Have Expectations

Blind students new to computers feel uncertain and overwhelmed. Older students may have no idea how to access the Internet while other students use their cell phones proficiently and feel comfortable in that environment.

In both cases, it’s important to place expectations for each lesson. Outline what it is you want them to take from the lesson and reinforce the skills you feel are important.

Include a practical skill that students can practice between classes. Reading a document, organizing their documents, writing in Microsoft Word or WordPad. Give them something to do that captures their attention and makes them want to learn.

It’s a challenge to bridge the gap between making a class enjoyable and placing expectations but humor can relax and encourage a student to experiment and learn.

In my experience, fear is the biggest impediment students face. They are seated in front of a $1000 laptop and are terrified they will blow it up with one keystroke. Reassurance is key to helping students overcome this hurdle. When exploring the JAWS Startup Wizard, the Start Menu, and other elements that can cause no harm, reinforce this. They may not outwardly exhibit their trepidation but your reassurance will put them at ease and encourage exploration.

After each lesson, I recommend including a document students can take home with the skills they are expected to know at the next lesson. In the beginning, include skills they’ll use on a daily basis. As they fulfill the smaller goals, you can build to more complex expectations.

By creating a relaxing learning environment while placing expectations that the student learn the required skills, you set the groundwork for a successful outcome. Students understand they must use their computer between classes and have a definitive list of what they must learn. Place expectations from day one and the playing field is set. Students are placed on the path to success.

Blind Students are Visual Learners

Most blind people have had some vision in their lives. Many go blind later in life. They’ve spent their lives learning through multiple senses. To great extent, the way people learn carries over from previous learning experiences. They need more than a series of keystrokes or an explanation of what is happening at the cursor. They need to know the environment in which they’re working.

Many blind people are visual learners. They need to know what the display looks like. They need to know the display layout. When they understand where ribbons, menus, and toolbars are, they have a more productive learning experience. They can visualize the display and how the screen reader and cursor fit into the overall picture.

Students who have been blind since birth also benefit from explanations of display layouts. It helps them put their computer interaction in perspective. In some cases, you may need to pull an analogy of out of your arsenal to explain the display with tactile references. This is one of the reasons I use a virtual ruler to explain typical display layouts. Everyone knows what a ruler is and can understand application layouts.

By insuring students understand application layouts, we set a foundation for a successful training experience. When students realize you understand the display they are more engaged in the training and have more successful outcomes.

In all ATI training materials, we teach students not only how to navigate and interact with applications but take special care to explain display layouts and what happens when actions are taken. This insures students who have the skills they need to succeed.