Feature Writer John Christie – Education Crisis Must Be Solved for Blind to Compete in Society

The days when a blind student could go in to a classroom with a slate and stylus and a Braille book and a Brailler are long gone. Now, they need e-textbooks, iPads, and notetakers. But with all this new and high tech equipment, are they getting an equal education compared to their sighted peers? As of this writing, I would say a resounding “no” unless things suddenly change.

First and foremost, The E-Wave is rolling into your district and will be there before you know it. In addition, the iPad is also being used in school with students from K through 12. Will the blind student know what the iPad has to offer? Will the teachers of the visually impaired know the iPad themselves? How many know how to connect Braille notetakers to iPads?

The E-Texts that the blind students are getting are not an educational equivalent experience compared to the standard books that their sighted peers are using. The E-Textbooks that the blind person uses omit diagrams, pictures, and charts. Links to web pages are also omitted. Charts and other visuals make up a quarter to a half of the content that is on a textbook page. The lack of visuals on a textbook page may not be mentioned in the E-Text for the blind. The blind person may not realize that they are missing vital information that the sighted student has available to them.

Another disadvantage that the blind student has to face is that the sighted student has the whole textbook available to them either at home or at school. However, the blind person doesn’t have the whole textbook available because the book is in many volumes. This is a real problem because some teachers teach chapters out of sequence. This is also a disadvantage for blind students because when studying for exams, students may need access to other chapters and textbook glossaries and indexes may be in separate volumes. These volumes may not be available to the student.

These are just some of the problems that students and professionals who teach the visually impaired have to face. These are also the problems that publishers of E-Textbooks have to solve–and they have to solve them soon so that blind students won’t lose out in the educational process.

These matters need to be addressed quickly so that when these students become adults, they might be able to reverse the high unemployment rate for the blind and become a contributing, competitive, and integrated piece of the workforce.

Source: NFB (original article link is broken)

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