Special Classroom Equipment for Visually Impaired Children
With special classroom equipment, visually impaired children can access the same educational resources as students without these impairments. According to information from Walden University, having these tools and technologies ".....
in a classroom setting lets students focus on their education first, in efforts to even out the playing field between them and non-blind students."(See Reference 1)
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According to the American Federation for the Blind, visually impaired students need specially equipped computers to benefit from the latest educational technologies. Many of the common computer-based educational programs and software can be accessible if classroom computers are appropriately adapted. FAME recommends that the classroom computer have the capability to enlarge the images for children who have some visual ability. Other desired features include optical character readers that scan text and speak it back as automated speech so the children can hear it. The screen display should be equipped with Braille attributes.
According to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration program, "it is easy for a blind student to become lost in a web site." Visually impaired students need screen reader technology which uses keyboard commands so they can access the Internet. (Blind students cannot benefit from a site if the pointer and mouse must be used for navigation.)
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The classroom should include optical tools that will assist the children with reading and writing. Reading material, such as textbooks, handouts or learning aids, should be available in Braille, on tape or CD or in large print for students with some vision. Pictures or wall posters should include tactile versions that the children can touch; it is also helpful to have Braille descriptions of what is shown in the picture.
Visually impaired students must be able to move about safely in the classroom. According to Hardman, students can use a Mowat sensor, a hand-held device that uses ultrasound, to alert the child of obstacles. A sonicguide also uses ultrasound and turns reflections from objects into sounds, A laser cane uses ultraviolet lights to create sound to alert children to objects that are in the path.
Other Electronic Devices
There are many electronic devices that can be used in the classroom. Some examples include talking calculators that aid with math and reading machines that translate books into audio that can be played aloud as reported on a Walden University website. Some devices have audio captioning systems that describe the actions in a movie or educational film that visually impaired children would otherwise miss.
Visually impaired students who read Braille can benefit from various other special equipment. To write Braille, a special stylus and slate are needed. Alternatively, electronic notetakers are available. These devices have a Braille keyboard that can be used to enter notes. The classroom should also include a Braille printer that can produce printouts in Braille from computers.
- Connected: Assistive Technology for Children Who Are Blind
- American Federation for the Blind: Specialized Education Services for Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Who are our nation's blind and visually impaired children?
- American Federation for the Blind: Optical Character Recognition Systems.