As educators, our primary job when teaching screen reader skills to students is to teach the basic gestures (tablets), keyboard commands and/or braille display commands so that students can successfully and independently use their device within the classroom. Most educators do not personally use a screen reader (such as VoiceOver, JAWS, NVDA or TalkBack) and are not power-users with this kind of software. With a little initial help, students will quickly become the 'tech expert' and will surpass their sighted instructor. How can educators encourage students to take the next step?
Teachers should guide students to take responsibility of keeping current with their tech. Start by leading the student and quickly move to prompting the student's curiosity by asking the student to:
- Assign specific tech posts or articles for the student to read and then discuss
- Research and learn about a specific task (Example: Find out what is a 'screen curtain', how you use and when it might be beneficial.)
- Learn two new Bluetooth keyboard commands (gestures or braille display commands) each week (See Sharon's Shortcuts - receive an email with a new PC keyboard shortcut mailed to you each week!)
- Research new features and any accessibility bugs in new software updates
- Learn how to independently problem solve any tech or accessibility issue
Find and follow accessibility-related resources, find websites and accessibility listservs, groups, etc. and if appropriate, find mentors. The Paths to Technology website has a plethora of posts on accessibility-related topics! There are tons of available resources - here are a few samples:
- AppleVis: Empowering blind and low vision users of Apple Products and related applications
- Google Accessibility
- Follow Veroniiiica, a successful, tech-savvy college student with low vision
- Top Tech Tidbits
- TVIs: have YOU joined professional Facebook groups?
Does your student know the basics about using an iOS device? I bet he/she can learn something new from this post: Lost While Using VoiceOver? Now What?
Most mainstream classroom teachers are not familiar with accessibility features, what apps are accessible (or not!) and how the student can use their technology to complete assignments. Set up opportunities for your student to teach mainstream educators about their tech. This not only promotes self-advocacy, but also helps your student learn more about their tech and boosts confidence. You have to really know your tech to be able to teach it to someone else! Students should also learn to take responsibility of educating mainstream teachers by:
Explain how he/she uses technology within the classroom - students should figure out what works best for them and then be able to explain/self-advocate with their mainstream teachers!
- TVIs can initially help the student write a document about the tech they use in the classroom (what it is and what they use it for), what format he/she needs to access materials, and explanation of IEP accommodations. The student should share this with each classroom teacher. See Learning to Self-Advocate: My Biggest IEP Goal
- Student should demonstrate his/her tech to mainstream classrooms; this is especially important if the teacher is directly involved with the tech such as setting up a screen sharing app so that the low vision student can access materials on the white board.
- Students - especially younger students - may want to create a short video instead of writing a document. See Samantha's transition to middle school video.
- Working directly with their classroom teachers on what is/is not possible with their technology
- Work with teachers to figure out accessibility solutions
- Teach educators how to create accessible documents, PowerPoints, etc. Share resources such as Creating Accessible Word Docs & PPT: Teacher's Resource.