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Assess ways in which information technology can enable visually impaired students to access their studies and employment.

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Introduction

Research Brief 9469 - I.T. (2000 words, May 2004) * Assess ways in which information technology can enable visually impaired students to access their studies and employment. Independence, integration and participation are three fundamental concepts for visually impaired citizens. Independence in the sense of self-sufficiency, thereby eradicating the requirement of everyday personal assistance and support functions, integration not only in the work place but also throughout all levels of education, and (active) participation pervading all facets of society. Are these concepts, or goals, wholly achievable however? There are many ways in which these aims can be fulfilled for visually impaired citizens, but perhaps one of the most powerful means is through the use of information technology. This is particularly relevant when it comes to visually impaired students and the ways in which they access their studies (in further and higher education) and their modes of employment. This work is concerned with such ideas - firstly an overview will be presented in terms of a visually impaired citizen - what it actually means to be visually impaired, what differing levels of sight such a person can have, and what difficulties such a person could encounter when studying in further or higher education. ...read more.

Middle

When assessing the needs of the visually impaired in terms of access to electronic information it should be stated that requirements tend to differ from person to person. Furthermore, as advised by Jones and Tedd, any of three senses can be used - touch, sound and any remaining vision - and the technology tends to fall into these groupings.5 With regards to touch technology Braille 'covers' can be used in conjunction with a standard QWERTY keyboard, or alternatively Braille stickers can be placed on the keys of a computer. When it comes to output this can be achieved via a 'Braille display' which presents the information from the monitor using a mechanism comprising of rows of cells, made of metal or nylon, with pins that move up and down to show Braille characters. An alternative method is to produce Braille printout through the use of a Braille embosser, however when using such a system it is necessary to make sure that compatible software is available as well as adequate memory. One downside of using such hardware for this form of output is that it does tend to cost a considerable amount of money. ...read more.

Conclusion

recognition problems - most enabling software will provide accuracy of up to 95% but this still leaves some amount of error which could be critical; and lastly; design problems - when web pages are filled with continuously scrolling text, blinking messages and pop-up screens they can be very difficult for even sophisticated enabling software to interpret, making them practically inaccessible for the visually impaired. What then of the future and the relationship between visually impaired citizens, information technology and accessibility? As we live in an ever-growing information society, access to information and IT literacy are fundamental aspects of everyday culture. Information technology provides an exceptional opportunity to facilitate the independence, integration, and participation aspects of a visually impaired person's life. Enabling software such as voice recognition and speech synthesis will continue to grow in quality, and as it becomes more mainstream will come down in price, thus bringing down more barriers for the visually impaired. However, there are still issues concerning web site design and it is crucial (visually impaired) end users are involved in the construction process. It is hoped that this could and certainly should be the case, and the underlying (future IT) trends will be of integration and not alienation. ...read more.

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