Best Educational Tools for the Blind and Visually Impaired

When it comes to learning and acquiring skills, blind and visually impaired people face unique challenges. This is because the conventional education system is structured in such a way that students must receive and process most information through sight.

Although we have five senses, visual cues account for 80% of what we learn. So, hearing and touch cannot fully compensate for the lack of sight.

Fortunately, technological innovations have led to the development of various assistive tools to tackle such problems. Many of these tools are intended to help people with visual disabilities to excel in different spheres of education. So, they help to improve their outcomes, irrespective of how much they can see.

Let us look at some of the most popular assistive tools for blind and visually impaired people and how are they useful.

Audio Books

Audio books are books in digital audio formats like MP3. They are available as CDs, DVDs and downloadable files on the internet. These books allow students with learning disabilities to access literature or educational material.

Good audiobooks will have a narrative that is easy to follow, with the right speed and pauses at the right places.

If you decide to stop mid-way, these books will allow you to bookmark that instance and start from there the next time. You will also be able to replay different parts and jump forward or backward to access other chapters.

Audio books are portable and convenient to use. You can listen to them on a mobile device, CD player or computer. Audiobooks are available on most subjects and topics. Stories, novels, and poems are also available in audio format. These can provide entertainment during your leisure time.

Language Learning Tools

One of the best things about learning a language is that it does not have to be visual. It can be learned using a multi-sensory approach. This means that students can take in language with other senses like hearing or touch and gain the same level of understanding as with visual aids.

Learning a foreign language can be very beneficial for those with visual impairments. Not only will it be recreational, but it will also improve your knowledge of a new language. For students whose native language is not widely spoken, learning a foreign language can also open the door to future education and career opportunities.

Sight-based teaching material for languages is unsuitable for blind students. So, school-based language curriculum is usually delivered using Braille textbooks for such students.

Unfortunately, there are very limited resources available in the form of Braille lines or other reading devices for foreign languages. This can restrict your chances to understand and master a new language if you are visually impaired.

Fortunately, bilingual audio books can overcome these gaps.

Bilingual Audio Books as Language Learning Tools for the Blind

Did you know that one of the most effective ways to learn a new language is through stories?

Research suggests that stories help learners to learn a language better as they are interesting and memorable.

Bilingual Audio Books (BABooks) use this concept to help people to learn foreign languages. They can act as primary or supplementary study material to understand and learn a language.

You can find bilingual audiobooks for many interesting stories. When you play them, you will first listen to a few sentences of the story in one language. This is followed by the translation of the same sentences in another language. According to the level of your knowledge, you can listen first to the language you are learning, and check your understanding thanks to the following translation or, if you are a beginner or a low intermediate, you better listen to your own language first, then listen to its translation. Bilingualaudiobooks.com provide you with both orders of recordings.

There are audiobooks in any combination of English, French, German and Spanish, but not every title exists in every combination.

So, by hearing the same story in a language you know and one that is new, you slowly familiarize yourself with the new language.

With a digital bilingual audiobook, you also have the option to replay the story as many times as you need. Not only will this help you better understand the story, but it will also help to maintain continuity. So, isn’t it a simple, yet effective way to learn a foreign tongue?

Bilingual audiobooks are also available at different levels. You can start at the beginner level books and slowly build your way towards the expert level by listening to books of increasing linguistic difficulty.

Since bilingual audio books are available in MP3 formats, you can access them on both mobile devices and computers. They can be downloaded as ZIP files and stored on mobile phones, tablets, desktops and laptops.

Finally, bilingual audiobooks are very reasonably priced and hence are budget-friendly language learning tools.

Screen Readers

In today’s technology-driven times, we cannot overlook the importance of using the internet for daily needs. However, the blind and visually impaired can find it very difficult to operate visual displays on computers and handheld devices to access the web.

Fortunately, screen readers can help you understand and navigate the web. Screen readers are software tools that assist auditory learners and those with visual impairment conditions to use electronic devices.

They have a speech synthesizer or braille display system that can be connected to a computer. Users can send commands using a keyboard or braille display. The screen reader will then convey what is displayed on the computer screen using non-visual means.

Most screen readers will read what is displayed on the screen from top to bottom. It also allows a user to navigate between web pages, links or headings on a page. So, blind or visually impaired students can use it to identify what is displayed on a computer or device screen without having it read to him or her.

This is an amazing technology as it will allow you to access information without having to depend on anyone. You will be able to access the web without sacrificing your privacy and at your convenience.

Final takeaway…

Educational tools like audio books, bilingual audio books, and screen readers can significantly improve the chances of learning and overall outcomes for blind and visually impaired people. These tools can help to improve academic performance, explore new career paths and discover better opportunities. But most importantly, they foster independence by giving blind and visually impaired people access to the information they deserve to know.

Broken Pieces Behind the Mask

Buy the Book: Broken Pieces Behind the Mask

About the Book:

Set in London, England, this is the journey of a girl that no one wanted.

Ethel Mae’s mum emigrated from Jamaica to London and had only been there a few years when she was raped by a family member’s boyfriend. Instead of getting sympathy, she was cast away from her family and out of church for being pregnant and unmarried.

When Ethel Mae was born, she was cursed. Everyone wanted her to be born deformed or better still for them, dead. As a young girl, she faced constant physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.

When she wasn’t being beaten senseless, she was being berated and vilified. She would be told things like, “Why can’t they come and take you away and kill you like they do to other people’s children?” or “I should have gone through with the abortion when Auntie Mildred was offering to pay for it.” Those cutting words reinforced and confirmed that she was unwanted and unloved.

Get a painful glimpse at how abuse can devastate someone’s life and how hard it is to break the cycle as the author shares a courageous story of survival.

For more info, go to: www.EthelMaeBooks.com

Mike McCastle, USN Prepares to Break a Navy SEAL’s 24-Hour Pull-Up Record

For Mike McCastle, staying fit is second nature.

Yet, soon, his second nature could help others — and make history.

In just a few weeks, Mike hopes to break a world record for most pull-ups in 24 hours. His feat will support the Wounded Warrior Project, a project near to his heart.

Mike enlisted in the military and currently serves in the Navy, so he knows the true and lasting effects that the service can have on our troops.

Mike McCastle, USN works out in gym

Like many proud Americans, I commend Mike for his effort and his service.

After hearing more about his story online, I wanted to share a bit more about Mike and his goal of helping his fellow service men and women.

“Often times many of these inspiring individuals come home with wounds you can and sometimes can’t see like combat stress and depression,” Mike says. “Because they’ve risked everything for us, I’ve committed to raising awareness and funds for these wounded service members and their families.”

Mike McCastle’s 24 hour Pull-up Challenge

The Pull-Up Challenge

Starting at 6 a.m. on July 26, Mike will do as many pull-ups as he can for 24 hours straight. The event will be held at Fort Nugent Park in Oak Harbor, Washington.

He will begin performing pull-ups for 24 hours straight in an attempt to break the current world record. According to the Whidbey News-Times, that Guinness World Record is 4,030 set by Navy SEAL David Goggins.

In addition to Mike’s effort, there will also be a raffle, vendors, live music and activities to help raise awareness of WWP.

Mike has been training for this incredible feat, and has all the faith that his goal will foster awareness for the WWP.

How It Will Help

Mike has set a personal goal of raising $10,000 for the effort. All of the proceeds will go to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Dating back to 2003, the WWP assists disabled veterans and raises awareness for the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members; gives financial aid and medical assistance to those service men and women; and helps provide unique programs and services to meet the needs of those people who’s lives are forever changed.

“I want it to inspire people,” he tells me in an online conversation. “I want to get the message out that no goal impossible of the purpose behind it is great enough and with perseverance and a little intestinal fortitude to see it through to the end. Never quit.”

Why We Should Give

I was talking about this with my dad the other day – about our troops and their incredible service. I shared with him my perspective, as a journalist, how honored I would be to go into a war zone. If I had the opportunity to go, I would take it – no questions asked.

For me, that interest is two-fold. My dad served in the Vietnam War. I know I’ll never be able to comprehend what my dad saw and experienced, but sometimes I can feel the toll on him and other service members. It’s written on their faces and expressed in their soft-spoken tone when they speak of their service.

On top of that, I feel like most Americans don’t get the true and real effects of the war. I talk about the war on the news, and we may read an update on efforts in the Iraq or the latest policy with Congress or the Obama administration. Those topics often get people heated up, but I feel we look at things outside of the important—what about the troops? What about those people who served? How are we protecting them like they protect us? Are we sharing their experience in the war zone? Can we do it? I’d love to be able to do that one day. Maybe with time that can happen.

There is so much sacrifice that our military men and women give. They fight for freedoms and beliefs for a country – even of people whom they don’t agree with.

That’s a true hero.

Wounded Warriors

What I find incredible about Mike’s plan is to give our wounded heroes a second chance. On the news, we are privileged to share stories of people helping out a service member who may have lost limbs or are in need of some help. But, there are thousands more who are in need of help.

More than 47,000 servicemen and women have been injured in the recent military conflicts, according to the WWP.

From October 2011 to September 2012, the WWP collected $14.26 million in annual benefits claims for individual warriors. Of the 19 programs specifically made for these heroes, many focus on combat stress recovery, family support, independence and much more.

“It’s not about the record,” McCastle says. “It’s not about the war. It’s about the warrior. Twenty-four hours of discomfort does not compare to the sacrifice our wounded service members and their families make every day.”

How You Can Help

Mike has put together a couple of different campaigns to help boost the awareness of the Wounded Warrior Project. You can donate and catch-up with Mike through his special page over at the Wounded Warriors Project website.

Author’s Bio: This guest blog contribution was submitted by Annette Lawless. To support wounded service members and their families, it’s essential that you check out the Mike McCastle’s Twitter page and the Mike McCastle’s Facebook page right now.