Relevance of braille proven during January, National Braille Month

In the wake of a new year, the population of students with disabilities can be put at the forefront with January being National Braille Month.Noah Habibi is a senior computer science major from Muskat, Oman who is helping CSU extend its online course material for students with impaired vision.At the age of seven, Habibi lost his eyesight because of a disorder referred to as retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that directly affects the retina.Habibi studied at Arkansas State University but instead transferred to CSU because of the resources that the campus offers that Arkansas did not.

Habibi said he also chose CSU was because there was another blind student who was a computer science major.

Ad

“I got in touch with this person and I decided that I should come here since someone else in the field is like me,” Habibi said.

Machines that Habibi uses for his classes include Jaws, voiceover, Brailler, Braille Sence (Braille note taker), victor reader stream, talking scientific calculator and the Piaf machine.

The Assistance Technology Resource Center provides Habibi with these machines, paying for all technology that is used for school.

Marla Roll, director of the Assistive Technology Resource Center and assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy, explained the devices that Habibi and other students use.

“Screen reading software read every event that happens on the computer. Reading more at the html level,” Roll said. “That’s how they access information. We provide the actual software and we’ll teach them how to use it.”

There is also software available to convert documents into a format that can be embossed into braille by a braille embosser.

“It’s a pretty powerful way to read. They can hear audio but they can also read with braille,” Roll said.

Roll explained that, with braille, it’s an active reading process and if it’s only read to you it’s more passive.

However, according to Roll the best option that CSU can present is refreshable braille that has been implemented at the university for over ten years.

“The refreshable braille display [sees] whatever is on the computer screen and pushes the equivalent on this braille keyboard,” Roll said. “They also have it read back to them at the same.”

Ad

There are assistive technology rooms spread out on the campus. One is located in the Morgan Library and has refreshable braille display –– technology that will scan and convert with braille or screen reading software.

Tactile graphics, which represent more graphical things in a tactile way, are other tools for blind students.

“It’s like a raised drawing all the lines are raised. That becomes really important for graphical or visual kinds of things,”  Roll said. “You can take a map of campus and turn into a tactile graphic and feel the different buildings on campus.”

She also sees there is a problem with the move to more web based education.

“The more we move to online content, I have a worry that these students might get left behind,” Roll said.

Dani Castillo, a journalism professor at CSU who teaches web design teaches in her classes how to make websites and other online media into something that can be accessible to all audiences.

“There are a lot of people who don’t even think about it, we just key websites the way we see them,” Castillo said.

Habibi is currently assisting CSU with its online course materials to make it more accessible to the blind. And in the future he hopes to extend his major to creating more resources.

“I will just be writing programs and helping with accessibility to make sure that software is accessible for my people, websites and that’s my goal is to help with accessibility,” Habibi said.