Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do Professors Really Understand?

by Donna J. Jodhan

When I was at university which was many years ago, I must say that as a whole, most professors understood that in order to complete my courses, I had to have access to texts and that I had to be given a bit of extra time to write exams. They also understood that we all had to go the extra mile to ensure that my texts were on time and that I could understand charts, diagrams, and graphs.

When I was at university, there were no online courses and my texts were either given to me on tape or in Braille. Lectures were all conducted in the classroom and I was able to get the full attention of most of my professors. I either typed my papers or spoke onto tape and sometimes I had oral exams for French and Spanish.

That was then and this is now. With the evolution of the Internet, more courses are being offered the online way. Students submit their exams via email or by logging into a specified website. They receive their texts through the Internet but there are still classroom sessions to attend.

For blind students, the online way could be looked upon in two ways; as a blessing and as a challenge. As a blessing because they do not have to travel to be at class physically. As a challenge because many web developers are still finding it difficult to develop websites that are accessible to blind students.

Do professors really understand that in order for blind students to participate fully in web based courses, they need to have the following? Equal access to all texts. Equal access to all websites that are being used during the course. Equal access to all online resources. Equal access to professors.

Professors need to ensure that texts are made available to their blind students in a format that they can read. They need to understand that blind students need extra time to complete exams and they need to be aware that whenever changes are made to software by the learning institution involved, care must be taken to ensure that the student's software is compatible and if not then efforts need to be made to find suitable alternatives.

This is not going to change and as technology continues to evolve then so too will the challenges for blind students increase. What is the solution here? More dialogue between all concerned and the development of ways to deal with all of this.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

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