Did you know that blind and visually impaired students can learn graphs alongside their sighted classmates? It’s true as the attached article shows. Downloadable, tactile graphs enhance someone’s grasp of math, geography, scientific trends, and so much more.
It’s a far cry from the days when braille images in braille textbooks were omitted, replaced by the disclaimer: “Picture: Ask the teacher.” Or back in that day, atlases of the world, let alone individual States and countries were woefully out of date-being created in the 1960s but still in classroom use in the 1980s. As my high school’s teacher of history and geography observed at one point, said resources prove ineffective since “the map of Africa changes daily.”
As we study trends such as the progress, impact, and regression of COVID-19, students with print disabilities need not be left behind. Working with a school system’s itinerate teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), someone leading class need not wonder if graphs can be made accessible or if that part of a course must be checked off as exempt.
Students who are blind want to be included with their classmates’ activities. With the availability of graphs like the one presented, they can keep them up to date provided a teacher stays ahead of the game when making classroom accommodations. That goes for all levels of education from kindergarten to college. By the time someone reaches junior high or high school, he does sit through annual IEP’s and other meetings with his parents, TVI’s, and regular classroom teachers. He or she needs made aware of these resources so that in later years, advocating for himself can prove much more doable in college-especially if a given disabled student services office is unaware of these adaptations.
For those visually impaired students whose employment goal is teaching, having these embossable tactile resources will make their transition to leading class much easier as their professors and then fellow colleagues will have less doubt as to their academic competency. This is important since the stigma still exists that, given the gravity and complexity of today’s classroom, someone’s visual impairment by default will hamper their ability to lead many class activities.
As school systems adapt to the changing technology that makes using graphs part of a blind student’s studies, the more aware itinerate teachers and special needs administrators need to be about current braille embossers and ready-to-use software packages. As has always been the case, providing such wrap-around services is not a fly-by-night or haphazard endeavor. Rather, they take consistent, careful planning so that everyone involved in a disabled student’s education can remain on the same page. The technology is here and improving. Let’s continue striving to make that assumed learning gap between blind and sighted students and blind and sighted teachers narrower by the day.