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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Series: Start Now: August 2021

Gather Tactile graphics and tools to make them

Accessible curricular materials are needed for school success, but curricular materials include much, more than documents, slide presentations, and spreadsheets. Graphics, including graphs, pictures, maps, etc. represent a growing portion of materials teachers use to impart information and which they expect students to use to show mastery of academic concepts.

Now, more than ever before, blind/low vision students need access to high-quality tactile graphics. Alt text, alone, is rarely enough; the instructor’s choice to use a graphic rather than words is evidence that the graphic is educationally necessary—for ALL students in the class.

When do you need a tactile graphic?

The answer to the question is easy: You need a tactile graphic every time non-disabled students are provided with graphics to convey academic information. Thus, graphics used for decoration only need not be made into tactile graphics, but, for most other purposes, they do.

Alt text is one tool that may be used to describe a graphic. However, alt text does not necessarily replace a tactile graphic. A good rule of thumb is this: If the alt text, alone, is not sufficient for nondisabled students, then it is similarly not sufficient for blind/low vision students.

What are tactile graphics made of?

There are many ways to create tactile graphics. Swell paper and braille embossers can be used to create two-dimensional, raised-line tactile graphics. Less formal means of creating tactile graphics include using “arts and crafts” materials, such as textured paper, foam, felt, sandpaper, pipe cleaners, Wikki-stix, and 3-D pens. Tactile graphics can also be made “on the fly” using screen boards (homemade tactile drawing boards), specialized drawing tools (like the inTACT Sketchpad, the Draftsman, and the TactileDoodle, all of which use specialized plastic film as “paper”), tactile graphic line slates, and the Sensational Blackboard (which uses regular copy paper and a regular ballpoint pen).

Additionally, three-dimensional models are an important, and often forgotten, aspect of tactile graphics. While this post focuses on two-dimensional. Raised-line drawings, consider whether the use of 3-D models might be useful to incorporate into the curriculum, especially when introducing new concepts. Please feel free to contact the Bridges Helpdesk with any questions or concerns—especially if you are a student because it is hard for you to know if a 3-D model will help you understand the concept given that you don’t know what the concept is yet.

Are there standards for tactile graphics?

Tactile graphic standards

YES! The Braille Authority of North America (BANA—the group that sets forth standards for literary braille, Nemeth Code, and Music Braille) has published standards for tactile graphics, called Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010. These standards are available for free download, but they may also be purchased from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).

Is it OK to make/use tactile graphics that don’t meet the BANA standards?

Yes, there can be good reasons to make non-standard tactile graphics. However, the use of non-standard tactile should be based on the student’s educational needs—not based on poor planning by teachers and schools. Two examples of this are:

  • Graphics used for introduction to a concept. While standard, commercially available tactile graphics are of high quality, sometimes a student needs a graphic that is more individualized to the student. Once the student understands the concept, the student will be able to utilize standardized graphics.
  • Extra practice. Perhaps the Geometry textbook provides several examples, but more are used in class (and maybe students are encouraged to create their own in class). In such a situation, it may not be possible to make all the needed tactile graphics before class. It is far better to provide tactile graphics made “on the fly” than to withhold tactile graphics from the student.

Is it important to have experience with tactile graphics that DO meet the BANA standards?

Yes. Standardized tactile graphics are what is used in textbooks and on standardized tests. If students do not have the opportunity to learn and master reading standardized tactile graphics during the school year, they will likely have unnecessary difficulties when taking high-stakes tests.

Are pre-made tactile graphics available?

Yes. There are both free and fee-based sources of tactile graphics.

Free sources of tactile graphics/files to make tactile graphics

APH Tactile Graphic Image Library

Tactile Library

Touch Mapper

3D Objects for Physics Accessible Learning (3 D OPAL)

MakerBot Thingiverse Education

HARPO GIF and TIF files

HARPO PDF and DOC files

ViewPlus Downloads

Fee-based sources of tactile graphics

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)

Tactile Vision Graphics

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Series: Start Now: August 2021

Explore Desmos: Accessible Online Scientific and Graphing Calculators and more!

Math is fun (it really is!), and having tools that are both accessible and powerful make it even MORE fun! For many years, blind/low vision students needed to use specialized calculators in order to fully participate with their peers in math and science classes. However, as technology increased by leaps and bounds, these specialized calculators remained relatively unchanged.

Now, accessible technology had caught up with the Desmos online calculator. Desmos is free, and it is being integrated into more and more school and college programs.

Desmos and high-stakes tests

College Board

  • The Desmos online graphing calculator is built into the calculator-allowed sections of digital College Board tests. From Practice—Calculator Details.
  • In digital testing, the Desmos calculator is noted as a “Universal Tool” and is available to everyone, whether they request an accommodation or not. From: Types of Digital Accommodations.
  • If a student is granted the accommodation of a calculator on portions of the test where calculators are not typically allowed, that student will have access to the Desmos four-function calculator. From Practice—Calculator Details

International Baccalaureate® (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP)

NWEA MAP® Growth

Smarter Balanced

State Assessments

What kind of accessibility does Desmos offer?

WCAG 2.1 compliance

  • Desmos calculators are WCAG 2.1 compliant, and the levels of accessibility for each criterion are the highest level available, according to Desmos’ Accessibility tool spreadsheet.
  • Desmos meets WCAG compliance requirements for the purchase and use of accessible teaching and learning materials under Maryland law at COMAR section 13a.06.05.02.

Accessible spoken equations

  • Desmos has made its equation tool, MathQuill, accessible to users of screen reading and screen magnifying software.
  • From the Desmos accessibility webpage:  
    • The text “cos(x)” is spoken as “cosine open-parenthesis x close-parenthesis”
    • “Stddevx” is read aloud as “standard deviation of x.”
    • The screen reader voices additional cues to indicate a student’s location within an expression. (Numerator or denominator, superscript or subscript, baseline, etc.)  

Graphing component utilizes audio synthesis

  • Desmos Audio Trace
  • “Audio trace mode allows someone to explore a graph by sound rather than sight.”

System requirements

Calculators available from Desmos

Desmos training materials

More accessibility for Desmos tools is needed

  • Desmos provides a rich source of free classroom activities, including an entire Math curriculum for grades six through eight.
    • Only certain portions of the Desmos 6-8 Math Curriculum are accessible
    • “The lessons in our curriculum make use of our accessibility features, including dynamic narration for interactive elements. Where a lesson or interaction isn’t accessible for a vision-impaired or blind student, we offer guidance on an alternative approach. Most of Math 8 lessons and a small percentage Math 7 lessons include custom accessibility, and we are working to apply custom accessibility to the rest of the curriculum.” From Desmos Curriculum FAQs
  • Only 37 classroom activities are accessible for screen reader users, and these may be accessed on their own page for accessible Desmos classroom activities
  • Additionally, Desmos offers teachers free accounts with which they can create and share classroom learning activities, but many of these are unlikely to be accessible.
  • Educators should note that Desmos classroom activities that are not screen reader accessible, are not in compliance with Maryland law COMAR section 13a.06.05.02.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Teen Blog

News from IMAGE Teen and Young Adult Programs August, 2021

Enjoying the last weeks of summer
As we all work to soak in the final weeks of summer the realization often hits home that vacations are often a struggle for many of our families. Vacation planning can be stressful. Add in the need for specific accommodations, health considerations and changes to daily routines and its no wonder why many families opt out of vacation planning. This month we wanted to highlight a wonderful resource for our families designed to take some of the stress out of vacationing. With cruises out of Baltimore vacations don’t have to seem so far from home and with new considerations for families with children of all abilities there are more options then ever to take the vacation that your family deserves. Autism On The Seas (https://autismontheseas.com/ ) is just one of many options now available to families who need a little extra consideration when vacation planning. We love our families and one thing we know is that they, more then most, deserve some down time. So whether you want to tap into a fun and exciting new vacation resource or you want to plan a staycation at home please make sure to be kind to yourselves this summer and take some time to focus on family. Happy vacationing IMAGE families!

Peer Mentor Spotlight

Applications for Peer Mentorship for the summer session of the Connect program are now closed.
Interested in applying for Peer Mentorship?
Applications will reopen for the Fall session of Connect in September.

Questions? Email Jessica Leone at Jleone@imagemd.org
Teens working on pottery projects at Amazing glaze during a Connect program teen session.

Connect Program Summer Sessions in Progress
July 13th (virtual)July 27th (in person)August 10th (virtual)August 24th (in person)September 14th (virtual)September 28th (in person)

REGISTRATION IS FULL FOR THE SUMMER SESSION. Stay tuned for fall session registrations.

Image of student group work from a previous PreETS training session depicting what Self-Advocacy is.

PreETS Self Awareness and Self Advocacy Training

Registering for September Sessions Now!
Monday and Wednesday sessions available. Email for additional registration information.
The Self Awareness & Self Advocacy Training program through DORS is a five week program utilizing curriculum designed to empower teens with disabilities to explore areas of self awareness and promote the importance of self advocacy to enhance the overall independence and vocational opportunity of each student. During this program students will work with professional staff from The IMAGE Center to begin to engage in curriculum addressing Self Awareness & Advocacy, Disclosing Disability, Rights, Future Outlook, Transition Outlook and Utilizing Resources.
Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.

Kick off to summer campaign. Visit http://weblink.donorperfet.com/connectatimage

Categories
Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Series: Start Now: August 2021

Brush up on your accessible software (JAWS®/ZoomText®/Fusion®/NVDA®/VoiceOver®)

Summer is fabulous; it’s a great time to get out and about and enjoy freedom from the demands of learning with a laptop. However, time away from our laptops can cause our accessible software skills to get a little rusty. Here are some resources to help you brush off the dust and rust and jump back into mastering the accessible software skills you need for academic and employment success!

First, a little background:

  • Screen reading software: Translates accessibly-coded digital information (both text and alt text) into both speech and braille. Speech access requires speakers or other audio output. Braille access requires a connection with a refreshable braille display.
  • Screen magnification software: Allows the user to magnify the computer screen. More advanced software allows the user to magnify the mouse pointer and cursors, change color schemes, split the screen and pinpoint what is magnified, highlight text where the cursor is, and other functions.

JAWS® screen reading software

JAWS is screen reading software that is both rich and robust. Freedom Scientific provides a wealth of resources for JAWS users. From traditional guides and shortcut sheets to YouTube videos and MP3s, Freedom Scientific allows you to pinpoint your training needs and get the information to fill those needs efficiently and for FREE!

Basic JAWS training materials

  • Pick which parts you need on the JAWS Getting Started page, where materials are available for download in DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System), MP3, and HTML formats for you to listen to or read at your convenience.
  • Download the complete JAWS Basic Training that contains the entire Basic Training in MP3 and HTML format, as a ZIP file that you can extract to any location on your computer.
  • Surf’s Up is a series of self-guided lessons that teach you to read and navigate the web using JAWS.

JAWS Training Videos

More advanced JAWS training materials

  • With Additional JAWS Training, discover tips and tricks for JAWS features (like Convenient OCR and Research It) as well as advanced skills, including using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and JAWS in Tandem mode. These lessons are available for download in both DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and MP3 format.   

JAWS reference materials

ZoomText® screen magnification software

ZoomText is powerful screen magnification software with many advanced features that put you, the user, in control of what the computer screen displays and how you navigate it. Additionally, ZoomText has some basic screen reading capabilities.

Basic ZoomText training materials

ZoomText reference materials

Fusion® screen reading AND screen magnification software

Fusion combines both JAWS and ZoomText to provide access to both screen reading and screen magnification. Many resources for Fusion are found in the JAWS and ZoomText sections above. Here are some Fusion-specific resources:

Basic Fusion training materials

Fusion reference materials

NVDA® screen reading software

Unlike Jaws, ZoomText, and Fusion, NVDA (Non-Visual Digital Access) is not commercially produced. Instead, NVDA is open-source software, and it is available at no cost. This means, however, that there is not a company behind NVDA, though training materials and technical support services may be purchased. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to be able to use multiple screen readers. Here are some NVDA training material sources:

Free NVDA training materials

Fee-based NVDA training materials

NVDA Communities

VoiceOver® screen reading software

iOS (iPhone and iPad)

Mac (laptop and desktop Apple computers)

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Series: Start Now: August 2021

Testing Accommodations for ACT®

Start Now: Read below to learn how to request accommodations for the ACT® college admission exam.

What Kinds of Accommodations May I Request?

Students may request accommodations from the ACT to make the testing experience accessible to them. Examples of potential accommodation requests include braille tests, tactile graphics, the use of a scribe, accessible assistive technology, and extended time. Read more about the types of requested accommodations in the ACT® WorkKeys® Accessibility Supports Guide.

Timing of ACT® Accommodations Requests

In order to receive testing accommodations for the ACT®, an individual must submit a written request for those accommodations as well as documentation of the individual’s need for those accommodations.

The ACT® requires that accommodation request submissions be made well before the testing date, and no later than the late registration deadline. However, please note that submitting accommodations requests as soon as possible will increase the likelihood that you will secure all needed accommodations because it will provide time for any advocacy that may be required to secure and implement needed accommodations. You may view the test dates and registration deadlines here.

How to Request ACT® Exam Accommodations

There are multiple steps for requesting ACT® testing accommodations:

  • Test Registration: A student may begin the accommodations process by registering for the test and indicating during registration that the student is requesting testing accommodations. ACT® will then send an email that must be given to the school, along with a release form.
  • Required Documentation: The student may then work with the school to submit relevant documentation, such as an IEP or 504 plan, to the ACT® through its online portal system.
  • Accommodations Approval: Requests for accommodations are normally approved within 10 and 14 business days, and the approval will be sent directly to the school. Once the request is approved, the student will need to submit photo identification either to the school as a special testing center or the national testing center as assigned.
  • If not testing through or working with the school, the student and the family will need to fill out an application independently. Find out more about the independent application process here.

Recent Announcement about ACT® Testing Accommodations

Recently, the ACT® announced that any accommodation request that is documented on a student’s IEP or 504 Plan is “allowable” as an ACT® testing accommodation. If a student is requesting an accommodation that is not documented on the IEP or 504 plan, the student may still request that accommodation but must provide additional documentation to certify the need for the accommodation. Examples include an accommodations plan used by the school outside of an IEP or 504 plan or a former IEP or 504 plan that details that the student has benefited from the specified accommodation in the past. The ACT® also has an exception request form that individuals may use if they are unable to provide these documents to demonstrate the use of the requested accommodation. Read more about ACT® testing accommodations documentation and access the exception request form.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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