[blindkid] Elementary School iPad Experience

Richard Holloway rholloway at gopbc.org
Tue Jan 29 05:28:24 UTC 2013

I agree. Current electronic copies are not equivalent to hardcopy textbooks or certainly embossed texts, though even the embossed counterparts we have seen for our daughter often have plenty of their own shortcomings. I doubt our experiences in that area are unique.

Too often, it seems we see people "patting themselves on the back" for stepping from the dinosaur age and making something somewhat accessible. I appreciate all efforts in that direction, truly, but our kids can't wait year after year for electronic texts to become equally accessible as we head further and further in the digital book direction. At the very least, I'd like to see access to embossed texts continue in tandem with electronic solutions until a reasonable array of screen reading solutions really can fully access these books. I actually thought we would be seeing refreshable braille dot-matrix style graphic displays by now of enough size to allow simple electronic electronic access to things like simple diagrams, basic shapes, etc., but I guess thats a topic for another thread sometime. Decent access to text content however is surely a reasonable expectation for the here-and-now, isn't it?

Of corse, if major school systems would actually review accessibility issues BEFORE purchase,  and refuse to buy solutions which can't really be properly accessed, it certainly would offer incentive for suppliers to actually move forward with truly accessible products. Barring that, for now, if something prevents complete access to these sites, (or iPad apps, etc.), why can't simple text files be made available from these pieces, so that existing screen readers and braille displays will have a way to convey content. Though beyond text content alone, surely they could manage to set these files up with breaks or markers for chapters and pages. (Especially if at least THAT were a stipulation of buying these text solutions.)

I should acknowledge in fairness that we have had a great many assignments, various documents, and indeed quite a few books (non-textbooks especially) provided on the braillenote successfully. I'm actually a big fan of Kendra's Apex. It is surely the most important piece of equipment we have for our daughter, and she does the bulk of her schoolwork on it daily at home and at school. With that said, many of the printed texts are filled with photos, illustrations, and diagrams, so very often, only a small portion of even the best prepared Apex-ready textbook can really be accessed vs. the original.

A lot of this new technology works quite well, much, perhaps even MOST of the time, but imagine if you heard a parent speaking of a typically sighted child and he said he was excited because SOMETIMES his child gets assignments which can actually be completed without requiring significant intervention by a [sighted, in our case] parent or other tutor or assistant. Wouldn't that be absurd? We expect students (blind or sighted) to get it right and do their best all the time-- to earn those A's and B's but the schools offer a litany of excuses as to why they cannot provide properly accessible materials to our students on a daily basis.

The way I see it, if my kids are right maybe two thirds of the time at school? They are going to fail. Same thing for an adult in the workplace-- where we assume our kids are going to end up... Honestly, who (besides our local weather forecasters) can be wrong a third of the time and keep a job?

But that seems to be a best case scenario with getting our kids decent access in a timely manor with their assignments. Thats a pretty bizarre double standard...

Overall, technology is doubtlessly on right path, but we are nowhere near our destination of equal access for all students.

On Jan 28, 2013, at 8:40 PM, DrV wrote:

> We have also run into all sorts of accessibility issues & it seems like we
> are constantly trying to find ³work-arounds².
> California¹s idea of an electronic textbook for a BrailleNote is
> functional enough that we still want access to it, but it is a huge
> stretch to call it accessible, is FAR from an equivalent experience of
> sighted peers, & is certainly not an adequate replacement for a hard copy
> embossed textbook or workbook.
> I am certainly a proponent of technology & am a firm believer in its
> potential benefits.
> That being said, as a parent it is frustrating to hear educators nearly
> always proclaim accolades & what amounts to flowery rosy one-sided
> presentations of the wonders of iPads & such, with virtually no
> acknowledgement of the real problems vi & braille-reading users,
> especially the younger students, & those with no functional vision face. I
> realize things are getting better, but the true reality is that at this
> point there are still significant shortcomings related to the software
> (including VoiceOver), pairing of hardware, & the lack of training that
> most of the teachers (vi & gen ed) have in blindness technologies, not to
> mention the lack of training of our kids that many parents share.
> There exists a huge gap between what should be & what isŠ
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ----
> On 1/28/13 10:43 AM, "Richard Holloway" <rholloway at gopbc.org> wrote:
>> Interesting link. That plan mentions iPads (and similar tablets) as well
>> as laptops, or some combination of the two as potential solutions.
>> I would like to think that they would plan ahead enough to use accessible
>> source material, but I'm inclined to mention that here in Georgia, our
>> county has gone to a number of web-based text books for at least a couple
>> of years now. We have not been overly impressed with the result.
>> The school sounded sort of excited for Kendra at first because it would
>> offer her access. Turns out that really isn't the case. Sure, the web
>> site reads aloud, but JAWS cannot manage the site content, and her Apex
>> is entirely useless to access the sites. They did load at least one
>> electronic text book onto her Apex last semester. Turns out they managed
>> not to provide any page numbers at all in the book-- a rather important
>> oversight. All Kendra could so was search for a unique passage to jump to
>> the right section. It was really frustrating, and use of this text was
>> quickly abandoned.
>> Back to the web access for text books-- there's no way for Kendra to
>> access the buttons to select playback. We can start playback for her, but
>> the reading stops at fairly random locations and needs sighted assistance
>> to restart. Reality is she shouldn't even need our help to start reading
>> at all. Any typical, sighted 10-year-old can open a text or go to a web
>> page and click start with no help at all. Most importantly (at least in
>> our case) is the fact that JAWS doesn't see the content as accessible
>> text, so there is no braille access on a braille display.
>> Reading and listening are two different kinds of learning. Sighted kids
>> with electronic access to these materials have access to read or listen
>> in many cases. They also have full access to photos and illustrations.
>> With present technology, tactile access to graphics and photos is pretty
>> much nonexistent for a web site. Even worse. many of the web sites go out
>> of their way to limit ways to capture and adapt graphics. Best case,
>> there is some sort of caption or alternative description to say, "This is
>> a photo of a statue of President Lincoln", or the like. Then again, with
>> conventional texts, we often find non-text content to be ignored or at
>> best, very minimally described.
>> I have also tried to capture text and move that to a more accessible
>> situation for Kendra from these web textbooks. The sites have generally
>> disabled that option, presumably to guard their copyright? Apart from
>> some absurd workaround like screen capture to OCR, I see no solution, and
>> we're not going to deal with hundreds or thousands of screen captures of
>> multi-columned text and try to convert e-books to the text which should
>> already be accessible to begin with.
>> In our case, we make a point of getting copies of the texts in both
>> braille and print whenever possible, though sometimes they are (we are
>> told) simply not available. My assumption is they will become less and
>> less available in the future as well. If you're working with braille and
>> print copies at the same time, you're already in a confusing situation
>> with page numbers. Electronic breaks with web-based materials, combined
>> with trying to be in a physical location by a computer, and a braillenote
>> (etc,.) plus print and braille books, and sometimes a brailler and an
>> abacus or two, (etc.) seems to make this transitional state between the
>> print/braille materials and the electronic realm an interesting
>> logistical challenge.
>> Does anyone know who or what regulates, or at least guides accessibility
>> in terms of electronic text books?
>> On Jan 28, 2013, at 12:44 PM, DrV wrote:
>>> One of the topics I heard on the way in to work today was that LAUSD is
>>> thinking about providing tablet devices to all 650,000 students in the
>>> district. I googled & here is the link to an article on the subject:
>>> www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22437047/plan-supply-lausd-students-apple-ipads
>>> -o
>>> r-other 
>>> <http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22437047/plan-supply-lausd-students-app
>>> le
>>> -ipads-or-other>.
>>> Needless to say, this will affect blind & vi students too.
>>> EricV
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