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 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.
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.
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.