Lisa Nielsen is the face behind this modern blog. She writes and tries to inspire teachers because she always found school boring. She blogs about innovative technologies and ideas any teacher can use in the classroom.
When thinking of ways to support those who are legally blind, two supports often come to mind. Guide dogs and Braille. It's no wonder. Guide dogs provide their owners with a sense of freedom, an increased level of confidence, and a feeling of safety. Blind people who know Braille and use it find success, independence, productivity, and are more likely to find employment.
Surprisingly though, of the 1.3 million people in the United States who are legally blind, only about 2% have guide dogs according to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Also surprising is that fewer than 10 percent are Braille readers according to a report from the National Federation of the Blind. Unfortunately, these supports are currently generally reserved for the elite in our society because of cost and access. These are unfortunate statistics.
Fortunately, there are low-to-no-cost technologies that provide support to the visually impaired and blind population.
Five technologies to support the visually impaired and legally blind.
There are apps that provide GPS. These apps let you explore the world around you using audio messages. It tells you about nearby places, and it also will set up routes. The app lets users point the phone in your hand in any direction to hear the nearest places as virtual talking signs. When pointing straight at a virtual sign the speech is loud and clear, but as you point away from it, the speech starts to get staticky, so you have quick audio feedback about the exact location of the virtual talking sign.
Be My Eyes enables blind or visually impaired users to lead a more independent life by giving them access to a network of sighted volunteers and company representatives. By the tap of a button, users can get connected to a sighted volunteer, who is ready to provide visual assistance for the task at hand. You can request assistance at any time of the day, from anywhere, and it will always be free.
Seeing Artificial Intelligence
These are apps that narrate the world around you using a phone or glasses to identify what is around you out loud.
Seeing AI 2016 Prototype - A Microsoft research project - YouTube
Announcing the Lookout app - YouTube
More and more content creators realize the importance of including alternative text (alt text) with their images. This allows the person consuming the content to understand what is in a picture if they are unable to see it well.
Of course there are far more than five tech resources out there. These are some that are popular among innovative educators. What is your experience? Have you used any of these resources with your students are families? If so, what has your experience been? Are there other resources you’ve used and loved that are missing?
Social media enables us to produce content for authentic audiences. However, it is also important to ensure this content is inclusive. That means making photos accessible. To do this, the creator of the post must include alternative text (alt text). Unfortunately, it's not baked into most platforms without taking a few extra steps. Adding Alt Text to Social Media
Twitter - First, enable alt-text within your account settings under “accessibility.” Then, before tweeting an image you will receive a prompt that says “add description.”
Facebook - When posting an image, tap “edit photo” and then “add alt-text.”
Instagram - When posting, go to “advanced settings” and then “write alt-text.”
Blogger - Click on the photo. Select properties and then "write alt-text."
These are also questions that can be used to make a good photo caption.
Innovative educators understand that today's students must not only know how to produce content. Students also must know how to produce accessible content.
Find some content from student's learning materials or current events. Ask students what alt text they might create using these five questions. Have students share the alt text they've created and discuss which option might be best and why.
Innovative educators can prepare for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) which takes place on Thursday, May 16th. GADD was launched in 2012 to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different abilities. This is particularly important for educators because they understand the importance of creating inclusive content for students and families. They also understand that to prepare today's students for modern careers, they too must understand how to create accessible content from basic documents and presentations to their day-to-day interactions on social media.
Recognized on the third Thursday in May each year, this global event inspires a growing list of in-person and virtual events each year. Seven-Day GAAD ChallengeOne such event is being organized by website management company Siteimprove. You can join their seven-day GAAD challenge. It is designed to help you learn, share, and act on digital accessibility and inclusion. Join the challenge and you'll receive a daily email challenge that will help you make the world a little easier for everyone to navigate. How does it work?
The topic of the #NYCSchoolsTechChat in May was hot to best provide inclusive digital content and environments for students and families. Members of the #NYCSchoolsTech community chimed in with powerful ideas and advice. Check out the Wakelet below to learn some of their insights.
This month's #NYCSchoolsTechChat will give participants ideas for how they can create digitally accessible and inclusive environments for students and families. Participants can chat here, then come to our in-person Summit on digital accessibility and inclusion on May 23rd. Details are at tinyurl.com/NYCSchoolsDigInSummit.
#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me (Lisa) throwing in my two cents.
You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:
Q1 How would you explain the difference between accessible and inclusive? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn #DigitalEquityNow
Q2 What challenges are you facing in your classroom that get in the way of ensuring all of your students have digital access? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn
Q3 What approaches have you/your school implemented to address the problem? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn #DigitalEquityNow
Q4 The #NYCSchoolsTech Summit on Digital Inclusion will feature Google, Microsoft, Apple, Smart / Teq, and BrainPop. What are some ways these companies have made digital accessible for your students?
Q5 What are some ways your school could provide digital inclusion to all students? #NYCSchoolsTechChat #NYCSchoolsDigIn #DigitalEquityNow
Chat details are below: Date: Thursday, May 2 Time: 7:00 pm Topic: Digital Inclusion & Accessibility Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools) Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)
Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat & #NYCSchoolsDigIn and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.
Innovative Educators will be excited to learn that Facebook has a mentorship program available to people within select groups with a focus on parenting, professional, or personal development. This means admins can offer this feature to members of their groups. Those who are members of groups using this feature, can offer or find support. Members can determine how much time they want to spend together and what goals you want to work towards.
Here’s how it works:Group admins create a mentorship program
Admins can choose from a variety of template programs, such as career advancement, skill development, or encouragement and support, and select the one that best fits their community’s needs.
People sign up as a mentor/ mentee
Group members can sign up to be a mentor or a mentee then create a profile indicating what they’re looking for support with, or how they might be able to provide support. All group members can see these answers and start a mentorship conversation with you in Messenger.
Explain what you can help with: Talk about strengths / skills.
Be yourself: Mention a hobby or interest.
Share why you want to help: Let people know what inspired you to do this.
Reaching you: Indicate preferred ways and times to communicate.
Share what you need help with: Talk about the kind of support you need.
Be yourself: Mention a hobby or interest. It will help people to get to know you.
Describe what kind of mentor you need: Include qualities or specific kinds of experience that will help you.
Reaching you: List your preferred ways and times to communicate.
Here is what happens each weekWeek 1: Get to Know Each Other Introduce yourself and share what you hope to get out of this program. Discuss what will make this mentorship more successful like how you prefer to communicate and what your schedule is like. Tell each other about your current jobs. What do you love about it? What do you wish was different? Week 2 – 7: Continue Getting to Know Each Other
During these weeks topics discussed include:
What was your first job?
What's a good piece of advice someone gave you?
Describe a trip you took that was memorable.
If you had a free day, how would you spend it?
Talk about someone you admire
What's something you've done that you're proud of?
Week 8: Identify Your Strengths
Make a list of your favorite and least inspiring parts of your work. Discuss ways your career can be aligned to interests.
Week 9: Setting Goals
What career goals fit your strengths? What small steps you can take to achieve your career goals.
Week 10: Making a Plan
Work with your mentor to identify what steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal in the ideal amount of time.
Week 11: Measuring Success
Take some time to reflect on your progress so far. Have you reached some of your goals?
Week 12: Celebrating Wins
Review all that you have accomplished together!
What do you think? Is this something you would want to be a part of in a group in which you participate? How could you use this in your work?
The World Report on Disabilities says that 15% of the population today lives with some form of disability. If you're not in that 15% today, chances are you may be In the future. That's because in the years ahead, the prevalence of those with disabilities will rise as the population ages. In fact The Institute on Disability reports that more than 1/3 of those over 65 have a disability.
It's the law
Making the world accessible to those with disabilities isn't just the right thing to do. For some it has become law. For example, in 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. More and more businesses are following this lead, not just for ethical reasons, but also because accessibility means more customers.
When accessibility is addressed, everyone can understand a space, integrate in it, and/or interact with its content. It lessens the burden for those needing accommodations to fully participate and engage.
Those trying to address accessibility understand the importance of technology. In fact, in many cases, digital is what makes accessibility possible. There are numerous ways that technology can serve as the eyes, ears, hands, and mouth for those with disabilities.
But creating with accessibility in mind, is just the beginning.
From accessibility to inclusion
Accessibility and inclusion are closely related, but inclusion goes even further. This chart outlines what happens when we move from accessible to inclusive.
Opens the door to an equivalent experience.
Provides the same experience for all people.
Considers people with varying abilities and differences afterwards.
Includes those with varying abilities and differences before and during the design process.
Designs "for" those with differences.
Designs "with" those with differences.
Usually refers to accommodations for those with disabilities.
Designed for all people. Those with disabilities as well as those who speak other languages, observe different religions, make different lifestyle choices, and anything else.
Designing afterwards by making adaptations, retro-fitting, and/or creating new and specialized design.
Designing, from the beginning, products and environments that can be used by all people.
You must take extra steps to make something accessible.
You don't have to take extra steps to make something accessible. It is a design feature.
Uses neutral language for example, avoid saying things like "all rise" and use gender neutral language.
A box is an accommodation to make viewing accessible. Removing the fence makes it inclusive. Photo credit: University of Iowa