For students with visual impairments, digital resources can make all the difference. Instead of having to struggle to read textbooks or having handouts printed out in a larger size, students are able to easily zoom in on digital versions.
Printing handouts for visually impaired students can run many times longer than those for other students (up to 9 pages for a one page handout). Added together over the course of the year, these special handouts amount to a steep increase in printing costs. Not to mention the social stigma that comes from receiving a separate handout from everyone else. However, if visually impaired students are able to use a mobile device to access this information, printing costs go down and the stigma will be removed because the other students will be envious of the mobile device.
When it comes to textbooks, it is often more difficult to accommodate visually impaired students’ needs. Large print versions of textbooks can be found, but these are typically much larger than their traditional counterparts or they mangle the page numbering, making it impossible for visually impaired students to keep track of what page they are supposed to be on. Large print versions of textbooks can run hundreds of dollars each, and may only ever be used once before a new version is adopted by the school.
Digital textbooks provide solutions to these problems. At a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks, it becomes much more monetarily efficient to purchase a new etextbook for each visually impaired student at your school, if need be. (Many literature books can even be found online for free.) With digital textbooks, it doesn’t matter what size the book is originally created in – students can easily zoom in and enlarge text until it reaches a size they are able to read and page numbers will stay the same.
Another advantage of allowing visually impaired students to use mobile devices is that they can have a copy of a teachers presentation open on their device, allowing them to easily follow along as a lesson is presented to the rest of the class.
Over the course of a child’s schooling, the cost of a mobile device will easily pay for itself in the form of reduced printing costs and textbook prices.
While the benefits of switching to digital content are easy to see when it comes to visually impaired students, any student can benefit from the extra features available when information goes digital.
Most mobile devices are capable of reading a word out loud when a student touches the word. In this way, students are able to identify words they have never seen before and learn how to pronounce words they have only ever seen in print. Additionally, students can easily find the definition of a word they don’t know without leaving their reading.
With all the benefits provided by mobile devices, it is a good idea to provide mobile devices for your visually impaired students. However, if the funding is available, consider allowing all students to use mobile devices. Bonus benefit: if all students have a mobile device, it becomes difficult for students to single out a visually impaired student for being different because all students are using the same method to access information.
What are your thoughts on mobile devices for visually impaired students?