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Collection: Technology for Students Who Are Visually Impaired

NCIP Profile: 'Write' Tools for Students Who Are Visually Impaired

Rebeka Schiess is an energetic nine-year-old who loves cats and horseback riding. Rebeka was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She is fully integrated into a third-grade classroom outside of Rochester, New York.

Rebeka has limited vision and is an avid reader using braille. She has trouble using a braille keyboard to write, however, because of the motor difficulties associated with her cerebral palsy (braille keyboards have nine keys and require the user to press two or more keys down at a time). As an alternative, Rebeka uses an Apple IIGS(TM) computer with braille letter overlays on the standard keyboard. An Echo(TM) speech synthesizer names each letter as she types. In order to monitor structure and meaning while revising her work, Rebeka can use the synthesizer to listen to her sentences and paragraphs. Rebeka's computer also has braille conversion software that allows her to print out her work on a braille embosser at school.

black and white photo of Rebeka (31298 bytes)

Rebeka Schiess--a third grader with limited vision and cerebral palsy--can participate fully in all classroom writing acitivities using a desktop computer, a speech synthesizer, and a braille embosser.

Because Rebeka has been learning the fundamentals of writing in first and second grade, she has done most of her writing in the classroom. Using her desktop computer, speech synthesizer, and braille embosser, she has been able to participate in all classroom writing activities including daily journal writing, story and poem drafting, peer and teacher conferencing, and revising.

When Rebeka progresses to fourth grade, the curriculum will include more writing activities that she must work on at home as well as in school. She will, for example, be expected to write book reports and longer compositions. During the following year in fifth grade, Rebeka will change classes throughout the day for the first time.

Because of these evolving demands, Rebeka's parents and teachers agree that Rebeka needs a more efficient and portable writing system. After extensive research, they ordered a Keynote Gold(TM) system -- an integrated system that includes a portable computer with a standard keyboard, built-in speech feedback, and braille conversion software that allows users to print their work in text and braille formats. Rebeka's parents are also seeking funds for a braille embosser Rebeka can use at home.

Rebeka's vision specialist, Arlee Valentine, will help Rebeka adjust to the new system. So that Rebeka might eventually feel comfortable using computers in any setting, Arlee would like to reduce Rebeka's dependency on braille stickers for keyboarding.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

ŠEducation Development Center, Inc.