Teaching Adults with Vision Loss

A resource for Adult Basic Education teachers working with learners with vision loss.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Maximize the Effectiveness of Large Print

Large print is just bigger text, right?  But have you considered how big the text should be?  What about the color, font, and spacing?  For students who use large print it is worth taking a few minutes to make sure that you're using the most effective large print possible.
See more at Designing for People with Partial Sight

So here's a few quick pointers...

  • Always enlarge by increasing the font size on your computer.

  • Never enlarge on a photocopier (the text becomes grainy, gray, and harder to read)

  • 16-18 point font is the most effective size.  If a learner needs larger than 18 point font they may need a different means of accessing text, such as a video enlarger, braille, or screen reader. See Braille, Audio, or Large Print.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Computer Screen Readers and Text-to-Speech

Screen Reader Basics

Screen readers are the programs that make computers accessible to people with vision loss.  A screen reader that uses text-to-speech will essentially read aloud the information on the screen.  Text-to-speech programs usually use a digital sounding voice, which can be adjusted to read slower or faster without affecting the pitch.  Skilled users of text-to-speech can listen to very fast rates of speech, thus improving their "reading" speed.

System Access To Go
System Access to Go (satogo.com) is a screen reader that can be quickly downloaded for free from anywhere you have Internet access.  It is designed to give visually impaired users computer access no matter where they are; at the library, a friend's home, or a public computer lab.  It is quite easy to use and can even save the user's speech settings.

JAWS (is a commonly used screen reader for work and educational settings.  It is better for everyday use because it has a wider range of options and customization.

Keyboard Commands
Using a screen reader means getting to know your computer without the mouse.  Computers, both Macs and PCs, have a vast number of keyboard shortcuts.  In many cases, these shortcuts are the same for any model of computer you're using. Anything you can do with a mouse, you can also do with a keyboard.

Try out a few of these shortcuts on your computer.  Whether you use a screen reader or not, you may find many of them quite useful and remember there are many, many more!

Open Microsoft Word

Open the START menu = Windows key

Select the program from the menu  = arrow keys

Select and open the program  =


Beginning and End
Move the cursor to the beginning of the file,  -

Move the cursor to the end of the file,  -

Page by Page
Move to the beginning of the page,  

Move to the bottom of the page,  
Move the cursor to the beginning of the next paragraph,  -down arrow

Move the cursor to the beginning of the current paragraph, -up arrow
Line by Line
Move the cursor to the beginning of the line,

Move the cursor to the end of the current line,
Move the cursor down one line, down arrow

Move the cursor up one line, Up arrow
Word by Word
Move the cursor to the beginning of the next word, -right arrow

Move the cursor to the previous blank space, -left arrow
Letter by Letter
Move the cursor to the right one character, right arrow

Move the cursor to the left one character, left arrow


To select text, use any of the above keys for moving the cursor plus the key.

Select All, -A

Great Resources on Braille Literacy

If you've searched for "braille," or "blind" on the Internet, there's a fairly good chance that you've already run across the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB.org).  Their website is a wealth of background information on braille, vision loss, and educational issues (including some excellent videos).

One of my favorite parts of their website is their quarterly online newsletter, called DOTS.  It has great articles about issues in braille literacy.  Many of which are either directly relevant to learners in my class or provide great background for understanding issues that my learners may face as they transition to higher education or work.  You can read the current issue of DOTS, as well as past issues, at www.afb.org/DOTS.

This month, I was particularly interested in an article on preparing learners for standardized testing and another on "packing your learner's toolbox."  You can become a member of AFB for free and subscribe to any of their digital newsletters so that they will be delivered directly to your e-mail inbox (http://www.afb.org/myAFBregistration2.asp)

Happy reading!