Welcome to the VITALBAT communication page

  
Introduction:

The tuition students receive is once a week for 4 hours at the Arena Theatre, on an individual or small group basis due to the intensity and level. The students make their own way into the lesson independently using white cane or guide dog and ring and ride. This shows us the students are well motivated.  It appears they are driven by social motivation trying to expand their own potential.

   “Maslow saw motivation in terms of an individual's striving for growth.” Curzon, L.B. (1990) p196.     

 

 The students use Braille but are not that proficient. Braille users were in decline in our opinion because of technology.

 

On further analysis when carrying out research . The introduction of Braille computer note takers such as the  Braille M-Power and Braille touch, shows that there is a revival.

VITALBAT are very pro-active and teach Braille technology with a range of Braille note takers and Tablets.

 There seems to be more integration for people with disabilities at the present time, this could be due to the Warnock Report.

   “ The student’s need is not necessarily determined by the nature or disorder. At present students are categorized according to their disabilities, and according to their educational needs.” The Warnock report cited in Psychology and the teacher.  a new list of legal rights for the visually impaired. 

“RNIB campaigns on a wide variety of issues, from community care to the design of banknotes and coins; from legislation about broadcasting to accessible

Information. All RNIB campaigns aim to tackle the discrimination faced by blind and partially sighted people in the UK and Europe.” 

  

When we meet the students we always identify our selves by name, we do not assume they will recognize us by voice, even though we have met on numerous occasions.  When we enter and leave a room we always let the student know. we would call the students by name if we wanted their attention. Whenever it is possible we describe in detail, pertinent visual occurrences of the learning activities. The classroom has been described to them, and they have been tactually familiarised with it. When there has been a room change, we have given them verbal notice.

    The ethical implication is that enabling them access to printed material, it could make them feel that they had missed out. Although this may be possible, we would have to agree with Paulo Freire,                                                                            

  “ We can not be ignorant of everything, as we cannot know everything.” 

 

Approach and philosophy:

In the last 10 years, as a result of the great expansion in further education and training opportunities for people with special needs, Blind people are entering into Further Education.  It is important that the tutor and the Blind student communicate and work together as effectively as possible.

   The way forward is to use computers as a tool to manage different processes in everyday environments, helping blind people integrate into society on an equal basis. We can take part in communication processes independently and actively.

   In our opinion blind people need to take responsibility for their own destiny and commend user groups such as the one in Walsall.

 

     The students that we teach generally require a teacher that understands, and uses the major concepts. The philosophy that Paulo Freire believed in,

   “That teachers and students who are engaged in training which empowers people, need to focus on communicating with each other in an honest and open way.”  It maybe true that some visually impaired people have a lower level in communication, mobility and self-care than sighted learning people. In our opinion when students has been trained and had better opportunity, blindness will only be a physical nuisance.  This philosophy is also shared by the RNIB.

 

Strategies:

When we verbalise anything we try and be accurate.

   The method of teaching that is used in the lesson is student focused, using questions and answers. There is a strong emphasis on listening. The statement in Reece, I. and Walker, S. tell us about 12 per cent of what we learn comes through listening, these figures would not be accurate when dealing with the visually impaired. we try and use an auditory or tactile signal where a visual signal is normally used. e.g. it is possible to assign sounds to certain actions when working with the computer. The lesson is often recorded, and we have encouraged our students to record the lesson. This enables them to retrieve information long after the lesson has finished.  This has been affective for some students, they can listen to their recording at home prior to the lesson, enabling them to recap on what they had learned previously, the feedback we gain is being able to concentrate on their weak points.  We agree with Reece and Walker that one of the easiest methods of collecting data is to audio-record, We often use a tutorial on compact disk, we use a memory stick with it, and this has been brailed for them.

   The author Curzon, L.suggests using eye contact. This is impractical when we are both blind, so we substitute the eye contact to a slight noise or tap on the shoulder to show understanding.  In addition when the student appears to have finished we leave a pause to encourage a longer contribution.

 

 Reasons for choice:

Our own learning experience , was a factor behind our methods of communication. We  have seen a vast improvement in the level of ability and had positive feedback from students.

   The  students are unable to access paper based material without the help of a sighted individual.  The PC forms a good pen/paper substitute for note taking in lessons, along with a Dictaphone for taking short notes when it is not convenient to use the PC. The speed of technological change is immense, and affecting a wide range of everyday things people use. The RNIB have established themselves as technical experts contributing to technical and campaigning alliances. “ RNIB campaigns and information about disability legislation in the UK” There can be more information found at the RNIB.

   The world revolves around printed material, every one needs access to it because of its universal language.  The concept of instruction on which we base our teaching on  stems from our belief that communication for the visually impaired/blind is best achieved through the medium of sound. There are other teachers who believe in this concept according to Curzon, L.B. .

   In our experience the student's background and severity of impairment would be a strong factor in the methods we use. eg. The degree of proficiency in Braille and literacy.

   The digital recorder has revolutionised the techniques and processes of sound recording. The disks can be erased, so can be used repeatedly at a low cost. This format is very accessible for the blind. This resource was related to the chalkboard by Curzon, L.B.

 

 Evaluation:

In our opinion to make evaluation effective, it should be taken over a long period of time. In addition evaluation should rely less on participant self-reported attitudes, and more on observations of participants actions within learning contexts.  The methods Curzon, L.B uses for evaluation would be to establish and maintain quality. He suggests diagnosing student learning needs and problems. It should be based on the learning process. Curzon, L.B. When evaluating we would use a form that will be unbiased to visually impaired students.  This would be established by asking the student for the approach that they find to be most accessible. In our experience the most accessible method is to record test questions on tape and have the students record their answers. 

Conclusions:

The students we teach should be able to receive information in a way that is accessible to them.  We all know information helps all of us to make decisions and lead independent lives.  According to the R.N.I.B it is the law. We now have a legal obligation, following the implementation of section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act.  To make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access services.


Inclusion
Introduction:

The rationale behind this section is to enable a student to learn how to send and receive E-mails which is a basic skill that supports inclusive learning.

The underpinning philosophy of this section relates to Booth

 

“I regard inclusion/exclusion, essentially, as a political process. Possibilities for, and barriers to, inclusion are shaped by all aspects of education and social policy – not just by policies that carry an inclusion label.”  

 

The specialist VITALBAT class supports learners who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. when the students have been trained they will have gained the techniques to support themselves in further education, and when empowered by the use of technology it will be easier to be fully included in society. In addition, due to the level and intensity being taught relying heavily on audible feedback from the specialist equipment, it makes sense to be in a specialist class.

The students gain a lot of support from each other, which has had a positive effect.

This theory is supported by Moore

 

“Some disabled people gain confidenceRNIBe  and a positive self-identity through mixing with similarly disabled people and escaping the oppression of a disabling society.”

 

The Arena Theatre have made some alterations to the premises to comply with the amendments to the disability discrimination act (DDA), which has gone some way in facilitating learners with impairments to access services. 

 

 The environment that VITALBAT has created is appropriate and stimulating, allowing for differentiation. 

This has been achieved by creating some minor environmental adaptations at little or no cost, such as changes in floor surfaces, sound clues and tactile labels, and equipped with computers with specialist software to assist with certain impairments. 

 

Our personal experience with sight loss, and how visually impaired/Blind students perform within their own guidelines, moving from dependence to independence was a significant advantage in the design and development of the resources we have created. 

 We can provide one to one support for students that need it without being invasive. Our sighted support assistant who does not get paid is invaluable to the class.

 

Lee, B. and Mawson, C. argues:

 

“A third (30 per cent) of classroom assistants are unhappy with their 'pay'.”

The student support assistance are valued and treated as equals, which goes some way in compensating for the lack of pay.

 

"Value them as individuals and professionals in partners with school teaching staff parents and governors”.

 

 “ Students with learning difficulties want to be involved        in their own assessments and reviews of their learning.”

    The initial assessment we carry out is useful to establish the student’s prior learning, and the preferred format for receiving information. This is completed before the students are given the resource.   

The aim of the resource was to encourage the students to develop their listening skills, in order to learn how to send an E-mail after proof reading it for spelling and grammatical errors.  The intention of the resource is that the learner would attempt to send an E-mail. 

The learning objectives were positive ‘can do’ statements structured at the learner’s level, and at the same time being progressive, demonstrating that the resource allowed for differentiation. The outcome of the resource was that the student demonstrated that they could send an E-mail free of spelling and grammatical errors. 

The fact the students are quite pragmatic was a factor behind us trying something new and practical. 

Duff asserts that:

 

 “Pragmatists are said to enjoy trying out new ideas, theories, and techniques to see if they work in practice”

 

We believe sending E-mails which would be regarded as a basic skill in today’s society. In fact we would go further and describe sending e-mails as a social skill, enabling students with impairments to compete on an equal basis with people who do not have impairments.

Frankel and Reeves argues: 

“The concept of basic skills must be widened to provide greater recognition of self-care and safety and scientific , technical (including information technology) , practical, aesthetic and social skills”

 

“Inclusion essentially involves disabled people in the planning and evaluation of educational policy and provision.”  

 The students agree that it is important to have easy to follow instructions in a range of formats due to their visual impairment/Blind.

 

The statement VITALBAT have produced demonstrates an ethos towards a concept of inclusive learning.  It would seem that they provide a facilitative classroom, which supports the student with varying impairments, and allows for discovery learning through a holistic program. 


 

Curriculum Introduction:
We have studied a curriculum model and drawn comparisons to the way we perceive our own curriculum.

We considered the theoretical concepts of what is meant by curriculum and relate this to the practical experiences we have encompassed. We analysed a design model and relate it to the  course we deliver.

   The curriculum we are involved with is information and technology for the visually impaired/Blind. This is achieved via a screen reader and synthesiser that reads the contents of a computer screen.

   There are two categories of visual impairments, these are partially sighted and blind. The partially sighted students are usually print users, but may require special equipment and materials. The definition of a person who is registered blind covers a broad spectrum of visual impairments.

    While VITALBAT does not offer accreditation, we  still put an emphasis on the construction of learning opportunities to support individual students development, acquisition of knowledge, and motivation. The content is relevant to the students. In addition the work Is set at an appropriate level. 

  

Model:

Lamms curriculum process model (1966) is the model we use because we  can relate it to our own curriculum, it is also understandable. He uses 3 intersecting circles, the commonly shared area in the centre being the curriculum.

 Oliver and Boyd

 The purpose of curriculum planning, he tells us, is to indicate the means whereby the pupils, the teacher and an aspect of culture, the 3 dynamic elements of the curriculum, can be brought together so that in the end the pupil himself or herself may inhabit a territory of culture.

This is a very simplistic view and many factors affect the quality of a learning experience. These include ensuring clearly defined educational objectives, and taking into account the user's characteristics, experience, age, ability, special needs, learning styles, pre-experience, skills, and knowledge. The model we use could be seen to be a little flat and does not take into consideration outside factors. If a circle was to be added it could be improved.

 Course Level:

This is a basic computer course for the visually impaired/blind.  This course embodies a commitment to the four key principles of:

Independence

Empowerment

Self-Actualisation

Self-Advocacy

Etheridge et al argues that “sometimes described as a transitional stage, further 

education is very much more than this, offering students opportunities for study, 

 practice and personal growth appropriate to their own levels of maturity. It may  

coincide with increased independence or with a return to learning to update skills.”

 

Etheridge, D.T. 

 

Teachers:

We are instructors rather than teachers or lecturers.  The philosophy that we hold is to provide equal opportunities, for all students at almost any level. It is important that the tutor and the visually impaired/Blind student communicate and work together as effectively as possible. In our opinion the students that we teach require a teacher that understands, and uses the major concepts. We share Freire’s philosophy,  “That teachers and students who are engaged in training which empowers people, need to focus on communicating with each other in an honest and open way.”

 

The advantage we have over sighted instructors is that the students are unable to say to us “you do not know what it is like to be visually impaired/blind”.

 It is our belief that teachers recognise their limits as well as their capabilities.

Lamm designates a circle to the teacher, these would be our skills along with our personal philosophy.  We would have to agree with Lamm that the teacher is a vital factor and could not envisage a curriculum model without this factor. 

 

Student Number and duration:

The students are taught one on one or in a small group of 2, this is as long as they are at the same level and ability. This is due to the intensity and level being taught. This is because the Student and the instructor being blind rely heavily on audible feedback from the specialised equipment.    

They are given a 4 hour lesson once a week. the demand for information and technology's growing. 

    The Green Paper that was published lately   by Valerie Bayliss argues, "The RSA curriculum which we are developing is built around an explicit philosophy, that a prime aid of education should be to help every individual develop the competences they need to become a successful, active citizen."

   The approach Lamm takes is to tailor the curriculum to the needs of individuals, this coincides with our own curriculum.  It could be argued that teaching one to one is not cost affective.  Our curriculum could be improved if we were to teach our students twice a week.  This would cut down on the revision tasks, and the students would complete the course a lot quicker. 

 

Student Group:

The individuals who attend our course are of mixed gender, age, ability, and socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.  They all have one thing in common, they are all visually impaired/Blind with some students having additional disabilities.  This could faze some teachers, personally it would not affect our instructors being visually impaired/blind .

It maybe true that some visually impaired students has a lower level in communication, mobility and self-care than sighted learning people. When our students have been trained and had better opportunity, blindness will only be a physical nuisance.  This philosophy is also shared by the RNIB.    The fact that Lamm designates a circle to the student would be a strong factor within our curriculum.  The way we plan our curriculum takes into consideration the specific needs of each individual student.  We ask ourselves if Lamm takes into consideration the ethical implications. e.g. enabling our student’s access to printed material, it could make them feel that they had been denied access to this valuable source of information.

 

Age:

The students we have targeted for this particular course would be over 40+years of age. The reason why we have targeted this age group is the majority of them fall into this category.  The reason is that eyesight deteriorates later on in life. The younger students usually come in at a higher level. 

The fact our learners are over 40+ years of age, contributed to how we design our curriculum.  Curzon argues that older students are likely to experience some deterioration in short-term memory.   To accommodate our learner's specific needs, the course is designed to give regular revision tasks to aid the recall of previous learning.  Curzon, L.B (1991) p263. 

Aims:

The aim of the course is to instruct the students on how to use a computer with specialist equipment. This should give them some form of independence, with the intention that the students should be able to deal with their own correspondence.

It is suggested by Etheridge et al that the development of a successful partnership must involve agreement and co-operation to facilitate joint planning. The student and myself would negotiate aims, teaching methods, contents and resources.

 

Theoretically this should be prior to commencement of the course.

 

Outcomes:

The outcome of the course will be by the end of the year , students will have a basic understanding on how to use a computer with a screen reader.  They will be able to open, save, format and manually edit a document.

 Etheridge et al suggests the outcome of a course should be to improve the student’s own performance in reaching mutually agreed objectives.

 

  

Our curriculum allows the student to develop, his or her own learning experiences in accordance with VITALBAT statement, Print explains curriculum design and development in the following way “Curriculum development is defined as the process of implementing and evaluating learning opportunities intended to produce desired changes in learners.”

 

    The national Rehabilitation board suggests that teachers should familiarise them selves with the organisation's objectives, working philosophy and strategic plans.

We are self     Funding so would welcome donations, and we are seeking lottery funding.   We are looking for a fundraiser to join our group of volunteers.  

 

Schedule:

The course does not have time restrictions. This is because we believe blind people should not be constrained. The humanistic educator Paulo Freire shared this philosophy. He believed, “that people with disabilities should be free from restrictions, which limit their potential.”

 

 

Skills:

We prefer if the student possesses keyboard skills.  skill is relevant to the visually impaired, the reason being we access everything via the keyboard. Our experience we have found that a number of learners have additional literacy problems, because we tend to focus on visual memory as a strategy for reading and spelling.  That is why it is vital to build regular access to technology into the curriculum, as experience has shown that without continuity of contact, it is difficult for students to retain a mental map of the system.  It will be apparent reading this assignment the absence of Braille material, this is because very few of our students are skilled in this medium.  We all live in the real world and the world revolves around printed/electronic communication material, every one needs access to it because of its universal language. Etheridge et al would disagree with me stating that, “Approximately half of the 3000 registered blind who are in paid employment, use Braille at work, so clearly for many of those with the severest visual disabilities, Braille is an essential skill.”

 

 So we are introducing Braille technology into our curriculum.

 

Hidden curriculum:

In addition to the curriculum, the students will access a hidden curriculum.  Print argues, “The hidden curriculum refers to the outcomes of education and/or processes leading to those outcomes, which are not explicitly intended by educators. These outcomes are generally not explicitly intended because they are not stated by teachers in their oral or written lists of objectives, nor are they included in educational statements of intent such as syllabuses, school policy documents or curriculum projects”.

Print, M. In our opinion the effects can be beneficial.  A major element of this is promoting self-esteem and providing an environment that allows for equal opportunities.  It seems that our students have benefited from being in settings where some minor environmental adaptations at little or no cost have been made, such as changes in floor Surfaces, sound clues and tactile labels. Herzberg referred to these as hygiene factors Curzon LB

 

Implementation:

Etheridge et al tells us” students may need adaptations in materials, in methods or in the use of technical equipment, they may require environmental modifications if they are to have realistic access to the curriculum”

 

There is a description below that explains how we deliver this short course, including: methods, topics, activities, skills, assessment and resources. 

 Each lesson starts with the instructor checking that the student is comfortable through dialogue. we would check that the volume and rate of speech on the computer was set at an appropriate level.  In addition we would make sure that the student was aware of all facilities in the centre, toilets etc.

    The first section within our course is an introduction and outline. The student would experience navigating and using screen reader commands. This will allow the student to experience new mediums. Experiential learning theory is based on the premise

that people learn most effectively through experience.

The theory is commonly credited to David A Kolb, who believed that, having had

a actual experience, the individual subsequently reflected upon it, came to a general conclusion, and decided upon how to act in similar situations in the future.   The lesson would be recorded in order to provide the learner access to information long after the lesson is finished. Reece and Walker state that one of the easiest methods of collecting data is to audio-record, “say, a question part of a lesson, or an introduction to a lesson or a conclusion.” 

The activities were considered in terms of those that the visually impaired/blind pupil could be in control of through hearing, this is done through direct observation. It is interactive teaching, providing immediate feedback. Cronjé gives the following explanation of interactivity: "Interactivity has to do with simulating the interchange between two people who are communicating meaningfully. When this interactivity is mediated by technology, two factors come into play. The first is the level or intensity of the interaction, which might be measured in terms of the interdependence of the participants. The second is the mode in which the interactivity takes place that is the number of participants, the time frame and the level of technological sophistication."

The student would be provided with a demonstration, this would be beneficial according to Petty, “The computer students will benefit from seeing demonstrations of practical uses of the application they are learning, or learning some general background to the equipment they are using.”

The first section would wind down with a question and answer session to establish understanding. The most appropriate method of assessment in our experience is to record questions on tape and let the student record their answers. The student would be given the taped lesson to go over at home providing them with valuable feedback. The tape would give us the opportunity to go over in order to evaluate the methods and make appropriate changes.

The 2nd section starts by recapping on the previous section. The student would be introduced to Word on tape giving them the opportunity to explore the following sections.   This would give us the opportunity to establish prior knowledge. ‘Advance organisers’ cue the learner’s prior knowledge and make the learning meaningful.

This is important as  “The link with the previous lesson allows the learner to perceive the continuity of instruction and create interest” Curzon, L.B (1991) p269.

The learning activities intend giving the student the experience of saving and opening of documents.

The activities will be repeated and become progressively harder accessing higher domains of learning.  Taba refers to this as “cumulative learning”

We wind down with a question and answer session to establish understanding. The student would be given the taped lesson to study at home.

The 3rd section would begin with a review and recap on the previous lesson. The

Student would be asked if they had listened to the previous lesson on tape, We would do this to assess how committed the student is. The student would be given another demonstration to reinforce the learning. Then we would allow the student to discover activities for themselves. There is value in the discovery method according to Petty,   he believes that  “it involves the students in high-order thinking: evaluation, creative thinking, problem-solving, analysis , synthesis etc”

 In our opinion commenting on a student’s work, giving verbal encouragement and positive reinforcement, provides valuable support.  Skinner referred to this as conditioning.

The 4th and 5th sections would begin by reviewing previous sections. We would look at formatting and manually editing text. The emphasis is on encouraging and planning independent work.  Audible information and discussion is encouraged. Using the Psychomotor Domain-The initial experiences are designed for practise so that the learner’s skill is improved.  They will then move to assimilate knowledge within the Cognitive domain, we would hope to see some progress to analysis. Dewey tells us it is important for the instruction to “be organized so as to pace development (but not outstrip it)”

These 2 domains overlap naturally with the Affective domain. The student start to appreciate and value the learning experience, encouraging motivation.  “By adopting a holistic approach towards the curriculum, humanistic educators effect an integration of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains”.

 The method of assessment is formative and ongoing due to the fact we do not offer accreditation. This process occurs during feedback and through discussion. we concur with Black when he says ‘Assessment should not inhibit the humanistic enterprise of education, it enables problems to be overcome, interacts with the learning, reflects and supports the learning aims’ Black p3. 

Evaluation:

The programme needs to demonstrate development, to function it must be realistic with the available resources and time.  We are unable to accommodate all the students who would like to join our course so this needs to be addressed.

One of the main purposes of evaluation is to identify its strengths and weaknesses. This can be achieved due to the fact we often record the lesson enabling us to evaluate the outcomes, methods, attitude, timing, knowledge, skills, etc.

 

Etheridge believes that this ‘assessment process which advocates a self assessment system is qualitatively speaking most valuable.’

 

 

Conclusion:

We  have created a Humanistic environment, creating an open and reflective atmosphere as seen by Paulo Freire.  The facilitative classroom techniques supported the student and allowed for discovery learning through a holistic program.  We need to take a more formative approach to the evaluation of technology because of the rate of change in technologies

 

 

Research Introduction:

Roth asserts that, “the English word research comes from a prefix and a mean to seek out again:' most academic or scholarly matter of seeking out ideas and materials already found or others.”

 

 This research section examines suitable methods of accessing information for VIPS {visually impaired people}, facilitating their learning requirements. VIPS need to be included into further education to promote social integration and to enable widening participation. The contemporary Tomlinson report asserts that, “A new vision of inclusion, based on a better match between learning requirements

and provision, is at the heart of far-reaching proposals for improving further

education following the first national inquiry in England into FE provision for

students with disabilities and/or difficulties in learning”.

 

The RNIB {Royal National Institute for the Blind} tell us that there are “around two million people with "uncorrectable" sight problems in the UK

(Covering the whole range of significant vision difficulties beyond the help of

Glasses), the following percentages have difficulty with, or cannot read at all:

      Food packet instructions 85%

      Medicine labels and medical letters 83%

      Bus numbers 72%

      TV captions 72%

      Magazines 67%

      Electronic displays 64%

      Personal mail 58%

Maslow believed that human needs could be organised in a progressive hierarchy.  The question I ask myself is “if VIPS lower order needs can not be met, how can they progress to higher order thinking and on to post compulsory education”?  MY research reveals that, “Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA, 2000) indicate that in

1998,500 higher education students self-assessed themselves as having a

disability; 3.3% of these students had visual impairments”.

 we will not witness an influx of students visually impaired/Blind into further education, until we understand what methods they prefer to access information.

 

Identification of issue to be researched and why it was chosen:

“If I can't read it, I can't learn it.”

 

  visually impaired/Blind should receive information in their preferred media such as large print, computer disk, audio tape or Braille.

 The RNIB argues that “Nearly half (47%) of university or higher education students did not usually

  receive books in a format they can read and 39% struggle to use libraries.”

 

 We need to establish what constitutes an appropriate format.

        Through the development of an agreed institutional philosophy can developments take place and the components of 'best practice' be transformed from an ideal into reality.  The rationale behind our research is to establish how to offer the most affective way to provide information for the members within the VITALBAT group. The Tomlinson report asserts that, “inclusive learning means teachers focus not on the disability itself but on what

it means for the way people learn or are helped to learn more effectively.”

 Grant funding research in the Glasgow region argue that “One of the main deprivations caused by blindness is the problem of access to information.” We all know information helps all of us to make decisions and lead independent lives. 

Petty, g tells us, “research has consistently shown that female students get less classroom attention than males, have less access to computers or other specialist equipment, and are marked down if they are very able.” He also argues that “research has also continued to show that Afro-Caribbean’s, Asians, other ethnic minority students, and learners with special needs also get an unfair deal in the classroom from most teachers.”

 

The categories mentioned above will be included in our research, simply because we believe it is untrue, if it is true we are unaware of it. 

 

Description of issues to be researched:

Accessibility refers to the freedom or ability of an individual to obtain or make full use of a product. This means a product is accessible to an individual only if he or she is able to use it to carry out all of the same functions and to achieve the same results as individuals with similar skills and training who do not have a disability.

Only a century a go It was obvious that if the blind were to be educated a method must be devised by which they would read and study like the seeing.

 Louis Braille invented the embossed system which has ever since borne his name and which enables the blind to read and write easily with their fingers. His system was a group of six dots in which the vertical line consists of three dots, and the horizontal of two. The combination of these dots in all kinds of positions produces characters to each of which he assigned a particular meaning, just as the seeing do to the characters of ink print.

The RNIB describe moon in the following manner, 

“The Moon system of embossed reading was invented by Dr William Moon in 1845.

Many people know about the Braille system of reading by touch; fewer have heard

Of Moon. This is a simple method based upon the standard alphabet. The Moon

Alphabet is made up of 14 characters used at various angles, each with a clear bold outline.”

Many students will use cassette tapes for some or much of their studying. This means that the student has to rely entirely on auditory input which requires both practice and skills of concentration and memory.

 

The computer and scanner equipped with a screen reader along with a voice synthesizer, or a standard sound card make useful verbal output possible. The screen reader tracks the text that

appears on the video display and sends it to the voice synthesizer or sound

Card.

This hardware interprets and then speaks the characters and words that it receives from printed material that is placed on the scanner.

Large print documents use larger type characters- ranging from 16 point to 22 point

Students who prefer to use a magnifier may use

a CCTV (closed circuit television), which throws an enlarged version of a page onto a screen. Computer software can also be obtained to enlarge print on the screen, providing independent access to those students who prefer to deal with materials on disk.

 

Methods of collecting data and why these methods were chosen:

The approach we  used at the beginning of January was to consult the University library and acquire any literature on how to put together a research paper. The personnel in the library were very helpful in the search for research literature. The books we  acquired were scanned and put on to computer.

Then we interviewed service users from the local blind centre on separate days at random to give a good cross section.  They were interviewed and put on to our data base after gaining their permission. The internet was used due to the fact it is very accessible for us, and we can compete on an equal basis.

 

 

Methods of storing data and why:

The database is a practical way for visually impaired/Blind people like us to record data. The data can be changed easily, if we were to have chosen paper, the information would not be able to have been changed.

The data can be extracted easily and accurately, it also reveals our skill in collecting and storing data.

 

Statistic analysis and explanation of the analysis:

The secretary of the day centre informed us that we cater for approximately 250 people every week. So we took a cross-section, taking 5 from each day at random, making 25 over all accounting for 10% of service users. There were 13 females and 12 males, 6 service users were from an ethnic minority. There will be a complete listing headed figure 1 with all the information that appeared in the questionnaire. 

 

 

Table 1 reveals the service users place of residence, there will be a detailed listing in figure 1.  

 

Table1.

Location

Number of service users

Percentage

Dudley

8

32%

Stafford

4

16%

Tamworth

1

4%

Wolverhampton

12

48%

 

The statistics in table 2 reveals the service user’s age.

Table2.

Minimum age

Maximum age

Average age

22

76

55

 

 

 The Braille statistics in table 3 give a percentage of Braille users in each borough. In addition table 3 reveals how many prefer this media. Additional information will follow the table, a detailed list will be found in figure 3

Location

Number of Braille users

Percentage

Preference

Dudley

1

4%

0%

Stafford

4

16%

0%

Wolverhampton

5

20%

0%

 

The Braille figures reveal that 40% of service users used Braille, but none preferred this media.

Figure 3 reveals that Braille users who attended state school came out at 24% with 16% attending a VIP school.  

There were 2 service users from ethnic minority who used Braille, and the other ethnic minorities did not use Braille, but were partially sighted.

 

 

Figure 1 revealed that there was only 1 service user accounting for 4% who used moon, who happened to be in an ethnic minority and was female.

 

 The audio tape statistics that can be found in figure 1 was that 100% used audio tape, and 16% of users preferred this media. 

 

 

The computer statistics for the females will be found in table 4, table 5 will contain figures for the males, a full list will be found in figure 4 within our appendices.

Location

Female computer users

Percentage

Preference

Dudley

5

20%

4%

Stafford

3

12%

4%

Wolverhampton

5

20%

4%

statistics reveal that 52% of computer users are female and 12% prefer this media.

Location

Male computer users

Percentage

Preference

Dudley

2

8%

0%

Stafford

1

4%

0%

Tamworth

1

4%

0%

Wolverhampton

7

28%

12%

The male statistics reveal that 44% use computers and 12 % prefer this media.

 

Figure 1 revealed that there were 60% of the service users who used large print and all of them preferred this media.

 

 

 

Figure 1 revealed that there were 44% of service users who used a magnifier, but none chose it as a preference.

 

 

Analysis of findings

The average age of the service users compared slightly lower than nationally at 55years of age.

The fact that 40% of service users used Braille would compare with Etheridge’s argument that: Approximately half of the 3000 registered blind who are in paid employment, use Braille at work, so clearly for many of those with the severest visual disabilities, Braille is an essential skill.”

The fact none of the service users chose Braille has a preferred media was unexpected. It was not unanticipated to find that all service users registered blind who attended a VIP school used Braille. However it was unexpected none preferred this media. A colleague who is partially sighted and is the Braille teacher stated that she was not surprised, and would not choose Braille has her preferred method of accessing information either. 

Hutchinson, J.O et al confirms my findings stating that, “It is often assumed that Braille is a widely used medium whereas only 19,000 visually impaired people in the UK are Braille readers. This is due to the fact that many lose their sight during later life, when it becomes more difficult to learn Braille.

The service users excluding 1 who were out of the 2 boroughs and had to pay a small amount used Braille. When we questioned the service users they stated “we pay so we access as many activities within the centre as we can.”  The 1 service user was asked why he did not use Braille and he told me that “I am a diabetic and would not be able to feel the dots.”   I asked him why he did not used moon he replied “I have never heard of moon”.

There was only 1 service user approximately 4%, who actually used moon.  this could be due to the fact it is not well known.

 

The evidence showing that all service users use audio tape was not surprising. but The most astonishing finding was that all the service users who used large print preferred this media. This could be due to Etheridge’s finding that, “It has been asserted that eighty percent of learning is via the visual pathway.

Implications and recommendations

Braille can be produced relatively easily with computer software, and an embosser which we have at the Arena Theatre, Braille would make a good supplement.

RNIB recommend when using large print to use, 14 point if possible - to reach more people with sight problems.

  Plain clear typefaces, without italics, using semi bold or bold type

  Set text against a single colour background using high contrast

  Keep text well-spaced, left-aligned and free of "clutter"

It is more difficult to skim through audio material, although equipment is available like the plextalk digital recorders.

 

Ethical Implication:

The service users were consulted before we entered information about them into the data base.  This gave us the opportunity to explain about the data protection act.  

 

There are also implications in the Human Rights Act 1998,

which protects the right of the individual to "privacy, family life, home and

correspondence" meaning that confidential information should not have to be

Shared with another person.

 

Resource Base Learning Introduction:

Our mission was to create an interactive resource base -learning package for a specific target audience, who happened to be two female blind students. 

One of the powers of interactive electronic instruction is the capability to engage by providing rapid, compelling interaction and feedback to the student

Description of Learning-package:

The package was produced on compact disk and cassette enabling the students the ability to use the resource at home. The package is a Microsoft Excel tutorial guide integrating the Jaws screen reader, the package was produced in Microsoft PowerPoint.  It can be self- teaching, although We acted as a facilitator the first time the package was used.

The whole multimedia experience was designed for audio and tactile methods incorporating the Jaws programme. This screen reading programme allows visually impaired/Blind people the ability to access information on their computer screen via a speech synthesiser.

 

Target Audience:

The 2 female students we chose to create this package for are both registered blind and over 60 years of age.  The definition of a person who is registered blind according to the RNIB covers a broad spectrum of visual impairments. The extent of visual disability depends upon the physical sensory impairment of the student's eyes, the age of the student at the onset of vision impairment, and the way in which that impairment occurred. Vision may fluctuate, or may be influenced by factors such as inappropriate lighting, light glare, or fatigue”. 

Although the students come from different cultures, there are similarities.  They are both over 60 years of age white and middle class. There is Anne who is German, who moved to England in 1948.  She spoke broken English, to use her terminology. The way in which she developed her English was through a night class and her husband who is English. She arrived in the country with hair dressing qualifications and retook them in English. It seems that Anne enjoys studying attending horticultural college and gaining a certificate.  It was only last year she gained a GCSE in maths in order to help her grandson in his homework.  There is Margaret who is English, who was registered partially sighted from birth. She attended Lickey Grange a school for the blind.  When she left school she entered the nursing profession and qualified as a nursery nurse and state enrolled nurse. Approximately 12 months ago Anne and Margaret purchased computers with Microsoft office 2007, I assume student’s who do this are financially secure and well motivated. They also purchased a single user license of the Jaws software, this specialist soft ware is expensive at the time £750.00. Although the student’s do not hold any professional qualifications in computers they have both completed a Microsoft Word 2000 tutorial.  They are given a lesson once a week for 2 hour together. They have both used Microsoft Excel but have not studied it in great detail. Since losing their eyesight they feel that they have been denied access to ordinary community facilities, so this has made them feel isolated.

The lack of eyesight that they have got is not the major problem, the real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information, which exist. (E.g. it is not well known that blind people are able to access printed material through specialist equipment. This equipment could be made available at low cost in libraries etc.

When the student’s have been trained and had better opportunity, blindness will only be a physical nuisance.

 

Needs Analysis:

The 2 students were consulted about the package and what they wanted out of it. They both agreed it should be produced in English. It is possible for Jaws to speak German, but according to Anne the pronunciation is tells poor. This was a humanistic approach according to Paulo Freire. “That teachers and students who are engaged in training which empowers people, need to focus on communicating with each other in an honest and open way.”  When we asked the student’s “what do you use Excel for?” Margaret replied “I run a talking book service” Anne’s reply “I keep telephone numbers”. They were unaware that Jaws could read the row and column headings automatically. They were not using the Jaws program to its full potential.  Our goal was to enlighten the students about this valuable feature.  It is our belief that blind people should be free from restrictions. The humanistic educator Paulo Freire shared this philosophy. He asserted that” people with disabilities should be free from restrictions, which limit their potential.” 

The students are taught by audible and tactile methods, so the ability to listen was a key factor. Curzon, L.B tells us, “about 12 per cent of what we learn, we acquire through listening.”

We would argue that these figures have not taken into account those of us who are visually impaired.

     The student’s were encouraged to use their Dictaphones. This enables them to retrieve information long after the learning package is used. We would have to agree with Reece and Walker, S. that, “one of the easiest methods of collecting data is to audio-record”.

 

Designing of package:

The fact our learners are over 60years of age, contributed to how we designed the package.  Curzon, L.B (1990) p263.  argues that older students are likely to experience some deterioration in short-term memory.   To accommodate my learner's specific needs, the package was designed to give regular revision tasks to aid the recall of previous learning.  The design had to be accessible using text and sound. I would have to agree with Wald’s   assertion that  “The extensive use of graphics, Charts, diagrams, animations and video in place of text may appear to provide a stimulating exciting learning environment, but without thoughtful design may create barriers to its accessible use”.

 

Accessibility was the main issue so we had to use a true type font and experiment with the point size.  Becta learning recommends crafting the content.

The screen reader relies heavily on the video card and will only read certain text. The jaws program works better when the view is set to 75% and the display to 256 colours. This problem has been going on for 5 years,

 Punctuation was left out in order not to over load the students.  The reason being, blind students use the keyboard to access everything on screen, these keystrokes often contain punctuation.  So omitting the punctuation assists in not confusing the students.

     When we recorded our voice into the presentation it created a problem, when we plugged in the microphone Jaws stopped speaking.  The only way around this was to switch to an external synthesiser.  The package was very large so putting it onto compact disk made sense and made it portable. The tape to be used with the compact disk was recorded on the plextalk digital recorder , making the package sound professional. The plextalk digital recorder has revolutionised the techniques and processes of sound recording. The compact flash cards can be erased, so can be used repeatedly at no cost. This format is very accessible for the blind.

 

Implementation:

The students were briefed and given a tape to work with. They experience using a spreadsheet while listening to the tape. Experiential learning theory is based on the premise that people - children and adults - learn most effectively through experience.

The theory is commonly credited to David A Kolb, who believed that having had an actual experience, the individual subsequently reflected upon it, came to a general conclusion, and decided upon how to act in similar situations in the future.  

The instructional methods that we used on tape were to integrate new keystrokes with previously learned keystrokes. E.g. the students were told the same keystroke in word that reads a character, reads a cell in Excel. This is comparing and cross-referencing new and old keystrokes. The cognitive psychologist Ausubel stated that ” Prior experience with related problems is necessary for a learner to deal fully with novel situations.”

Using the Psychomotor Domain-The initial experiences are designed for practise so that the learner’s skill is improved.  They will then move to assimilate knowledge within the Cognitive domain I would hope to see some progress to analysis. Here as Dewey points out it is important for the instruction to “be organized so as to pace development (but not outstrip it)”  students were told how to control the rate of speech produced by the computer and were left to do so. This was done because we believe that adults are self-directed.  Knowles emphasizes that adults are self-directed and expect to take responsibility for decisions.

The tape gave regular positive reinforcement and when the students got to a certain slide it cheered. Skinner referred to this as conditioning and believed that you could alter people’s behaviour to positive affect.

 

Resources:

PowerPoint was chosen because of the ability it has of using different types of media, although it is not an authoring package it is extremely versatile.

Jaws was used to read the screen, it works with, but does not replace most computer applications. It offers comprehensive screen reading capability that includes extended product customisation through powerful utility managers. This means you can bring up certain managers e.g. a dictionary manager and teach the reader to pronounce a word properly.

There is a track from the new features disk used to reinforce the learning. The laptop was used to deliver the package and to produce it.  The reason was the capability of putting the package onto compact disk.

The plextalk digital recorder was used to create the tape to be used with the package.

 

Cost:

 

The package was mainly produced at the Arena Theatre taking us 22.5 hours. .  This was completed in the time used for plan and preparation. The cost in materials was nominal about £5.00.    There was a risk that I would spend most of our free time designing this package, but took the advice of Petty, G and decided to designate certain times towards completion. “A word of warning. In designing your own material for computers you must be careful not to get carried away, especially if you are a computer enthusiast.”

The handout advising to enlist the help of a student, proved to be beneficial.  “Get your students to help you make the materials better.” Karl Royal (Handout) 01.

The fact the package was linked to a spreadsheet enabled us to teach a student while completing the package.  This was extremely time efficient.

 

Evaluation:

In our experience evaluation should rely less on participant self-reported attitudes, and more on observations of participants actions within learning contexts.

 Since the students used the package they have progressed to creating a calendar and used the keystrokes learned. A colleague evaluated the calendar. The male student who helped with the package, who is also over 60 years of age has shown the most progress. He said that he could use it as a revision tool. The package will not date because these features are always going to be prevalent.  

    The aim of the learning package was to provide computer experience in a non-threatening environment, and we believe this was achieved.   The overall outcome was that the student’s have gained a range of useful keystrokes to be used with Microsoft Excel along with their screen readers. This was achieved due to the fact they were able to answer all the test questions correctly.  This was accomplished by providing the students with a demonstration on cassette, while they worked with a compact disk. “The computer students will benefit from seeing demonstrations of practical uses of the application they are learning, or learning some general background to the equipment they are using.”

They worked together, one at the computer, while one controlled  the tape recorder, exchanging at an appropriate point in time. 

The student’s chose the form of assessment method, as we believe teachers should be unbiased. The student’s needs were taken into consideration including cultural, linguistic, socio-economic and educational, this was established through dialogue.  During the design and delivery we took into consideration a wide range of learning theories.  The student’s who used the package evaluated the package . The final part of the assignment dealt with production issues along with financial cost in time as well has material. 

 We need to take a more formative approach to the evaluation of technology because of the rate of change in technologies.  It is important that the students we teach are able to receive information in a way that is accessible to them.  We all know information helps all of us to make decisions and lead independent lives.  According to the R.N.I.B it is the law. We now have a legal obligation, following the implementation of section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act.  To make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access services.  http://www.rnib.org.uk

 

          

       

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