Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Assistive technology lets blind students independently participate in chemistry labs

Again, I am humbled by the advances in assistive technology.

By no means, do I claim to be the all knowing swami of assistive technology, nor do I have an over-inflated ego and really believe that people consider me to be such. However, I do my best to stay abreast of the latest assistive technologies particular to those with low vision and blindness, and learn what I can about other types of AT out on the market.

So, I now sit here in awe of the technologies that have evolved to allow
blind students to participate in chemistry labs
at both the high school and college levels.

Besides not knowing the degree of doctorate level blind people in the world of chemistry mentioned in the article, I had no idea that such tools existed that would let blind and low vision students know what their sighted classmates know. These include a tooll that lets the blind student know when a solution changes colors, indicating a reaction has occurred. Also, there is another electronic sensor that aids in determining the color of solutions.

It appears that the key for access is the screen reader program scripts that have been written specifically for the software applications that are used in the classroom, similar to those used by JAWS and the like with other computer applications.

The article also discusses some low tech solutions the teachers have employed. Some of these, like the notched pipettes, seem like common sense. Others like the pie tin used with a drop counter to give a blind student the same information audiotorally that his sighted classmates get visually, demonstrate the instructors’ will to innovate.

Finally, the article also mentions by name some resources for finding adaptive devices. It also has links to other outlets for news about students with disabilities and assistive technology information.


Axistive said...

This is really exciting. I think that missing out on chemistry labs, an absolutely essential part of learning chemistry, would be on the list of things that blind people couldn't do. Not until you mentioned it. I'm so excited that this learning doorway has been opened for so many.

Ron Graham said...

The opportunities these developments in assistive technology present are truly great and are the opening of many, previously closed doors for blind people. Not only do they create access in the classroom, the eventual spinoff will be applications in the workplace and even more doors open. There will be blind people working independently , doing jobs most never dreamed possible. It is exciting to see these events taking place.

Rebecca Ballard said...

How fantastic, is that! So many of the sciences seem until now have been a no-no for visually impaired students.

Ron Graham said...

Rebecca ,
I agree wholeheartedly. It was only seven years ago that I took a survey course for my undergrad science class that was supposed to be with lab. The survey class gave credit for a lab, but there was not actually one with it. I took that as it was the only science that would count without modifying my degree plan. I had no idea that in just a few, short years that assistive technology would evolve to the point where a blind student could fully participate in labs. What a blast it would have been to have taken a chemistry class instead.