Introduction to Assistive Technology for Vision Impairments

2.3. Access to Education

“Inclusive education” means a system of education wherein students with and without disability learn together and the system of teaching and learning is suitably adapted to meet the learning needs of different types of students with disabilities;  RPwDA- Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The content and assessment of today’s mainstream educational curriculum is primarily designed for people who are sighted. But imagine having to study subjects with your eyes closed and with no access to visual content such as videos of how things work or images clearly explaining complex shapes or charts. Visual images such as posters, signs and displays; multimedia like images, videos, models and symbols are used throughout classrooms and schools. Educational material in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are more difficult to access for students with visual impairments as they contain many graphical representations, diagrams, graphs and tables. Students with visual impairments miss out on this information and often rely on memory, which can result in cognitive overload.
Printed textbooks and instructional materials used in the classroom should be converted to a format that students with vision impairment can access as part of the general curriculum. Such students may require one or more specialized formats including:
Name Descriptions
Large print Providing the same content as a standard print in larger font sizes
Braille A tactile system of reading and writing that is made up of a series of raised dots that is read by using one’s fingers to read from left to right over a line of braille.
Audio Providing content as speech with the choice to control pitch, volume, and speed.
Digital format Providing the content in a device (computer or mobile, etc) supported format. Depending on the technology and/or the software that is used, the user can control the size, fonts, colors, and contrast to accommodate their specific needs. Supported reading software with text-to-speech can provide audio and visual components.

When such specialized materials are paired with support for proper use, matched to a student’s unique learning needs and combined with good instructions, the student does not feel excluded.  
The following video is a satirical take on the inaccessible education system in USA for persons with visual impairment.

In India, specialized accommodations for students with vision impairments are few and far in between, especially in higher education settings.  
Here is a video of one such rare initiative by IIM-Bangalore to include students with diverse abilities on their campus and in their educational programmes.