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Assistive Technology: Revolutionizing the Education of Students with Visual Impairments
By Cecelia Manning, M.Ed., TVI/COMS

For a child with a visual impairment, participating in everyday activities at home and at school can be a challenge. When faced with being unable to see the board in the classroom, participate in recess games like dodge ball or connect with friends on social media, children with visual impairments can fall behind in class, feel isolated, or struggle to make friends.

However with the effective use of assistive technology at school and in the home, that same child can experience significantly greater academic and personal success. But what is Assistive Technology for vision? The term Assistive Technology (AT) refers to a wide range of supports available for people with disabilities that vary from low tech to high tech. Low tech devices may include a handheld magnifier or a reading stand that elevates the student’s reading materials, while a high tech device may be an electronic magnification system or the use of specialized computer software.

In a time of enormous technological advancements, AT for vision has become an integral part of many students’ educational plan. Students are learning to access touch screen devices, using Bluetooth keyboards and switches, learning to access the internet with voiceover controls and even reading electronic documents with refreshable braille displays.

At the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, we have a vested interest in the educational impact we can have on students with visual impairments both here at the school and in the surrounding communities. We recognize the importance and relevance of appropriate AT for our diverse body of students, which is why we have established the Vision Enhancement Center (VEC). The VEC has been made available for both enrolled and non-enrolled students to receive formal Assistive Technology evaluations with a wide range of available resources including low, mid, and high tech solutions. The AT Specialist along with the student’s Teacher of the Visually Impaired can work together to improve the student’s use of AT in the classroom in order to ensure greater access to both academic and personal materials and activities.

Cecelia Manning, M.Ed., TVI/COMS, is an Assistive Technology Specialist, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children. For more information about Assistive Technology or the Vision Enhancement Center, please contact the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children at 412-621-0100 (ext. 379).

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