When designing a classroom with inclusion in mind, there are several different types of classroom technology that can help all learners, but especially learners that have low vision. I had a high school teacher that commented on how modifying assignments and classroom tech for one visually impaired student (me) helped all of the other students as they had access to images that were sharper, clearer, and easy to look at- a few students even realized that they needed glasses by the end of the semester. When classroom technology is designed with low vision students with mind, everyone can benefit from being able to see what they are learning. Here are some examples of classroom technology that benefits low vision students, perfect for requesting from the school technology specialist or outside sources like DonorsChoose.
For the five-year anniversary of my website on November 14th 2021, I will be doing a special partnership with DonorsChoose to support students who are blind, low vision, or otherwise visually impaired. I can’t reveal too many details yet, but start putting together your projects now and make sure to include at least one of the following keywords in the project title or sections for “about my students” or “about my project”:
More details will be released in the coming days!
While the desired screen size may vary depending on the student’s eye condition, large computer monitors or screens are a wonderful way to help students to see all the details on the screen and enlarge items in a high resolution. Having a larger screen can also help with student collaboration as students will be able to sit more comfortably at the computer- no looking over their peer’s shoulder. Larger screen sizes can also apply to laptops as well, as many students with vision loss can benefit from either the increased screen size or the ability to connect their laptop to a larger screen.
When I was volunteering in an elementary school classroom, one of the teachers showed me their high-resolution document camera and said how much it helped their student with low vision. Their previous document camera was difficult to zoom in on and had trouble displaying different colored pens or adjusting to high-contrast color schemes- the teacher would flip the display to a high-contrast color scheme so that the student could write down their notes on the board. Another bonus was that this projector could magnify items that were not handwriting or text- in one lesson, the document camera was used to zoom in on graphs, maps, and elements of a well-known painting.
I remember when I was in middle and high school how much a working projector would have an impact on whether I got my classroom notes copied down correctly or not. When the projector’s light was faded or had trouble displaying certain colors, I would find it extremely difficult to distinguish what I was looking at and remember there was one day that I wrote in my notebook “I have no idea what is going on” repeatedly because the teacher said I had to write something. Having a working projector became even more important when I was diagnosed with a sensitivity to flashing lights and reduced contrast vision, as a rapidly flickering display or faded colors could mean I was unable to participate in classroom activities. Of course, being able to have a bright classroom projector in working condition benefits all students as they can copy down notes without distractions.
Simplified reading displays change the appearance of a document, web page, or other selection of text to display text and graphics with large print and sharp contrast backgrounds. They are extremely helpful for reading on a projector or large computer monitor and can help students with print disabilities that aren’t connected to vision loss. There are several different reading view tools available including Microsoft Immersive Reader and Pocket- I go more into detail about these apps in the post linked below.
While volunteering in a different elementary school classroom, the student I was working with commented that they wished they could read the various books in the classroom library. While there are many different types of adapted and accessible books available, this student specifically wanted to have access to digital books/eBooks so that they could listen to audiobooks or otherwise have the text read aloud to them. I have an entire post about creating an inclusive and accessible classroom library linked below with ideas for products that can help to make books in multiple formats available for students.
As an adult, I have met many people who are surprised to learn that smartphones, tablets, and computers have built-in accessibility settings that help people with vision loss to access technology. Having items in the classroom that can run screen readers, magnifiers, and other assistive technologies can make a tremendous difference for students with visual impairments as they are less likely to have to leave the classroom to complete activities to go to an accessible computer. Of course, the student will need to have the skills/training to use assistive technology tools, but this is primarily taught by an assistive technology specialist or teacher of the visually impaired (TVI).
What was that number on the board? How was this topic explained? Having tools to create recordings of educational materials can help students who need to view materials enlarged on their own screen or that have trouble taking notes accurately due to dysgraphia, vision loss, or another disability. Having the recordings can also benefit students who were absent or for students that are struggling to figure out how to do their homework. Some examples of products that can help facilitate the recordings of educational materials include a microphone, membership to a premium screen recording website, a video camera, or a dictation tool for writing out documents.