Thursday was first day of classes, Day #2. School actually started on Wednesday, but of course we only met the students and teachers in our classes that meet on Wednesdays.
So I walked into my morning class…Computer Literacy at 10 am…and watched as my students slowly arrived, making myself useful by passing our syllabi.
I was not expecting anything out of the ordinary…such as, for example, all the students to show up on that first day of class. I was hoping for something bigger than 50%. In fact, ever single student registered for the class was in class and seated by 10:05.
The students helped me up from where I had fainted from surprise (no, not really). Then one of them called me over to her computer station and informed me of a problem. “I am visually impaired,” she said. “So am I,” I said. “What can I do to help?”
Originally posted in Teacher’s Lounge at Daily Kos
I reset her resolution and set the default to extra large fonts, but that didn’t help. When I asked her to log on, which requires she type in her student ID, I noted that her ID had been typed for her in a font size of at least 48…maybe 60. Problems compounded from there. She seems not to be a touch typist, though that could have been a matter of nerves. If she is not a touch typist, we are probably in serious trouble.
She could not read the computer screen in front of her. She tried to use a magnifying glass she carries everywhere to do so, but it didn’t work. Fortunately, she really didn’t need to use the computer on the first day…though there were times when it would have been a major good thing if she could have seen what was showing on the screen at the front of the class.
I returned to my office at noon and spent the next few hours trying to rectify the situation. So much for lunch. First thing I did was contact the IT help desk to get a station set up with whatever adaptive technology we had available. Personally I use a wireless mouse from Microsoft which has a magnifier button on the side.
Almost immediately after sitting down…and plugging in my space heater, since my office is the one with almost no insulation…the new director of disability support services called. That’s a good thing, since all I knew about her was her last name and she’s not even in the campus phone book yet. The previous director ended her employment with us on Friday in order to take a job somewhere in the South.
After apologizing for not letting me know ahead of time about the challenge I was going to be facing to teach this student, he discussed adaptive technology. I am not an expert, but my partner has some knowledge in the area and I have learned. We discussed the possibility of a laptop vs. a desktop, magnifier screens, the mouse I mentioned above, etc. Then she mentioned they have a copy of the program ZoomText.
Since my visual impairment has arisen more recently in my life, I am not familiar with ZoomText, but it is apparently good. That’s according to the IT guy who called me almost immediately after I got off the phone with the director lady. He promised that there would be a station set up with as much assistive technology as we can muster by Tuesday and that he will be there on Tuesday to show her how to use it. Only drawback is that ordering stuff like a large print keyboard will take a minimum of two weeks.
Well…it’s not the only drawback. The one thing that is going to be hardest is the fact that the student cannot see what is projected on the screen in front. I will have to adjust to the insufficiency of,
First watch what I do and then you do it.
While I have always used words to go along with that style of knowledge transfer, I will have to be completely aware of my actions in doing so.
This semester is indeed already presenting a new challenge. It would have been nice if I had been given more time to consider it.
A question of import has been raised by my partner: How did this person get to this place in her life without this problem being addressed in the past? If it has been, she has not been helpful/forthcoming about what has been done to assist her. The fact is that most of our students have been neglected at one time or another…or continually…in the past. I fear that someone, somewhere made the decision for her that she would never need a computer, when the truth is that the ability to use a computer could be the great leveler in her life.