[Nfbmo] Fw: blind student takes science class

James Moynihan jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com
Tue Nov 22 15:04:48 UTC 2011

Fellow Federationists

Amanda Lacy was fortunate that Professor Baldwin was willing to work with 
her so that she could become successful.  I was very lucky that Dick 
Chiacchierini, my college roommate tutored me so that I could pass college 
algebra. Many blind college students do not have instructors who take the 
time and patience to work with us.    These students drop out and become 


Jim Moynihan.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Neuman, Dale A." <NeumanD at umkc.edu>
To: <jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 8:15 AM
Subject: blind student takes science class

November 21, 2011, 4:51 pm

By Alexandra Rice<http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/author/arice>

Amanda Lacy was frustrated with her physics class and ready to drop it.

Ms. Lacy, a blind student at Austin Community College, is a computer-science 
major who loves her classes but often struggles in them, not because she 
doesn’t understand the material, but because she doesn’t have access to 
adequate textbooks. And when she started taking the introduction-to-physics 
class, things got even worse, until a professor stepped in with a solution.

The college provides blind students with digital copies of textbooks so they 
can listen to them on the computer or read them using an electronic Braille 
display. But the figures and graphs in Ms. Lacy’s physics book don’t 
easily translate the same way that text does.

“There are many symbols that the computer doesn’t recognize,” Ms. Lacy 
said, “so it just comes out as gibberish.” For example, Ms. Lacy said in 
an interview, the computer will read ‘X squared’ simply as ‘X2′.

When Ms. Lacy showed her digital textbook to her computer-science professor, 
Richard Baldwin, he was shocked, she said. He told her if someone didn’t 
take her problem seriously there was no way she would make it through the 

So Mr. Baldwin started working with Ms. Lacy for a few hours each week, 
slowly going through the textbook and trying to explain the graphics to her 
in a way that she understood. “He’d do whatever he could to get these 
concepts across,” Ms. Lacy said. “He’d scratch them out on paper, draw 
them on my hand, things like that.” While they were working together, Mr. 
Baldwin began creating an open-access online 
tutorial<http://cnx.org/content/col11294/latest/> for blind students 
learning physics.

In Mr. Baldwin’s tutorials, equations are written using only symbols found 
on keyboards so that everything is one-dimensional and presented in a format 
that blind people can read. Using the tutorials, Ms. Lacy excelled in her 
physics class and received an A in the course.

Working with Ms. Lacy taught Mr. Baldwin many things, too, such as that 
blind people can’t draw with much accuracy. So he came up with a new 
software for that as well. “I sent this thing to her at home, and the next 
time I saw her she was pretty elated,” Mr. Baldwin said. “She told me, 
‘Finally, I can doodle.’” Before that, her physics professor would just 
allow her to skip the problems that required sketches for answers. Now, Ms. 
Lacy says, she is working with the software so that when she takes Physics 
II she can turn in her completed homework with the rest of the students.

Sometimes people ask her why she doesn’t just study something easier for 
blind students, like English or history, Ms. Lacy says. What does she tell 
them? “Because I’ll get bored.”
Dale A. Neuman
Director, Harry S Truman Center for Governmental Affairs
Special Projects Associate, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
816-235-6108 or 816-235-2787
FAX 816-235-5191
Neumand at umkc.edu

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