Online learning in the age of COVID-19 has posed challenges for students who are visually impaired or deaf/hard-of-hearing. Here is a compilation of resources to help support these students, despite the lack of in-person support.
Kurzweil 1000 or Kurzweil 3000 boasts a number of tools designed to assist students diagnosed with visual impairments and various learning disabilities. According to the website, "Kurzweil 1000 is text to speech software that makes printed or electronic text readily available to people who are blind or visually impaired. Our assistive technology software combines accessibility, communication and productivity tools to ease and enhance their reading, writing and learning experience.” The University of Delaware describes Kurzweil 3000 as, “an assistive technology, text to speech, learning tool…with a suite of powerful reading, writing, test-taking, and study skill tools that makes curricula accessible to all students. It is particularly appropriate for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, those who require reading intervention, students struggling with reading comprehension, and English Language Learners (ELL).”
The Community for Accredited Schools Online is an organization dedicated to assisting blind and visually impaired students attending school online. It provides information for both students and parents on topics including assistive technology, college scholarships for visually impaired students, school accommodations, and various experts.
Bookshare from Benetech is a website that provides accessible text formats for visually impaired students. Although the website is a bit difficult to navigate, “for students with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers, Bookshare is a free online library that provides access to over 800,000 e-books in easy-to-read formats. Students can read books in audio, follow text with karaoke-style highlighting, read in braille or large font, and customize their reading experience to suit their individual learning style. Teachers can create free school accounts and easily assign books to students to read on their own. Parents can also sign up students for free (students 18 and over can sign up themselves) to access Bookshare at home independently. To join Bookshare, students must have a qualifying reading barrier.”
Freedom Scientific creates products and provides information for visually impaired people of all ages, including students, parents, and working adults. Some of the products they have created are reading devices, keyboards, and specialized products for computers, such as screen readers and magnification software. These devices and programs can be tailored to every person’s individual needs.
The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) is an organization providing resources both for professionals working with people who are blind or visually impaired (AED), as well as the individuals themselves (AED chapters).The link leads to a page with resources and professionals in each state that can help.
American Printing House is an organization that offers guidance to students of all ages. According to the website, "American Printing House is committed to providing the accessible tools [people] need. [They’ve] gathered a number of resources you can use from home, whether you are working or schooling remotely, or just living your life in these uncertain times.” Some of the services they provide are information on assistive technology, living with blindness or a visual impairment, and educational resources.
Learning Ally is an organization providing accessible reading technology, including audio textbooks to primarily college and high school students with dyslexia or visual impairments, but also children and working adults. According to the website, "Learning Ally has 80,000 human-narrated audiobooks. Test prep, popular fiction, classic literature, textbooks and study aids are a download away. Listen on computers, smartphones and other devices using accessible technology with page-level navigation, text highlighting and audio or speed adjustments.” The organization additionally provides resources for parents seeking information on teaching children with visual disabilities in the age of COVID-19.
Hearing Like Me, created by Phonak (a hearing aid manufacturer), is a community of people who are deaf/hard-of-hearing, serving as an outlet for those affected by hearing loss to share stories and news with others in similar situations. This particular article, titled “Making online learning accessible for deaf students,” is dedicated to offering various methods of assisting students with hearing loss with online learning during COVID-19. It recommends versions of assistive technology, as well as organizations that can provide further information for parents, students, and educators.
Described and Captioned Media Program is a, “source for accessible educational content, providing services for students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind.” Teachers and parents often utilize the technology, which includes accessible videos, for assignments and lessons, particularly those that are taught virtually. Creating an account is free of charge and the services are available on a number of devices and programs for students of all ages.
The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes is an organization dedicated to helping high school students prepare and transition to college or the workplace with a number of pages on COVID-19. This PDF guide links to virtual learning and resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Furthermore, it has a page providing information centered on coronavirus coping mechanisms. This link offers guidance to educators on teaching deaf and hard-of hearing students virtually.