iPADS AS INSTRUCTIONAL TOOLS
By: Carmen Willings
The iPad can be a wonderful instructional tool for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments to use in conjunction with other, more traditional, instructional strategies. TVI’s can use iPads as instructional tools with students on their caseload in a variety of ways. The following are some ways you may incorporate an iPad into instruction:
Obtaining an iPad
iPads can be used as assistive devices for students who are visually impaired or blind. Students who are blind or visually impaired can use the iPad to perform a variety of tasks to access both the standard curriculum and the expanded core curriculum. Although they can’t replace all devices for many students, they can take the place of much more expensive equipment for many students. There are many accessibility features on the ipad that make it accessible to students with low vision or those who are blind. Many schools are embracing tablets and encourage students to participate in Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) programs, but not all families can afford the expense. The following are some possible ways families can obtain an iPad.
Families may be allowed to purchase an iPad under Durable Medical Equipment but even though an iPad is significantly less than other augmentative communication devices, insurance companies typically won’t approve the purchase for fear of widespread abuse. If you are preparing to make a request, the insurance company will expect detailed information on why an iPad is needed/desired so be prepared to make the need very clear (i.e. the features needed, apps that will benefit the student, etc.). If insurance denies the request, the denial letter can be used to show the school, charities or other programs that you already asked your insurance and the request was denied.
Local charities are sometimes willing to help children in their community. Most communities have a Lion's Club whose focus is on helping persons who are blind. There may be other local organizations that would be willing to provide a grant to the student.
There are programs and organizations that specialize in getting funds to students with special needs. The following is a list of just some of those organizations.
A school district may provide the student with an iPad if it is required in order to access the curriculum. The team will need to explore the features that the student needs and compare to other tools that will provide the access. The school may determine that the iPad provides better access to the student and can replace more expensive assistive technology solutions. Keep in mind that if the school provides the iPad, it would be the property of the school. An Assistive Technology evaluation should be conducted by the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments or by another professional familiar with both the student’s disability and using an iPad. The assessment will explore the student’s response to a few different assistive devices and then report back on which ones worked best. The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments or other appropriate school professional will instruct the student in whatever Assistive Technology device is determined to be appropriate.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
A great feature I take advantage of when working with students, particularly those with multiple disabilities, is the Guided Access feature. Using Guided access allows the student to interact with an app without accidentally clicking on an ad or switching to another app. I put together this handout that will walk you through the steps of using Guided Access.