2001 Conference Proceedings

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SITES for the NON-SIGHTED: Accessible Web Sites for the Blind

Renae Osowski

With the availability of computers in the classroom, more and more teachers are requiring that students locate web sites and use the information to complete research papers. Although the Internet is as visually unique as the people who create the web pages, it can be challenging and sometimes impossible for the student who is blind to fully access it. In the past, students who are blind relied heavily on sighted peers to locate Internet sources and access the information. Independent use of the Internet can easily occur when students know how to locate accessible web sites, and how to move around in the web environment.

Equipment

PC equipped with JAWS (1999) screen reading program, Internet access,

E-Mail access.

The Process

Four students have been selected from four different school districts. They are required to have basic keyboarding skills and a working knowledge of JFW. Visual abilities range from legal blindness to total blindness. All students are Braille readers in junior high or high school.

The process begins by interviewing each student to establish his/her interest in Internet access, personal goals, and intended outcomes. Students are encouraged to talk with their teachers about upcoming assignments that require Internet sources, or other projects they are interested in completing for a grade. For the purposes of this class there are four objectives: (a) to demonstrate competency in accessing the web environment using keyboard and JAWS commands, (b) to identify a minimum of 10 accessible web sites in each of the following areas: science, social studies, career education, literature, music (c) to develop competency in e-mail and use it to compile accessible sites with input from students who are blind from around the state (d) to list the accessible sources on a web site.

Instruction includes lecture and hands-on interaction, but one of the greatest benefits of the class is that students have the opportunity to learn from each other. In Spokane and the surrounding districts, each student is educated in his/her neighborhood school. As the incidence of blindness is low, typically there is not more than one student who is blind in any given building. Some of the advantages of grouping students with like abilities/disabilities include a) use of same technological equipment b) a base understanding of the world through senses other than vision c) opportunity for students to be teachers and share what has worked and what hasn’t. Ultimately, this class provides an opportunity for students who are blind to be leaders among leaders: to share technology, academic and social skills with other students who use the same equipment.

In summary, students can complete research projects using Internet sites and sources independently. Beyond the understanding of the technology itself, students will gain confidence, express creativity and share ideas through the same medium as their sighted peers. Further, teachers will be able to grade students who are blind on the work they produce independently vs. the work they produce with a peer who is not visually impaired. In some cases, it may raise teacher expectations of what students, who are blind, can accomplish.

REFERENCES

Job access with speech, Version 3.7 [computer software]. (2000). St. Petersburg, FL: Henter-Joyce.

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