What High School Students who are Blind Should Know About Assistive Technology (page 2)
We are certain that everyone would agree with the proposition that students who are blind should be well-equipped with all of the necessary skills to manage the challenges of assistive technology. Those who graduate from high school without the requisite competencies to access mainstream technology will be unable to compete in modern society, a world which is increasingly reliant on sophisticated tools. Anyone lacking these skills will be on the wrong side of the digital divide. Given that assertion, we would recommend that upon graduation, students who are blind should possess the following proficiencies:
- Keyboarding (a minimum of 50 word per minute);
- Comfortable use of at least one screen reading program (JAWS, Window-Eyes, or HAL);
- Knowledge of the major Windows key stroke commands;
- Competence in the use of the following Microsoft programs: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint;
- Competence in the use of Internet Explorer, including the ability to conduct searches using major search engines such as Google, and to make online purchases;
- The ability to use an e-mail program (either Outlook Express linked to a Hot Mail account, or Eudora);
- Understanding of the basic programs in note takers such as Braille Note or Pac Mate;
- The ability to download e-books from Book Share and the Library of Congress;
- Knowledge of scanning techniques using either Open Book or Kurzweil 1000 to access print information;
- The ability to use an online dictionary (such as the Random House Webster’s Dictionary) and an online encyclopedia (such as Grolier’s);
- Competence in the use of Duxbury braille translation software to produce hard copy braille, along with the operation of a braille embosser;
- Knowledge of legal techniques for downloading and storing music;
- Independent troubleshooting of computer hardware and software problems using Help files, online technical assistance, and online manuals; and
- The ability to connect a refreshable braille display to a computer and use it to access information on a monitor.
In order to ensure that every student is prepared for this challenge, training should begin very early in a student’s school career. Acquisition of all of the fundamental skills and knowledge requires an enormous amount of time and effort; and, there is not enough time during the regular school day. Therefore, training and practice should be available at home and through programs outside of the traditional school day and/or facility, such as through summer camps or in-home tutoring in the evening or on weekends. This is realistic only if students have access to equipment and software at home as well as at school, and are permitted to carry note takers home. In addition to Braille Note or Pac Mate, they should be provided with:
an up-to-date computer running Windows XP and the Microsoft Suite including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint;
screen reading software (JAWS, Window-Eyes, or HAL);
Duxbury braille translation software;
broadband access to the Internet;
a scanner with a document feeder as well as accessible scanning software (Open Book or Kurzweil 1000);
a printer; and
a braille embosser.
Blind students who graduate from high school with these skills will be well-prepared to meet the technological challenges which await them in any postsecondary situation.
Reprinted with the permission of the Council for Exceptional Children. © 2006-2007 Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). All rights reserved.
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