Holiday Gifts for Students with Visual Impairments

Scrolling through social media and my overflowing email inbox, it seems that finding the perfect gift is on the top of everyone's to-do list. There are many discussions about gifts for children with visual impairments and lots of great ideas being shared; rather than relist these more traditional ideas and since this is Paths to Technology - a website about tech - I want to focus on a few creative ideas that involve technology.

While students may have access to tech at school (and hopefully bring the tech home as well), it is important that students have access to tech outside of school and students should have access to a variety of devices in a variety of environments. After all, using a computer for navigation purposes when crossing a street, is probably not the best tool! To become truly proficient, students need to have access to tech for leisure activities as well as for educational activities.With that being said, tech should not be used for "babysitting" purposes and students should not be online 24/7! So, thinking about the perfect Christmas idea, personal technology at home should be considered. Students who are close to graduation, should have their own personal devices - school purchased tech will stay with the school. These students will need their own devices (computer, tablet, and/or smart phone) and software along with external devices such as Bluetooth keyboard and/or braille display. In addition, college bound students will need additional tech so that they can convert printed materials to digital format (i.e. scanner) and they should know how to maintain these devices. 

While "tech" can mean big ticket items like tablets, smart phones, computers, magnifiers, and braille displays, not every piece of tech has to be big and expensive. Don't misunderstand me - what kid (including my husband, the biggest kid of all!) would not be overjoyed to receive the latest and greatest smart phone! However, there are so many other shiny tech-related things to consider! 

Here are a few Christmas gift ideas geared primarily for preschool, elementary and middle school kids to help get you started! Beside the name of the potential gift is a link or two to posts about the item.

Coding Robots

Coding is such a HOT item in 21st Century classrooms! There are accessible coding bots (simple robots) for preschoolers on up. 

Note: These recommendations are accessible for students with no vision.

Coding Apps

Comprehensive list of accessible coding-related posts on Paths to Technology: Coding Posts Summary.

Emerging Braille/Reading

Of course, I am a strong believer in pairing tech with a braille display to support braille reading and writing. (I am also a strong believer in traditional paper braille and Perkins braille writer - it is all about tools in the toolbox!) Let's be real - tech turns learning into a game!

Braille Devices

Braille/Reading Apps

Video of a 4 year old Learning VoiceOver and Braille (using an iPad and refreshable braille display)

Books

Reading is for everyone! Students should have free access to digital books through BookShare and they should have access to personal copies in different formats (braille and/or print). Emerging and beginner readers will love interactive book apps. These interactive books are often a familiar story mixed with intriguing sounds and music; students can tap the screen and interact with various things on the screen. Family members, educators and students themselves can create books that the student will instantly relate to - topics might include favorite hobbies, family members, stories about the student, family vacations, etc. There are several apps, such as Book Creator, iBook Author and Tar Heel Reader that can be used to create fully accessible books. Be sure to check out the teacher/student-made books that are available for free download from Paths to Technology!

Apps to Create Books

Below are three popular apps to create digital books. There are additional apps!

  • Tar Heel Reader: free website where teachers, families students create their own books (geared for older emerging readers) Tar Heel Reader post
  • Book Creator App: (simple app to create books) Information on creating accessible books with Book Creator post
  • iBook Author: (Only available for Apple Computer; can create fully accessible books and the only app that enables the author to add accessible multiple choice questions)

Book Examples

Unique Toys

Did you know that Amazon has a page for games for visually impaired? Check it out! (Note: Some games are appropriate for low vision users only).

Apps

Apps are typically inexpensive (and sometimes free!); apps can be gifted or a app card with money can be purchased and given. There are too many accessible apps for all different levels - to list here. However, since finding accessible apps for younger children (who often have limited tech skills) can be challenging, here are some apps to help you get started. Many of these apps are designed for recreational purposes, these apps can be used to reinforce educational skills!

Note: There are numerous (over 80 last count!) Blindfold Games; go to the ObjectiveEd website or search directly in the App Store for Blindfold Games to find a full listing of these apps. Each Blindfold game has a free version enabling you to try the game before purchasing. The paid versions have unlimited play time including more coins, etc. dependent upon the game. I strongly suggest purchasing the full version of the game! The handful of blindfold games listed here can easily be used to teach educational goals - learn more about the educational piece of these games in the linked posts.

Note: Students learn best when playing the physical game first, before transitioning to the digital version of the game. Example: Play a tactile version of Tick Tac Toe or the real Simon game before playing the digital game. Through these game apps, students will become more proficient with using technology, will listen faster and process quicker, and will learn more about mental mapping/spatial relationships on the screen - all while having fun!

Apps to Teach Gestures

Collage of Holiday Gift Ideas for Students with Visual Impairments

Read more about: Assistive Technology