Board Work (Chalk, White, Interactive)
By: Carmen Willings
Chalkboards, Whiteboards and Interactive boards are used daily in classrooms for instruction. These boards can present problems for students who are blind or visually impaired but there are strategies to use to make them more accessible.
Say Everything As It Is Written
Saying everything as it is written on the board will be helpful to all students, but is particularly helpful and important for the student who is blind or visually impaired.
Copy of Notes
Taking notes can be difficult for students who are blind or visually impaired. Many students will need to be provided with a copy of teacher notes prior to instruction. These notes can be emailed to the student to allow them to access them on their iPad or iPhone or provide the student with a printed copy of the notes.
If a student needs materials in braille, be sure to provide the TVI with the notes well in advance to ensure there is time to prepare the materials in braille. This is particularly helpful in math classes when a student would need to follow the step-by-step instruction. Don't assume that all students will benefit from this accommodation. Some students learn best through active involvement and will decline notes or may want a fill-in-the-blank format.
Proximity to the Board
If the board is located at the front of the class, the student may need to be positioned near the front of the class. Some students, however, will need to sit further back or to the side if they have a restricted visual field. In many classes, the instruction area may change from the front to the side, to the back of the room. There needs to be flexibility in where the student is allowed to sit. Allowing a student to move throughout the room will typically be necessary.
Using screen sharing apps like Join.Me is another great way for students to access information on an interactive white board (e.g. Promethean Board, SMART board). The student can either use a computer with internet access or use a device such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod with internet access and the Join.Me app. The teacher simply goes to the Join.Me website, initiates the meeting and provides the student with the numeric code. The student goes to the Join.Me site OR opens the Join.Me app and requests to join a meeting. The student enters the code and has immediate access to everything presented on the screen! Feel free to preview, download, and print these directions for using Join.Me.
Encourage Use of Prescribed Low Vision Devices
If the student has been prescribed a monocular, binocular, or electronic magnification device that can view information at a distance, for distance viewing, encourage the student to use their device
The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) can help determine the best position for optimal viewing. Keep in mind that these devices allow the student to view a small area at a time. Monocualars and binoculars are great for spotting information, but should not be used for note taking as it is difficult to locate the targeted area, look down to notes, and find the location again, especially repeatedly.
Create Accessible Power Points
1. Use a pre-set slide layout to ensure that the slideshow is maximally accessible.
2. As with handout materials, choose a simple font such as Arial or Verdana
3. Resist the urge to use smaller font sizes. Ideal font size of 24 point.
4. Use the recommendations in font legibility including high contrast.
5. Avoid using animations and transitions.
6. Use alternative text for images, charts, graphs, and tables to ensure students who use a screen reader can access information.
7. Use slide titles for easy navigation of the slideshow.
8. Use descriptive text for any hyperlinks used in the presentation to ensure that the link's purpose is understood.
9. Save PowerPoints in the 97-2004 mode.
Ensuring the student has access to the curriculum and entire educational environment is a key role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. This presentation provides an overview of accommodations for students who are blind or visually impaired. I discuss considerations for providing accommodations, go over common accommodations, strategies for preparing the student to request job accommodations and strategies for communicating needs to teams and employers.
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