Strengths and Accessibility Issues
Many students who have been blind or had low vision for a long time are particularly adept at processing oral communication. When they use screen reading software to render text into speech, they will often set the reading speed to a much higher speed than most people speak. For reasons of efficiency, therefore, students with vision disabilities may be among those who prefer to access a transcript of a podcast or interview rather than listening to the original at the normal pace.
The main thing students with blindness/low vision need from faculty is full access to the information and learning activities of their courses.
- For textual material, this is relatively easy: Always provide text in a digital format so that it will interface with any assistive technology the student may use to read it (e.g., screen reader, screen magnifier). Be sure that the digital file is text-based, not a scanned image of text. “Multiple Means of Representation of Course Content” provides information and links to detailed instructions for ensuring that course documents are accessible to all students, including those who are blind or have low vision.
- Many students with blindness/low vision listen to recorded versions of textbooks. The sooner they know which textbooks they need for their courses, the more likely they will be to get the books in audio format by the start of the semester. See “Audio Textbooks” for more information.
- The visual elements of multimedia presentations such as PowerPoint or films will need to be communicated orally to students who can’t see them. Be sure to describe photos and graphics, paraphrase text, and identify relevant data from graphs and tables. Fully accessible videos include voice descriptions of what is happening on-screen, when that conveys important information that does not also come through aurally. For instructions on describing media, go to the tip sheet (PDF) prepared by the Described and Captioned Media Program.
- Graphs and other visual/spatial sources of information will require adaptation or alternative formats for blind students. DRS works with faculty members to create tactile versions or devise other means of access. For a brief list of tips, go to “Basic Principles for Preparing Tactile Graphics” on the website of the American Foundation for the Blind.
- If you send students to a website for information, make sure that the content is accessible to those with sensory disabilities, including blindness/low vision.
DO-IT Faculty Room Case Study is a brief description by one blind student of specific challenges he faced in a computer course, and how he arrived at solutions.
DO-IT Faculty Room FAQs inform faculty how to accommodate the needs of blind students in all aspects of class activities and other course requirements.
DO-IT Faculty Room Knowledge Base articles on accessibility for blind students and students with low vision. The list includes articles about online accessibility, teaching math and science to blind students, tactile graphics, and assistive technologies.
DO-IT Faculty Room resources on blindness. Includes links to:
- Science Access Project, which works to make STEM knowledge accessible to individuals with print disabilities;
- Teaching Math to Visually Impaired Students, on the website of Susan Osterhaus, a veteran secondary mathematics teacher at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI): Offers online training on many topics related to accessibility of electronic resources to people with a disability.
Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, Access e-learning: “Individuals who are blind or have low vision.” This page briefly explains the potential impacts of blindness, low vision, and color-blindness and describes assistive technologies that blind individuals may use to access information.