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Access by Students with Blindness: Notes from the Mar 11 Webinar

TylerThanks to the folks who logged in Thursday afternoon or evening to participate in the webinar, Access to Learning by Students with Blindness and Low Vision. Our guest facilitator was Nancy Moulton of Educational Services for Blind & Visually Impaired Children (ESBVIC), a statewide service of Catholic Charities Maine. Nancy is a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Regional Supervisor.

We set out with two essential questions:

  1. How can we support the learning needs of students with blindness and low vision?
  2. In the process, how can we be better teachers of all students?

I paired these questions because if we don’t apply what we know about the typical learning needs of students with blindness and low vision to our broader population of students, we miss an opportunity to critically reflect on our existing repertoire of teaching strategies. Indeed, we made several connections between learning needs and learning preferences during both webinars. For example, a typical accommodation for students with blindness is tactile curriculum materials, such as raised maps. Folks almost immediately recognized this as a universal design for learning (UDL) strategy in that it reflects the principle of multiple representations of information, in this case, both seeing and feeling the content of the curriculum. Another way to consider this is differentiation of the methods that we design for all students to process concepts and information.

In preparation for the webinar, Nancy and I had the fortune of interviewing a local middle schooler, Tyler, who demonstrated various ways that he accesses learning. We captured video of him and his TVI. These videos set the backdrop of the webinar as Tyler explained and showed us how he combines the use of his MLTI MacBook and his BrailleNote to accomplish collaborative projects with his peers, stay electronically organized, use accessible instructional materials that he receives in a timely manner (i.e., same time as his peers), and communicate with his teachers. Most enthusiastically, Tyler shared with us how he uses technology for social and recreational purposes, which included staying updated with friends on Facebook; watching video at YouTube; downloading music, video, and TV from iTunes; and communicating via Skype.

Here are the resources that were presented during the webinar, as well as shared by folks in the Chat Pod:

Maine AIM
National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM)
E-description of curriculum materials
How to access descriptions of NOVA programs
Bookshare
National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC)
American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)