applications becoming less clunky. Different media (visual, auditory and tactile) have been developed to help students to study independently, and to empower them to create their own resources and artefacts.

This resource aims to collate a few of those resources in one place for you to explore to see if they would suit your learners and their needs.

A good place to start is with this paper “ICT educational tools and visually impaired students: different answers to different accessibility needs“, which discusses some of the obstacles faced by visually impaired learners, as well as providing an overview of some examples of Web based tools available to help meet the needs of visually impaired students. A complementary resource, this Unit offers a series of scenarios that give ideas about how to incorporate ICT into teaching and provide access for those students with visual disabilities. In addition, this document “ICT Tools for Visually Impaired Persons – Examples” provides in-depth descriptions of the types of assistive technology available. It also has links to some presentations and further information around building the capacity of visually impaired individuals to use technology tools.
Please let me know if you have any to add, or if you have opinions and comments about any of the resources.

Digital Book Readers
Most people are now familiar with digital book or e-readers. There are a range to choose from, and most have an option for text to be ‘read’ aloud by the device.

Screen Readers
An application installed onto a computer and that will identify, interpret and ‘read’ aloud any text on the screen. Although some screen readers have a rather robotic sounding narrator, many have reasonably well-modulated speech, with pauses in most of the right places.

Zoom TechnologiesImage via Wikipedia

Screen Magnification
Screen magnification software can be installed onto a computer to enlarge the information on the monitor screen (ranging from 2x all the way to 20x). The applications listed below are all commercial software and have an associated cost:

Portable Notetakers
These are, as the title suggests gizmos that provide speech output without a visual display. You are able to connect them to devices such as computers, scanners and printers to upload text. Braille keyboards are also available for Braille users.

  • Braille Lite Series; Braille n’Speak, Type n’Speak, PacMATE, and Type Lite – all from Freedom Scientific
  • VoiceNote and BrailleNote – from Pulse Data in NZ

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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