How can we support students with disabilities while engaging in distant learning? Tune in to today's episode to hear Drs. Rebecca Hines and Dr. Lisa Dieker discuss "The Challenge of Teaching Students with Visual Disabilities From Afar" by Katie Livingstone.
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Lisa Dieker 00:01
Welcome to Practical Access I'm Lisa Dieker.
Rebecca Hines 00:04
And I'm Rebecca Hines and Lisa I know you're excited about today's topic and, hopefully, we'll blend a few thoughts as you share what we're looking at.
Lisa Dieker 00:14
Yeah, you know I really enjoyed this article and ED week and honestly because I don't think I had personally given it enough thought about how rich our world became in visual and how challenging that is for students with visual disabilities to teach them from afar. And it really talked about, this piece and ED week talked about, you know how do you teach Braille when you can't reach through zoom and teach somebody how to touch something and how do you teach mobility and this teacher was great and actually, through zoom, made a little virtual community out of cardboard and had the child work on orientation skills so I just thought it was one that, as we start back for the school year yeah we'll still have a lot of these technological tools, but you and I both know that when kids have auditory or sensory needs whether they're kids or adults, usually technology has some serious limitations and I just want teachers to start the school year by not just saying oh, we have technology, but what are the limitations of those technologies.
Rebecca Hines 01:18
Well, you know when when when working with any, any child with any kind of visual disability or motor disability or something that's very specific in that way it's definitely difficult remotely I'll tell you it's difficult, even in person. As you know, I had my nephew recently stay with me and Michael has severe physical disabilities and I spent a week just looking at different ways to build things for him out of PVC pipe and you know, cushions and wedges and all the things that, that he does need and in the physical setting and so when you presented this article about kids with visual limitations, it really got me thinking about well, what would I do and what could I do at home to help support those needs and one of the first things I was thinking is using things like tape on the floor that has a feel to it, so that I could start experimenting, even if I have kids at home and I'm a teacher and I have kids who are not visually impaired. Can I play around with making a little tape four square, you know, in my house and and and have my kids practice can they can they feel it could they play a game in it? What could they do in that space if I define it well with something tactical because it's that kind of thinking that we have to take back to the classroom some of it we did learn because of COVID and we did have to be creative like the teacher you mentioned. But there's little things we can do even now, you know try a foursquare on the floor with tape, use a balloon, see what your kids can do and how it looks when you're watching kids try this so we'll be ready to experiment when we get back to school.
Lisa Dieker 03:07
Yeah and I have a kind of a fun one for you to think about as you start back to the school year, and that is really a gift that people with visual impairments has given society and that's this whole new gamut of audio description. And I have a funny story of we moved in we're trying to build a new house and we moved into this little hut and I turn my TV on and I was like what in the world, and I was like wow that's an interesting new show feature, I had no idea that I turned on the audio description feature because you know, I was watching as men came off of elevator with grumpy face holding a cup of coffee. I'm like yeah I saw that and then I started thinking, I thought wow what a great gift for our kids who are very literal who don't get the gray of images and facial connections, so do you think about all of the things that are in those accessibility features and we've often talked about that but I think we should stop assuming that it's for student A or student B or students C and we should encourage every student to do that I literally now have turned it on several times because now if you listen to that you don't even have to be looking at the TV to get the story if you're cleaning the House and I think those gifts that people with, with neuro diversity have given us we need to not only celebrate, but we also have to be overly aware as kids walk in the door that one we should empower them to ask for what they need, but we also should be ready to just have those things available and not assume that all technology levels the playing field for everybody.
Rebecca Hines 04:35
I think we all need to remember also that society has a vested interest in learning how to support visual impairment, because, as we age we all become more vulnerable. Right now, I'm struggling with my mother, who is losing her vision, and so, even though she had her sight for you obviously you know the majority, vast majority, of her life it's extremely scary for her now and I think sometimes you know at least I'm more aware and so, if I'm in my 70s and losing my sight I'm not going to be as, as afraid because I will know how to support myself. So so maybe this is a good time for us to also think about just like you mentioned with, with the TV the kind of supports that are available. Cell phones, you know she's struggling with her cell phone it doesn't matter how many times we try to make it more accessible for her it's just not helpful. You know I'm ordering all kinds of large decks of playing cards because I don't want her to miss out on the things that she's always enjoyed. So, the more we can spend a little bit of time thinking about how to support these differences, the more you might find you need them with a family member or even yourself sooner rather than later.
Lisa Dieker 05:57
Yeah, my last point here is, you know, know thy student and ask thy student. I mean, I know that sounds really crazy but I think as the school year starts it's a great year, not to look at what's broken in a student, but to understand what that limitation might be whether it's a writing disability, a reading disability, visual impairment, you know hearing impairment. I think we too often assume what kids can't do, or we assume what they need and I think the best thing is to always ask the student. You know, not all students need a keyboard, not all students use Braille, not all students want a sign language interpreter and I think making those assumptions are dangerous, but not being prepared for what the student might want. So a simple email, this is a great time to say 'hey you know this Mrs. Dieker I understand that your son is going to be in my class, what does he need?' Most parents are super happy to get that email and share with you things that have worked, or they might say look it's a new diagnosis, we don't know what works. Now you know you're in the boat together trying to figure it out, but the person that should be manning or womaning the ship should be the kid. The kid has to know how to use those features you and I've seen that with multiple PhD students that are getting their doctorates with disabilities. They're so self-sufficient that if we don't do what they ask they demand it and that's what you really want to happen from as soon as the diagnosis happens throughout life for people with, with neurodiversity.
Rebecca Hines 07:20
So as, as we, as we kind of round out the summer and think about supports. Think about the simplest things first I mentioned things like you know is easy, as tape on the floor but, but light strips other, other ways of marking our classrooms differently. Even if we are going into the school year not, not predicting that we'll have students who are low vision or blind, we might and so coming prepared with, with different things that we integrate as the norm in our classrooms, different ways of lighting, different ways of having tactile things around the classroom then we're sure that we're going to be ready for anyone.
Lisa Dieker 07:59
All right, well, thank you for joining us, and if you have any questions send us a question on our Facebook page at Practical Access or you can send us a tweet @accesspractical thanks!