Adam and Field Work: A Case Study on Accommodations for Blindness

Background

My name is Adam and I am blind. I took biology for one of my lab science requirements and fieldwork was required of all students. For this particular fieldwork, students were bused to a mountain close to the campus. The assignment was to mark off a square meter of soil on the north side of the mountain and count any vegetation within that square meter. Students were then taken to the south face of the mountain and required to repeat the activity. All plants were to be categorized and recorded. The task was then to analyze the data from the two plots and create a hypothesis to explain any differences.

Access Issue

How was I going to climb a mountain, mark out the areas, and count the vegetation?

Solutions

A crucial step before determining an appropriate accommodation is to determine the educational objectives of the experience. In this case, the educational objectives were to search for, sort, and categorize plant data from two separate plots and use the data to create a hypothesis explaining any differences. Climbing the mountain and locating a plot were not educational objectives and therefore could be adapted. Reasonable accommodations were selected after consultation with my professor and the disabled student services office. Two tactile representations of plots of ground from the north and south faces of the mountain were created containing Braille symbols for the types of vegetation found. My job was then to categorize, record, and interpret the data to complete the assignment as did every other student in the class.

Conclusion

This case is a good example of the need to separate the physical tasks or actions surrounding an educational activity from the educational objective itself. In order to do so, an instructor must ask, "What should students learn from this experience?" The problem solving steps in this case included:

  1. Defining the educational objective.
  2. Enlisting the support of the campus office for student disability services to create course materials in an alternative format.