Definition of Blindness The terms blind and blindness have been modified in our society to include a wide range of visual impairment. Blindness is frequently used today to describe severe visual decline in one or both eyes with maintenance of some residual vision. Vision impairment, or low vision, means that even with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery, you don't see well. Vision impairment can range from mild to severe. Worldwide, between 300 million and 400 million people are visually impaired due to various causes. Of this group, approximately 50 million people are totally blind. Approximately 80% of blindness occurs in people over 50 years old. 4
Students with Blindness or Visual Impairment (B/VI) at the OUI The Open University of Israel (OUI) is a distance learning institution based on independent study of printed learning materials, supplemented by face-to-face tutorial sessions. Each year, about 400 students with special needs, including students with B/VI, study at the OUI. In 2010, 59 students with VI, including 36 students with a certificate of legal blindness, were enrolled. 5
Students with B/VI have special accessibility to study materials (written study materials are recorded on MP3 players). Interactive audio-visual materials, video clips and multimedia titles are included in the learning material In many courses. Students with B/VI receive accommodations on examinations, using various technologies such as Braille screens, text to speech software, or dictating the exam to a monitor. Accessible course websites enable them to take part in the study process and discussion forums. The course websites provide technological alternatives to face-to-face tutorials. Asynchronous forums often replace face-to-face meetings, so participants can become part of a virtual community. 6 How the OUI support students with B/VI ?
What are Assistive technology ( AT )tools for students with B/VI? Assistive Technology device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a person with a disability. (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 1997) 7
Assistive Technology for Students with B/VI Reading Tools: Magnification software and hardware Text to Speech software Text Scanning and Reading Screen Reading machines Digital Talking Book Player Writing (handwriting and keyboarding) Tools: Portable and PC note-takers Voice recognition software - convert speech to computer-based text Organizer for phone numbers, schedule, reminders, etc. Reading and translating Pens 8
The purpose of this study To examine the usage patterns of assistive computer technologies, with particular focus on course websites among students with B/VI. To investigate the question of whether the use of such assistive technologies (ATs), particularly course websites, contribute to students academic achievements and socio-emotional satisfaction. To examine correlations between usage patterns, website accessibility and the satisfaction and personal variables of students with B/VI. 9
Method Students with B/VI enrolled at original research were personally approached by the authors. A research assistant provided the students with the questionnaires, and interviewed them either at home, on campus or by phone. The students were assured of confidentiality.
Participants 1 8 B.A students at the Open University: 9 men and 9 women (Out of the 59 students with B/VI at the OUI). Ranging in age from 23 to 55 (M=36.22; SD=11.79). Having accumulated between 3 and 115 academic credits (M =64.38; SD=40.15). 11
Instruments Four questionnaires were translated and adapted to Open University students: 1. Students Perception of Learning from Online Usage (Wu & Hiltz, 2003). 2. The Accessibility of Campus Computing for Students with Disabilities Scale (Fossey, Asuncion, Fichten et al., 2005). 3. The Hope Scale (Snyder, 1995, Feldman & Snyder, 2005). 4. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, Griffin, 1985). A semi-structured interview with 19 questions, especially devised by the authors, was administered. The answers were categorized by three independent evaluators.
Significant correlations were found between: The students perception of the websites contribution in academic terms and its social contribution. The students perception of personal capability and a high sense of hope. The students sense of personal well-being and students sense of hope. ________________________________________________________ No significant correlation was found between the participants average grades and any of the dependent variables examined.
Results: Website usage patterns On average, students with B/VI make little to moderate use of the course websites. They rarely post messages in the discussion forums, and most of them do not participate in the forums. Most of them log on to the website at least once a week, and a majority access the enrichment materials on the site.
Results: AT use 55.6% of the students had no problem using the various ATs. 72.2% of the students know how to perform online tasks (72.2%). 66.7% of the students have good access to online distance teaching courses.
Results: Personal ability and the perception of hope among students with B/VI ( percentage of strongly agree or agree)
Results: Perceived personal well-being among students with B/VI (percentage of strongly agree or agree)
Results: Well-being Half of the students were satisfied with their lives and their achievements (40-50%); Most of them noted that if they could, they would have changed aspects of their lives (70%). In analyzing the interviews, 59.7% of the students reported an internal locus of control (e.g., I motivate myself) as opposed to 40.3% with external locus utterances (e.g., I have faith and hope that an external force will help me).
Implications This study may contribute to a deeper understanding of the various perceptions and needs of students with B/VI regarding the benefits of using AT. It contributes to both the theoretical and applied aspects of technology usage among students with B/VI in higher education. The study underscores the importance attributed by students with B/VI to AT. The moderate use of course websites should raise the awareness of both the planning and pedagogical design teams and academic teaching teams as they develop and implement online learning and design course websites, to be sensitive to the needs of learners with B/VI.
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