Friday, 24 January 2014

iPad Use and Apps for Visually Impaired Children

It is a great privilege for me to work with young adults who are at the start of their careers; some of these are highly qualified and skilled. They work in schools for a while to gain experience and then move on - and rightly so - to a higher and better paid career. They bring with them invaluable skills to their task of working with young visually impaired children. Josh is such a person and I asked him to share a little of his experiences hoping they will be of benefit to others. 

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Working as a learning support assistant with a visually impaired child, I’ve found the most helpful tool on an iPad is by far the ability to zoom in on text and images without loss of quality or contrast. It is a simple tool that both Colin (not the actual name)  and I can use with ease and it drastically improves his ability to see books, worksheets and other learning resources.

For Braille the best app I have encountered so far is BraillePad. BraillePad replicates a traditional brailler with bright keys and a realistic sound when you braille a letter. It is a good size for a five year old’s hands although it is missing the space bar, which creates confusion when it comes to finger placement. Being considerably easier to use than a real brailler it allows Colin to reach the keys that spell out his name, which is important to him.

The Adobe Reader App is great for reading e-books as PDFs. It’s quick, easy to use and doesn’t have adverts like other PDF readers on the Appstore.

Letter School is an app used to practice handwriting and letter shapes. The colour and contrast on this app is perfect for Colin’s needs. The large graphics and interactive feel is very stimulating for him and makes this type of work enjoyable and effective. Particularly the light show sequence it produces when writing the letter ‘A’. This is a great app for all primary school children but it is especially appropriate for the young visually impaired child.

I am realizing more and more the importance of sound effects on apps for visually impaired children. Just a simple sound that signals positive feedback seems to make a world of difference when getting Colin to do his work. This may be the case for all young children but in the case of Colin the use of this other sense when working makes the lesson all the more interesting.

Josh Whettingsteel,Westminster, London

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