The 2020-2021 school year is upon us. In these uncertain times, sighted parents of blind and visually impaired children are looking for ways to assist their children with homework or school work if they are required to be homeschooled due to COVID-19. If you have a child with a vision impairment, the following four tips will help you advocate on your child’s behalf when you meet with teachers and school officials.
If your child uses braille textbooks, ask teachers for print copies of the books. This will allow you to refer to the material if your child needs assistance. If braille materials aren’t available through your child’s school, ask teachers or school administrators to provide textbooks and other materials in electronic formats, which can be used with assistive technology. This technology includes screen readers such as JAWS or NVDA for PC or Voiceover for Mac and iOS devices, screen magnification software for computers, tablets and smartphones, adaptive scanning software for computers and apps that use OCR technology on a mobile device. If your child needs adaptive aids to complete school assignments, ask his or her Local Education Agency representative for the necessary resources to help your child succeed.
Ask your child’s teacher to provide class notes in accessible formats for home use. Students or parents can ask for volunteers to take notes for students with a vision impairment. However, if the student wishes to remain anonymous, the volunteer can give the notes to the teacher, which can then be passed to the student. Electronic notes can be emailed to your student, or to an anonymous email set up specifically for receiving these types of materials. If notes are not provided in an accessible format, or volunteers are unavailable to take notes for your child, ask for a copy of the teacher’s notes, so you can check them against your child’s notes for accuracy. If PowerPoint presentations are used in class, ask your child’s teacher to provide the text within the presentation in an alternate format. If a student volunteers to take notes for your child with a vision impairment, encourage him or her to ask the student volunteer to provide the presentation in an alternate format.
If your child is required to complete written assignments, ask teachers for permission to type the assignments using a word processor with assistive technology. The assignment can be printed and turned in to the teacher or submitted by email. If assignments are required to be handwritten, ask your child to read what he or she has written in braille and copy the work as he or she reads it, instead of correcting the work for him or her. Encourage your child to ask for extra time to complete written assignments.
Scheduling intermittent breaks during study periods for your partially sighted child will prevent visual fatigue. These breaks can also prevent fatigue during the completion of longer projects, such as research papers and book reports.
Arming yourself with tools and resources will help ensure your child succeeds during remote learning. You can check out our previous accessibility for distance learning blog for additional resources. Our Adaptive Technology Training program can also help your child learn new technology skills to get the most out of time spent in the classroom or learning at home.