A Blog and the Blind


A Blog is a significant web 2.0 technique used in the classroom. It provides a space where teachers and students can work to further expand writing or other skills with the benefit of an immediate audience. A class blog unlocks the opportunity for all students to discuss topics outside of the classroom, while strengthening their IT skills. Teachers can equally bring together a group of students for a specific unit of study, which would allow students to network and conference with on a blog. Students like creating blogs because they are easy to make and keep up-to-date. Plus, students like being notified of class requirements, reflections on their writing, and homework assignments. All of these are valuable skills that are essential for 21st century literacy.

Blogs are integrated in an adaptable method to accommodate all learners, even blind students. Blindness is defined as the state of being sightless, and signifies the condition of total blackness of vision with the inability of a person to distinguish darkness from bright light in either eye. The terms blind and blindness have been revised in the United States to include a wide range of visual impairments. There are approximately 55,200 legally blind students in the United States, and yes, they are able to blog, just like their classmates. How is this done? Blog accessibility is provided for blind students by using JAWS, (Job Access for Windows and Speech), which is a user-friendly screen reading program software program manufactured by Freedom Scientific. JAWS is easy to install, and it reads the text on Blogger pages, most of which have a blogspot.com URL, and the student has complete control over how JAWS reads the text.

This software program is designed to work with a speech synthesizer which increases blind students’ computer proficiency through reorganizing keyboard functions and automating commands. In addition, students are able to add the power of JAWS to their computers at school and home without purchasing an additional synthesizer. JAWS also provide students who are multilingual the support for seven different languages. Blind students have accessibility to blogs because of JAWS Screen Reader software program, and are able to effectively participate in writing and commenting on class blogs, thus communicating with their peers and teachers successfully.
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References:

http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/educationupclose.phtml/47/

http://www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws--product-page.asp

http://www.thelittlerockfoundation.org/parents_resources_stats.htm

In addition to using JAWS to read blogs, there is another device called a Refreshable Braille Display. This device can be paired to any bluetooth capable device and display the text in braille, using pins that raise and lower. The device is refreshable, meaning that as the user navigates the page he or she is reading, the braille will change characters each time the user scrolls down or up the page. The advantages of braille displays over synthetic speech are that it provides direct access to information; allows the user to check format, spacing, and spelling; and is quiet.

This is a great tool to use not only to read blogs, but also to contribute to them as well. Students can use this keyboard-like tool to input data. Some models also have a note taking feature, which is great for quick reminders. Blogging has so many advantages in education and these Refreshable Braille Displays allow the blind to learn through blogging.

References:
http://www.afb.org/ProdBrowseCatResults.asp?CatID=43
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd10syL5RLY
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refreshable_braille_display