Providing support to vision impaired students in the classroom - Education Matters Magazine
Diversity and Accessibility, Latest News, Online Study Tools, Online Teaching Tools

Providing support to vision impaired students in the classroom

supporting vision impaired students schools

School should be a place of learning and excitement, but for children who are vision impaired, school can seem daunting, with uncertainty surrounding the quality of their education. Not-for-profit organisation NV Access aims to change this with the launch of its free screen reading software, NVDA.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that chronic eye conditions affect approximately 12 percent of Australian children that are aged 0-14 years.

Children with vision impairment challenges often face uncertainty regarding the quality of their education, as schools around Australia are not equipped to provide equal education opportunities to vision impaired students, according to NV Access Co-Founder, Mr Michael Curran.

NV Access, the not-for-profit behind NVDA believes no blind or vision impaired person should be forced to choose between exclusion, or the high costs associated with other screen readers.

“For blind people to use a computer, they need a screen reader which reads the text on the screen. Unfortunately, most screen reading software is incredibly expensive, which has left computers inaccessible to vision impaired kids across Australia,” said Mr Curran.

“This is critical because, without computers, access to education and future employment is severely limited,” he said.

However, with the right support and adjustments in the classroom, vision impaired students can learn the curriculum alongside everyone else.

To empower vision impaired students, teachers should look to verbalise lessons, magnify materials, and incorporate braille and tactile resources into all aspects of the classroom environment – according to the NCCD.

STRATEGIES FOR SUPPORTING STUDENTS WITH VISION IMPAIRMENT

The impact and challenges presented by vision impairment are significantly different for every student, depending on the cause and extent of vision loss, according to the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD.

Additionally, vision impairment can cause students to have visual fatigue and strain their eyes while alternating between near and distance focussing – making it difficult to complete learning tasks, study, and complete assignments.

The NCCD’s podcast series on Classroom Adjustments highlights five adjustments that can be made in the classroom to enable students with disability to access and participate in education on the same basis as their peers.

In the Vision Impairment episode, experts on vision impairment provide some key actionable adjustments that educators can make to better support vision impaired students in the classroom and enables schools, education authorities and governments to better understand the needs of students with vision impairment or blindness.

Five key takeaways:

  1. Verbalise your instructions as much as possible – fill visual gaps with words.
  2. For students that need to access braille, be mindful that not all parents and carers read braille. Ensure parents and carers have print copies of homework tasks and communicate via email or other channels.
  3. Rather than waiting to receive adapted resources such as enlarged versions of worksheets, use optical magnifiers to enlarge materials, and encourage students to be proactive using them.
  4. Consider visual fatigue and strain in lesson planning. Alternate your lesson plan between activities that rely on vision and activities that provide an opportunity for students to rest their eyes. To avoid strain, provide a hard copy of notes in addition to verbal instruction and notes on the board.
  5. Create an inclusive learning environment where braille and other aids such as tactile resources are incorporated into all aspects of the classroom environment.
NVDA Founders – Michael Curran and James Teh.

INTRODUCING NVDA: THE FREE SCREEN READING SOFTWARE FOR THE VISION IMPAIRED

NVDA has the potential to revolutionise education for blind and visually impaired students, making equal access a reality and is already used by schools and universities worldwide, according to NV Access General Manager, Mr James Boreham.

“The reality is, blind and vision impaired students deserve the same right to education as any other child,” said Mr Boreham.

“NV Access is thus dedicated to the idea that accessibility and equitable access is a right and should not come as an extra cost to a person who is blind or vision impaired. It’s important that schools understand it is often simple changes that can make a world of difference to vision impaired student’s learning outcomes.”

Developed by Michael Curran and James Teh – two completely blind men  from Brisbane – NVDA is a free and open-source screen reader that is transforming the lives of blind and vision impaired students in Australia. With NVDA, students can access digital content, browse the web, write documents and use email.

NVDA is a simple solution for schools to improve their educational opportunities for vision impaired students. Implementing screen reading software will not only benefit current students but future generations of vision impaired students.

Implementing NVDA is quick and simple, with users able to plug in a USB with NVDA or download NVDA from the NV Access website.

Furthermore, unlike other screen readers, NVDA’s installation and updates are free, making it a sustainable, long-term solution for education systems.

In addition to being free to access, the software is open source, meaning it is consistently updated by the engaged community, supports more than 55 languages, and is compatible with most computers.

Donations are vital to NVDA’s success and help keep the program free and constantly updated to remain relevant for its users.

For more information on NVDA, to download to the free software, or to donate, please visit: https://www.nvaccess.org/

For more information on how schools can support students with disabilities, visit: https://www.nccd.edu.au/

Further reading:

 

 

Send this to a friend