Strategies and Technology Aids for Teaching Science to Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Strategies and Technology Aids for Teaching Science to Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Cristina Gehibie Reynaga-Peña (Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico) and Carolina del Carmen López-Suero (Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8539-8.ch002

Abstract

This chapter aims to provide a panorama of suitable teaching resources and strategies for science education of blind and visually impaired students. Although it is not a thorough review, its intention is to provide examples of what is possible to do specifically for experimental sciences (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics). The authors will also present the foundations for designing inclusive learning materials based on the user-centered design and universal design for learning (UDL) frameworks, using as example the development of technology-based tactile three-dimensional prototypes for teaching biology. An example of low-technology adaptations for making accessible instruments for the chemistry lab, using recycled materials will also be described, as well as adaptations for laboratory safety. Finally, there is also a section elaborating on the educational strategy to create inclusive and engaging environments in science laboratories.
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User-Centered Design And Universal Design For Learning, Two Frameworks To Foster Inclusive Education

User-centered design is a design philosophy and a variety of methods for creating products that meet the needs of the users; it takes into consideration their characteristics, needs, motivations and expectations. Indeed, the users should be involved in the design process either at specific times (prototype tests, interviews, feedback, observations) or as partners in the entire design process, in order for the design to be effective (Abras et al., 2004). In the case of a user-centered design focused in persons with disabilities, this implies knowing and understanding in depth their contexts, their activities, and the ways they communicate with their environment, in such way that the object produced is usable and satisfying for them (the users), in addition to being more effective for the purpose it is designed.

In terms of education, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is the framework of choice to foster inclusive education, as it departs from the consideration that each individual, with or without disabilities, learns in different ways. UDL is grounded on three principles (Rose and Meyers, 2006): provide with multiple forms of representation, multiple forms of expression and multiple forms of engagement. Based on those principles, it has been proposed that implementation of UDL in classrooms benefits students with disabilities who major in STEM fields, as it provides them with alternatives in the materials, content and resources they use for learning (Izzo and Bauer, 2015). According to Rogers-Shaw et al. (2018), “Universal Design for Learning is a framework for the teaching-learning transaction that conceptualizes knowledge through learner-centered foci emphasizing accessibility, collaboration, and community”.

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