Every student with a visual impairment or blindness is expected to build skills in relation to the nine components of the Expanded Core Curriculum. One component of the ECC is assistive technology. The expectation for each student’s ability to independently use technology for completing school work varies by age and the student’s abilities.
The student who will seek competitive and integrated employment opportunities, should be accessing the curriculum at grade level, including the digital literacy standards set out by the student’s state. These standards vary by state but cover similar core concepts.
The modern-day workplace utilizes numerous digital tools to accomplish tasks and facilitate collaboration. In order to be ready for the workplace, a student should demonstrate proficiency in keyboarding, work precessing, spreadsheets, slide decks and data storage.
- Keyboarding: People with visual impairments use a variety of methods to input commands. Devices include keyboards (adapted and regular), voice dictation, braille notetakers, and braille displays with a Perkins or QWERTY layout. Regardless of the input device, the typical entry-level workplace expects a potential hire to type at a minimum of 40 words/minute with few to no errors. Students can build their typing speed by using accessible typing programs and everyday practice.
- Word processing: Word processing has remained an essential tool for every workplace. At the end of high school, a student should demonstrate an ability to use intermediate word processing features. These features include headers, footers, tables, bullets, numbering, endnotes, grammar and spell check, headings, fonts and font styles, line spacing, and comments. Some assistive technologies also have built-in features for text editing. For example, the screen reader known as JAWS has a text analyzer feature. It is important to know how to format a Word document, regardless of the student’s ability to obtain information visually. A potential hire with a lot of typos and formatting mistakes can lose out on job opportunities.
- Spreadsheets: Spreadsheets are a great tool for organizing and presenting data. Someone on the employment track should be able to create tables with headers, manipulate rows and columns, insert formulas and create charts and graphs. While there are emerging technologies that allow someone with a visual impairment or blindness to analyze a chart or graph independently, adaptations may need to be made to render the chart or graph accessible. For example, a tactile map can be created using everyday art supplies.
- Slide decks: Workplaces regularly use slide decks to present information. These can include presentations at conferences, human resources trainings, etc. Key skills to master are formatting text and background, inserting images (with descriptions, of course!), charts, graphs, and recording the presentation.
- Data storage: Data storage is an important asset to every company. Students should be able to organize data, manage data, and identify a variety of data storage devices. These devices include flash drives, computer hard drives, and cloud drives.
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