As TVI’s it seems as if we have a very regimented set of topics that we are to teach. Braille, abacus, Braille Notetakers, self advocacy, the list goes on and on. Some of these things are very easy to teach, and some are very hard, but one thing is for certain, we are all given the freedom to teach what we think is important. It’s awesome!
For our braille readers, we absolutely all agree that braille is important so we teach that when our students learn to read, when they learn to count some of us teach the abacus, when they begin algebra we introduce the talking graphing calculator, and when they reach high school we tell them that they need to advocate for themselves. Done. Child educated, moving on.
However, as I navigate myself around the vision field, there’s one topic that everyone seems to forget to teach. This is something that, dare I say is just as important as learning braille, a skill that might even be the difference between employment and living off of an SSI check. What is this you may ask? COMPUTER ACCESS. In this article we are going to discuss 5 things TVI’s say about screen readers that are simply untrue.
1. My student will be just fine with their BrailleNote Touch.
When was the last time you saw a successfully employed professional that could only use a Samsung Tablet to check her email? Yeah, me neither. As much as Humanware wants to believe it, the Braillenote Touch IS NOT a replacement for a computer. As a TVI who has had a number of braille readers, I will say that the Braillenote Touch is a godsend when a student needs access to something in braille quickly or maybe has to do Geometry.
But what happens when your student needs to access a large PowerPoint that the puny chip in the Touch simply cannot handle or when the school district releases a new learning management system that the Touch just doesn’t know what to do with or when she enrolls in AP Computer Science? It’s going to happen.
2. Screen Readers don’t give my student access to braille!
Of course they do! Have you ever heard of a braille display?
Why yes, you might say but then my student has to use a whole new device!
Contrary to popular belief, many braille displays are simply an extension of the device they are paired with. They are a display, a monitor, a screen. Nobody says, “man I need to learn how to use this Windows computer AND this Dell monitor!” They simply learn to use the computer, and read what is on the screen using the monitor. Think of the braille display as the same thing. Yes, you can learn all of the fancy key commands that come with the braille display keyboard, but are they necessary? No. As I tell my students, “don’t worry about the keyboard, just read the braille”.
3. My student NEEDS specialized technology!
With the popularization of built in accessibility, not only does your student NOT need specialized technology, but it will make everyone’s life easier if they don’t use specialized technology. Specialized technology, like Braillenotes, Braille Senses, and yes even braille displays are expensive, slow, and never get updated. Do you know what always gets updated? Computers. When someone learns how to use a computer, they have access to every single update, version and license that everyone else has access to.
4. My student doesn’t like to use JAWS, so it is not important!
Yeah nobody really likes JAWS when they start to use it. It requires problem solving, task analysis and active listening. Guess what? Those are all of the things that kids need in order to learn to read. Do all kids like to read? No. But does that give them a free pass? Absolutely not. We know that teaching our students to read is a skill that is necessary for them to become active participants in our society, and in the year 2020, the same goes with learning how to use a computer.
In the words of Matthew McConaughey in the movie Interstellar (sorry I know I’m a nerd), “It’s not impossible. It’s necessary.”
5. I just don’t have the time to learn this!
And that is why we are here. We know that this is an area that has a bit of a vacuum. We know that there is very little information on how to teach a student how to use a screen reader, but you are not alone. If you are dedicated to learning how to teach this VERY crucial skill to your students, know that you have a community of people here to help you along the way. You can begin by signing up for our Screen Reader Lesson Challenge. All via email, we will take 5 days to show you our easy 3 step process to planning your own lessons that involve JAWS, NVDA, or Chromevox.
Can your kid still use their Touch? Absolutely but do not deny them the opportunity to add this tool (one that everyone else is expected to use) to their toolbox. So, dust off that license of JAWS and begin learning one of the skills that will get your students employed. How to use a computer. #YouGotThis