Lesson 19: Information Access Skills for Students with Vision Loss
As a student who is blind or visually impaired, one of the most important skills you can develop before you begin college or career school is the ability to locate and access required course information in alternative formats using access skills and assistive technology. If you needed to order your literature textbook in an electronic format by next semester, would you know the steps to obtain the book before the class starts? If the resources you know how to use don’t have the exact textbook you need, are you aware of other options you could explore?
In college or career school, it will be your responsibility as a student with vision loss to order the required reading materials for your courses. You will also need to know how you will access the other electronic and printed course materials such as handouts, PowerPoint presentations, lecture notes, and tests. The tight timeline for obtaining the materials and the diversity of the types of materials you will need to access can make acquiring the materials challenging. If you wait until you are in college or career school to learn how to access information in varied formats, keeping up with the workload will be very difficult, if not impossible. Prior to starting your post-secondary education, it will ultimately be to your benefit to know your preferences early on and have effective skills for communicating your needs as well as accessing and gathering information efficiently from various sources. Your success in college depends on it.
Create an electronic list of resources available to students who are blind or visually impaired for obtaining text in alternate formats (e-book, audio, braille, large print) by researching the resources listed below. For each resource, record the web address, eligibility requirements, description of the types of materials offered, information required to order or request a book, technology required to access the materials, and contact information for support. File your resource list in your electronic college or career school folder.
- Learning Ally
- National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
- Project Gutenberg
- American Printing House for the Blind Louis Database
- Hathi Trust Digital Library
- National Braille Press
- University of Pennsylvania Online Books Page
- AccessText Network
- Read How You Want
- Kindle eBooks
If you are not a member or have not previously registered with the organizations as a student with a visual impairment, take the necessary steps to sign up before you graduate from high school and start using these resources.
Make a list of the technology you need to have and learn to use it so that you are prepared with the skills and resources you need to access reading materials and electronic documents in alternate formats during your post-secondary education or training.
Contact your vocational rehabilitation (VR) office to determine if assistance can be provided to help you obtain the technology you require as a student with vision loss for accessing printed and electronic information during college or career school. If what you are using while in high school isn’t yours to take with you to college, reaching out to your VR office will be important.
Develop your access skills by learning to locate and obtain books for your current or upcoming high school classes.
Review the list of items you may be required to access in college or career school and notate how you will access the information. Consider tapping into resources at the campus bookstore, contacting the publisher directly, or hiring a reader. If you do not have a proven method or plan in place for accessing an item, discuss the need to learn additional access skills with your teacher of students with visual impairments or vocational rehabilitation counselor.
|Item||What is your proven access method or plan to access the materials?|
|Textbooks available in an alternate format (e-book, braille, etc.)|
|Textbooks not available in an alternate accessible format|
|Information from the board|
|Worksheets or handouts|
|Periodicals (newspapers, magazines, journals)|
|Encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases|
|Materials at the reserve desk that cannot be checked out|
|Online references such as Blackboard|
|Class notes including diagrams and charts|
|Biology apparatus or other lab materials|
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