[Nfbc-info] Wake Up Call: Addressing the E-Based & Web-Based Educational Gap between Sighted & Blind Students

Chela Robles cdrobles693 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 31 06:35:08 UTC 2011

Well you could submit a quality report for the publisher quality book.
I can pass this along to bookshare staff as is I'm a volunteer there
as well virtually.
Even college people are into IPad2 now and get this, my church is
giving away an Ipad2 at the end of September.

On 8/30/11, DrV <icdx at earthlink.net> wrote:
> Talk about a wake up call! I learned that not only are iPads being piloted
> in the high school, but also in every school in our district. At my younger
> son¹s elementary school the whole 5th grade class will be using iPads this
> school year. One of the other elementary schools in our district chose to
> pilot iPads at the kindergarten level! The whole district is getting wired
> to phase in the electronic era. This is no longer some futurist possibility
> ­ the e-wave is here & will likely roll into your district before you know
> it. How many TVIs & parents are ready to assure their blind K-12 students
> have equal exposure to all the iPad has to offer? How many know who to link
> braille-notakers to iPads?
> It is with this reality in mind that I share the following thoughts.
> Based on the US Department of Justice¹s & the US Department of Education¹s
> joint written statements (attached), existing accessibility laws include
> requirements to ensure that e-based & web-based education is accessible to
> all. As such, e-based & web-based instructional materials & tools are
> mandated to be not only blind student-user-friendly, but e-content must as
> much as possible be equivalent to the educational experience that sighted
> print reading students are privy to.
> The laws & regulations seem quite clear & specifics have been well-defined
> the US DOE & DOJ Joint FAQ (attached), yet surprisingly few individuals in
> school districts, in the blindness education field, & in textbook
> publisher¹s circles appear to be aware of the regulations, & fewer still
> appear to be in compliance with regulations. Mechanisms to inform all those
> that need to know, as well as mechanisms to encourage & enforce compliance
> are lacking.
> I know that there are individuals on these list-servs who have started to
> address the issues. As a parent of 2 blind students mainstreamed in an
> academically high-performing school district, I would like to share what I
> perceive to be some of the main issues within the scope of this topic. I
> will start with a thought-provoking theoretical scenario & then move on to
> try to define specific areas of concern that not only warrant attention, but
> that need to be addressed.
> I am hoping those of you who have the interest, the motivation, the
> connections, & the clout will take these issues not only to heart, but will
> also take the lead in tackling these head-on Locally (in your school
> districts & VI programs), at the State level, & Nationally.
> Imagine a large-scale study spanning a decade or so which divides all
> sighted students in the US into 2 groups: Study Group 1 would have full
> access to the entire content of current textbooks (or iPad-based e-textbooks
> if you prefer); the other half of the students, Study Group 2, would be
> permitted access to only the main body text & some side text. Study Group 1
> would have access to detailed maps for social science & well-done graphics
> of all sorts for both science & math (e-based graphics might even be
> interactive); the millions of students in Study Group 2 would have limited
> access to all non-text visuals, and would have exposure to only a limited
> number of make shift maps & diagrams deemed to be the ³most important ones²
> created by someone locally in their district.
> What would the results of such a study be? Who would score better on tests?
> Who would rank higher in their class? Would their higher education & job
> opportunities be affected?
> ANSWER: There would be outrage over how unfair this type of study would be
> well before it ever got off the ground & such an experiment could never
> happen because it would be considered unethical. Yet, this does illustrate
> the position blind students are or could be in.
> I am a huge fan of technology & e-text & its potential to enhance the
> learning experience of all, but the scope of the accessibility issues that
> needs to be addressed in the area of emerging electronic education &
> technology is broad & is not getting an appropriate level attention &
> urgency. These issues should be addressed thoughtfully & preemptively,
> rather than in the historical reactive fashion. These are not esoteric
> concerns, but rather have now become concrete academic issues. It would not
> be as stretch to go so far as to take the position that this may even be an
> equal rights issue.
> 1. E-Textbooks for blind students are not an educationally equivalent
> experience to standard print textbooks the sighted students are using.
> The most blaring example of this is that in current e-textbooks for blind
> students the pictures, charts, & diagrams are usually frequently omitted. It
> is critical to understand that in state-adopted textbooks beyond the main
> body of text, most textbook pages contain additional diagrams,
> illustrations, graphs, pictures, charts, & links to suggested webpages.
> These charts & other visuals may make up a quarter to over a half of the
> relevant content on a given textbook page; as such, much of this information
> is not really supplemental, but rather represents the ³key points² on what
> the students are expected to learn & understand. Not only is the graphic
> content NOT DESCRIBED fully in e-textbooks, but the presence/absence of the
> graphics may not even noted - so the blind student may not even be aware
> they are missing vital information that has been presented to sighted kids
> in graphic form. As an aside, even some of the California State produced
> embossed textbooks omit figures, diagrams, charts, & especially maps (under
> the heading of something along of ³see teacher² for this section) ­ yet one
> must wonder: ³how often does the clarification actually happen?².
> The e-files are a nice supplement, they are easily searchable; they are
> portable & give students ongoing access to glossaries & textbook
> dictionaries. E-text affords students the opportunity to look up specifics
> in other chapters easily when they don¹t have the needed embossed volume
> readily available. Unlike sighted students who have the whole book in the
> classroom & at home, braille readers only have real-time access to 1 or a
> few volumes at time in class, & unlike their sighted peers who have a full
> textbook for home use, many (if not most) don¹t have a full embossed copy of
> their textbooks for home. Yes, this a real problem for many reasons: because
> some teachers teach chapters out of sequence, when studying for exams
> students may need access to other chapters, & importantly the textbook
> glossaries & indexes are in completely separate volumes which blind students
> don¹t have ready access to.
> Part of the reluctance of TVIs in past years to use e-textbooks is the
> argument that they are not completely ³cleaned up². Not all are fully
> transcriber-proofed - at least many don¹t appear to be - having extra
> symbols/markers that students need to ignore. While the formatting of
> e-textbooks for blind students (or lack thereof) hasn¹t changed that much,
> more & more TVIs & students realize that the e-textbooks are never-the-less
> readable & as such usable. In the textbooks for blind students that I have
> seen, the book is presented as a folder, the files have been ³.rtf² files,
> some of which are readable in their downloaded form on a braillenotaker,
> others are not readable. The files names within the folders are page
> numbers, not chapter titles ­ this does not appear to have been particularly
> well-thought out.
> A further problem with e-textbooks (that is also an issue with embossed
> textbooks, is that the supplemental or illustrative ³side text² & comments
> in elementary, middle school, & high school education level textbooks is
> somehow inserted between paragraphs of the main textbook text (often in what
> seems to be an arbitrary way) that breaks from the main text flow. Older
> students can adapt to this, but this makes it confusing & harder for
> children in the younger grades, especially 4th grade and under who are
> trying to follow along in passages being read in class.
> The unfortunate reality is that ³Publisher Quality books² don¹t necessarily
> provide the blind/visually-impaired reader an equal literary experience to
> the print version, even in the educational setting. Bookshare is truly an
> Amazing Resource! The last few years most of our school district¹s Summer
> Reading books have been available for immediate download; the few that were
> not yet available, were quickly processed by the Bookshare staff & posted
> within a few weeks. The Bookshare staff & volunteers are phenomenal group of
> individuals. That being said, there are however issues that may not be
> obvious to all. My elder son finished one of his 9th grade Summer Reading
> Books, ³The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time². The text was
> overall fine, but the published print version of this book has quite number
> of important visuals in the form of diagrams, puzzles, formulas & pictures,
> symbols etc, that are an important part of this novel. Some of the symbols
> were transcribed incorrectly, but in most cases these important components
> were just omitted completely. The context of the visuals was not described &
> not even referred to ­ it just wasn¹t there on the downloadable version. My
> son could tell something was missing based on the context, & requested we go
> to our local library to check out the print version of the book ­ we did &
> described each graphic. My son contacted Bookshare to inform them of the
> problem with this particular book. The response he received was: ³This is a
> publisher quality book and unfortunately we cannot edit publisher quality
> books.² This novel is a Summer Reading Book not only locally, but elsewhere
> as well & as such is part of academic curriculums. An increasing number of
> academic literary books are including graphics that are an integral part of
> the stories. I am an optimist & hope that this can be eventually
> appropriately addressed. Hopefully the ³Publisher Quality² textbooks that
> Bookshare produces are/will be closer to a true print-equivalent experience
> for our students than the above-mentioned book was.
> As e-textbooks are further refined, students will still need access to
> high-quality transcriber-produced & embossed textbooks for diagrams, charts,
> maps, & other graphically-displayed components ­ it just is not acceptable
> that such information be omitted & students need the hand-on to really
> understand the graphic layouts. It is my understanding that based on the
> current laws, omissions of the pertinent graphically displayed content in
> state-adopted textbooks is not only ³not fair² to blind students, but in
> reality, it is does not meet the legal requirements set forth by the laws of
> this country. Those that produce & distribute textbooks for blind students
> should pay attention to this for they may be held accountable for assuring
> compliance with the law.
> 2. New-Generation E-Textbooks will literally prove to be a shift to an
> entirely new dimension. In their current form e-books for use on braille
> notetakers are basically just the straight-forward text found on book pages.
> Graphics, charts, tables, maps etc are currently not adequately described &
> are too frequently omitted. As State-adopted textbooks go electronic, such
> as on an iPad, e-textbooks will no longer be ³2-Dimensional² (that is the
> current straight text with pictures/graphs), rather it is highly likely that
> specific words, concepts within the text, references & pictures will be
> hyper-linked to other pages or websites that discuss those issues in more
> depth & will likely include links to non-accessible video, pictures, and to
> PDF files. (Since may students use braillenotekers to access materials,
> access to PDFs need to somehow be made a priority for those who produce the
> notetakers.) This linking will make textbooks in a sense ³3-D & perhaps even
> 4-Dimensional². To my knowledge there is no clear plan in place to address
> this shift to the next dimension. Who is responsible & accountable for
> assuring that blind students will have equal access & educational
> experience?
> 3. The move towards electronic & web-based teaching experiences is no longer
> theoretical, but is actively occurring in classrooms & curriculums all over
> the country. This is happening at all grade levels, in some districts more
> rapidly than others, but the shift is definitely in progress. While this has
> the potential to level the playing field, the reality is that many teacher¹s
> webpages, many web-based school calendar programs, and many publishers¹
> webpages are not fully independently accessible. Furthermore, many
> teacher/district calendars  & importantly the publisher¹s websites of many
> state-adopted textbooks that students are instructed to use (to learn more
> about concepts, access study guides, & take pre-tests) contain links to
> materials that are not fully independently accessible. Based on the US Dept.
> of Justice's & US Dept. of Education's New Accessible Technology Guidelines
> (attached) these types of issues are basically illegal, yet these types of
> problems are wide-spread & as commonplace as exceeding the speed limit.  It
> appears that few school district personnel are even aware of the
> requirements of on-line accessibly compliance. According to the guidelines,
> accessibility is mandated by the law - whether or not there are any blind
> students in that class/school ­ just like wheelchair accessibility is now
> required irrespective of whether or not there are wheelchair users in a
> school. Given that many districts are in early stages of development &
> adaptation to the ³educational e-wave,² now is the most logical time to make
> all districts aware so that they can take into account compliance with
> accessibility requirements.
> 4. TVIs don¹t get enough training to be truly proficient in all the
> necessary new technologies the blind/VI students need to optimally succeed &
> reach their full potential. Education of our future TVIs in the various
> blind/low vision technologies needs to move well beyond ³exposure level².
> Students in TVI programs should have to demonstrate at least a certain level
> of - not only familiarity - but rather Functional Proficiency with at least
> the basic commonly used blind/low vision software, such as screen-reading
> programs (such as JAWS), accessible OCR programs (such as Kurzweil), &
> accessible braille/text conversion programs (such as Duxbury),  & with
> hardware (note-takers such as BrailleNote or PacMate, etc.) (I realize that
> specific companies & brands can¹t be focused on, I present these as
> illustrative examples - it is up to individual teaching programs to sort out
> the specifics).
> The technological skill level of what may have been adequate for TVI a year
> ago, will no longer be adequate in the very near future. TVIs also now, or
> in the very near future, will be responsible for being able to teach their
> blind/VI students to use iPads & wirelessly link them to braille-displays so
> that students can access their curriculums. TVIs need to be able to teach
> students how to create & format WORD, EXCEL, & PowerPoint files & how to
> independently handle PDFs. The reality is that very few sighted TVIs are
> truly proficient with these technologies to a truly adequate degree that the
> students need nowadays in order to be fully competitive with their sighted
> peers.  How actively & adequately are TVI Teaching Preparation Programs
> addressing these new issues?
> 5. In addition to really upping expectations in this area in TVI Teaching
> Preparation Programs, alternate solutions should seriously be considered.
> School Districts/SELPAs/LEAs may want to seriously consider consciously
> partnering more with national organizations of the blind such as the NFB &
> with state schools of the blind, such as in California ­ CSB (the California
> School for the Blind) ­ which has a phenomenal technology program that has
> run regional in-services for TVIs & has CSB campus-based week-long or so
> programs for young blind/VI students in the summer & occasionally at other
> times. Such opportunities are way underutilized. Their online tools for
> teachers & technology users (the students) should be taken advantage of &
> online teaching content should be developed further with all these factors
> in mind.
> An additional solution would be for all local VI programs to hire at least
> one proficient blind TVI. Blind individuals will in general be the most
> proficient with the various blind technologies & their functional
> application for they use these tools on a daily basis. (I do realized that
> there are sighted TVIs that are in fact capable of doing it all & I applaud
> that, but based on my interactions with families & TVIs from around the
> country, there are many TVIs who lack the needed level of proficiency with
> the blind technologies.) The current concept of caseloads could be
> restructured at bit, to more of a team approach when needed, where the blind
> TVI focuses more on the technology aspects of each student¹s educational
> needs, as well as other critical blindness skills. Having such local
> expertise in each VI program would be a huge boost of resources to the
> programs & the students each program is charged with educating. Furthermore
> having daily access to such a blind co-worker would likely result in
> enhancement of the technology skills of all the TVIs in the program.
> 6. While literally infants & toddlers are being exposed to iPads & iPhones
> (this is not an exaggeration, I see this in my office regularly), equivalent
> exposure of blind kids to similar technologies typically only begins later
> in elementary school & beyond. In fact at our son¹s high school orientation
> this week, the principal described how his elementary school age children &
> even his 5 year old have iPads & use them to access Khan Academy
> (www.khanacademy.org <http://www.khanacademy.org> ) & Rocket Math
> (www.rocketmath.net <http://www.rocketmath.net> ) & he gave examples how
> these programs have helped his boost his own young children¹s academic
> performance. How many blind children have this type of access? If you
> believe in equal expectations, why don¹t your students have such equal
> access?
> If there is not an immediate educational awakening & paradigm shift in the
> Blind/VI Educational Arena, very few kids at the elementarily & middle
> school level will be anywhere near as proficient as their sighted peers in
> technology. While I have observed a slow shift in attitudes with respect to
> earlier age of exposure to technology, the gap between what sighted kids &
> blind kids remains huge, & arguably with the earlier exposure of sighted
> kids to iPads & iPhones & child-oriented computer programs, the gap will
> likely get even bigger. This gap needs to be closed. There needs to be a
> strong shift to much earlier introduction of technologies to kids & their
> families. Kids /families should have access to screen readers at home
> electronic games (braille-notetaker-based & computer/web-based), and other
> sighted peer equivalent hardware & software.
> 7. Lastly, in the context of young children, the concept of what constitutes
> ³blind-accessible² needs to be defined. The same webpage that may
> technically be accessible to a student in middle school or high school (who
> has been trained in blind technologies) may very well not be independently
> accessible to a student in the younger grades, for various reasons including
> the technologies may not yet have been introduced, or they may not yet have
> the required proficiently, or they may not have the needed software or
> hardware to access required assignments at home.
> The current problems & the obstacles that lay ahead have been described &
> appreciated by many educators, parents, students, & leaders in industry &
> the blind community, yet as I look around, I can¹t quite figure out who is
> really taking the lead. There are many well-meaning & strong advocates, but
> there is no clear team leader.
> Some of you may be familiar with these famous lines from the poem, Invictus:
> ³I am the master of my fate:
> I am the captain of my soul.² We all have a
> vested interest in this area. The web-based electronic-based educational
> fleet of ships has set sail - for both charted & uncharted waters. There are
> many exceptional & experienced ³sailors² & captains, but each is steering
> their own ship with their own goals in mind. For the voyage to be fruitful
> more coordinated course need to be charted ahead of time; we need a mission
> & fleet admiral (or steering committee) to oversee the voyage & to take
> responsibility for addressing the obstacles that will be encountered along
> the way. A team-approach is needed locally & at the State & National levels.
> This really needs to be made a priority.
> Respectfully,
> Eric Vasiliauskas
> -----
> 1. June 29, 2010 US Department of Education Dear Colleague letter:
> www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-20100629.html
> <http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-20100629.html>
> .
> 2. Guidelines in the form of Frequently Asked Questions:
> www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-ebook-faq-201105.html
> <http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-ebook-faq-201105.html> .
> 3. May 26, 2011 second US DOE Dear Colleague letter stating that the same
> legal obligations apply to elementary and secondary schools:
> www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201105-ese.html
> <http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201105-ese.html

"To me, music that breaks your heart is the music that stays with you
forever. It's one thing to be melancholy and one thing to be sophisticated,
but when you get the two of them together in a way people can relate to,
then I think you're on to something. You want the sophistication to lie in
the purity of the sound, the beauty of the arrangements, and the quality of
the performances."-Trumpeter Chris Botti
Chela Robles
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