As each state embarks on providing remote instruction to students, many companies are providing free training through video conferencing and webinars, as well as free subscriptions to software. Dream Vision Group, a new start-up based in Texas is also providing free initial support and training to TVIs during the school closure. As a company that is made up of native end users, their trainers can provide support with both mainstream and assistive technology to individuals, educational, and government agencies based on first-hand experience and expertise. In the past two weeks, TVIs from around the country have been calling in to obtain support about using Google Classroom, Live Edits in Google Docs, as well as Team Viewer with the Braillesense Polaris as well as with Humanware products and iOS devices. One of the challenges TVIs are facing is that they do not have access to the devices their students are using or video conferencing capabilities to see how students are interacting with their technology to support their student accessing the curriculum through remote instruction. When this is possible, it makes it much easier for trainers and AT Specialists to support TVIs. Trainers know during this uncertain and ever changing time, students and their TVIs need immediate support from those who are both patient and knowledgeable to troubleshoot issues with technology. Once TVIs have a better understanding of what platforms their states or schools are using for remote instruction during the school closure, companies such as Dream Vision Group can provide and tailor training to best meet their needs.
As a TVI who focuses on providing technology instruction to students, I have had the pleasure of receiving support from the trainers at Dream Vision Works. When one of my students was experiencing difficulties with the QBraille that I couldn’t resolve, I received directions how to adjust the file format and braille grade so files saved on the SD card rendered correctly when opened on a Chromebook. I also received support to address specific questions related to different screen readers and mainstream technology. Trainers always listened, answered each of my questions, and helped me think differently about troubleshooting technology to promote independence in my students.
We are all in this together. Vision professionals are supporting each other within their local state and throughout the country remotely. Ideas are shared through Paths to Technology, Paths to Literacy, Facebook Groups, State Departments of Education, and the collaboration of organizations. For example, APH, Paths to Literacy through Perkins School for the Blind, and CAL State University are collaborating to present Virtual Expanded Core Education Learning (ExCEL) Academy for Students with Visual Impairments free during the COVID-19 School Closure.
Below is list of some of the resources available to professionals and students.
Accessibyte - Accessibyte is an online platform that is accessible to students who are blind and visually impaired free while schools are closed. Typio is one of their online applications.
Freedom Scientific - Freedom Scientific is making JAWS, Zoomtext, and Fusion free to students and individuals through June 30, 2020. Software can be accessed through the Freedom Scientific’s software portal.
Epic – Epic is offering free Remote Student Access through June 30, 2020, by teacher invitation. Students can access the full Epic library of books that can be read aloud to them using the web browser, as well as iOS and Android apps. Read to Me and Audio Books are available. See the Epic App Review on Paths to Technology
Audible – While schools are closed, Audible is making a selection of books free for students on their desktop, laptop, or mobile device.