Tod Harris, a math and computer teacher at Maplewood Middle School in Edmonds, Washington, is committed to the universal design of classroom environments. His school serves students with visual impairments from throughout the district in general education classrooms. Some students were having difficulty accessing information projected on an overhead during class lectures and completing tasks in the math computer lab. Through an AccessSTEM Minigrant from DO-IT, Mr. Harris purchased equipment to make his classes accessible to all students independently.
Mr. Harris purchased a Dell desktop computer with a 19" flat screen monitor, installed ZoomText (a screen magnification program) and JAWS (a screen reading program) on the hard drive, and connected the system to the school's existing network. These software programs allow students with visual impairments at his school to access a variety of computer programs independent of assistance from a reader or assistant. Additionally, Mr. Harris purchased a visual presenter for the science teacher to use during classes and labs. The visual presenter allows the teacher to control the contrast and colors used in an overhead display, in a way that standard overhead projectors do not.
Purchasing and using this new equipment at Maplewood Middle School is a promising practice because it enables students to function in their classes in the same independent fashion as their peers. The availability of this equipment and software makes it possible for the classroom aide to support the whole classroom, instead of serving exclusively as a sighted guide for students with visual impairments.
For more information on computer access for people with visual impairments see the Knowledge Base articles, How can people with low vision access a computer? and Marika and Mathematics: A Case Study on Accommodations for Visual Impairments.
AccessSTEM mingrants were funded under The Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (AccessSTEM, Research in Disabilities Education award # HRD-0227995).