[bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

  • From: Stephen Clower <steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Jake Joehl <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2006 19:28:11 -0600

Yes, I can really see how that would be a problem. I never had any
formal training with any assistive technology, because I'm always very
eager to figure things out on my own. When I first began using
Windows, the very old HJ training tapes were actually very helpful in
explaining how to navigate the environment from the keyboard. From
friends and family who used Windows 95, I already had a very good idea
of how the screen appeared, so understanding the operating system was
not challenging in the least. I can even recall that when I installed
Window-Eyes 2.0 onto my first Windows PC, I had figured out enough to
set up a dialup connection for my ISP and surf the net with IE 3.02
within a couple of hours. Now that, friends, was an interface which
really required a lot of mouse work, since no browse mode or virtual
buffers existed at the time. I've seen some complaints on other lists
that so-and-so's browser isn't accessible simply because this virtual
buffer isn't there, but just think back eight or nine years ago when
such a concept hadn't even been imagined. If you could read the
application with the mouse, then you wouldn't complain; that's just
how things were. Despite the university courses and associated
applications I mentioned, I'm very glad that access to graphical apps
from the keyboard is receiving more attention these days than in the
past. I still use some quite non-standard programs like The Bat for
E-mail, Flash FXP for FTP transfers, and Miranda IM for instant
messaging with Window-Eyes 5.5, and in some cases mouse work is
needed. But that doesn't bother me too much, really, since all of the
programs mentioned can be used mostly with the keyboard and only
occasionally require a click here and there.

One thing which has griped me for years are messages on some lists
which ask, "is this program accessible? Thanks." The problem, as I'm
sure you all know, is that we each have a different view of
accessibility. Windows veterans will most likely say that if you can
read the information with a screen reader's review or mouse commands,
then the program is perfectly accessible. Others will say that if the
program doesn't immediately start to talk then it's not worth looking
at. The sad thing which I've observed is that many blind folks never
learn the basics of how Windows works; they're just taught enough to
get by, so if something goes wrong, they have no idea what to do. It's
a very basic concept, and all of the Windows screen readers have
superb support for manipulating the mouse, so why are so many afraid
of it? If the mouse weren't so critical to certain applications, I don't think 
vendors like GW
Micro, Dolphin, or FS would have bothered with adding such extensive
support for it. I would say that 80 percent of my work in Access involves me 
clicking in various parts of the window to bring focus to
different sections of data to edit them, and I'm perfectly comfortable
with it. As I said in my first message, it's the parts which involve
drawing or extensive dragging with the mouse that frustrate me because
there are no alternate methods of accomplishing the same tasks with
the keyboard.

             Sorry to be so long-winded, but as you might have
             guessed, I feel very strongly about this issue since I am
             facing it more often these days.

On Friday, March 24, 2006, 7:02:32 PM, you stood on a roof and loudly 

> One thing I've also noticed as a totally blind person, is that many AT
> instructors seem to forego the on-screen activity, hence the blind user is
> not aware of this. I for one have never learned what the screen actually
> looks like in JAWS to the sighted user. My roommate has some remaining
> vision and uses JAWS, and he has often attempted to ask me what the screen
> should look like in various situations. I can't tell him simply because I
> have never learned that.
> Jake
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Stephen Clower" <steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: "BlindTech of BlindTechs.Net" <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Friday, 24 March, 2006 6:42 PM
> Subject: [bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

>>I am a very adept computer user, and there are certainly many cases
>> where one can easily translate the click-and-drag terminology to the
>> keyboard, depending on the application in use. I have used DOS,
>> Windows, and LINUX for many years, and I have absolutely no qualms
>> with using the mouse if need be; it's a simple fact of graphical life
>> that one must know how to use it. I used ICQ, Java IRC chat programs,
>> and some very unusual messaging and mail clients back in the mid 90's
>> with Window-Eyes 2.1 in Windows 95, and I found them all usable since
>> WE gave me full control over the mouse cursor. The problem is not in
>> using the mouse, it's in purposeful omission of information to appease
>> the nontechnical people out there who think that anything beyond a
>> click of the mouse should be left to people with IT degrees.
>> Here is an example from the Access book I discussed in my last
>> message. One feature that the text describes is how to create a
>> relationship between two Access tables. The *only* method it described 
>> involved dragging one
>> field over to another to link the two. Through much searching of the
>> relationships portion of Access, I found that one could accomplish the
>> same task in the "Edit Relationships" dialog. What is frustrating is
>> that this much more efficient means of managing relationships amongst
>> various database tables was never mentioned in the text. It is not
>> found in the appendicies, the index, or in any footnotes. Prior to this
>> term, I have never used Access, so I am quite frustrated that such
>> useful tools are not mentioned simply because one cannot click and drag
>> to use them. On top of keeping up with my sighted peers, I must spend
>> hours researching alternative means of accomplishing some tasks simply
>> because the authors of the book, which I paid over $200 for, decided to
>> leave such information out.
>> On Friday, March 24, 2006, 6:27:23 PM, you stood on a roof and loudly 
>> proclaimed:
>>> this is why I dislike the assistive technology of windows, view of
>>> how to teach the blind on using a computer system.
>>> the blind are taught so much to rely on keyboard based tasks, and not
>>> teaching them the "CONCEPT" of mouse equivalents to where a blind
>>> person does feel lost and frustrated when told to click, this or
>>> click, that.
>>> in the mac world, where I primaryly do my work at home and for my
>>> business, I and other blind mac users know exactly what clicking is,
>>> and dragging is, because these are the concepts used off the bat and
>>> how we can mostly easily communicate with our sighted counter parts
>>> with so much ease.
>>> BlindTech of BlindTechs.Net
>>> blindtech@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>> website: http://blindtechs.net
>>> Visit our website where we offer free email, shell accoiunts,
>>> shoutcast radio service, online games and more!
>>> Powered by Unix not Microsoft
>>> On Mar 24, 2006, at 4:09 PM, Stephen Clower wrote:
>>>> Hello Debee,
>>>>             I thought this post gave a very unique perspective of
>>>>             learning assistive technology from an instructional point
>>>>             of view. On a similar thread, I am curious to know how
>>>>             mainstream software is taught where you work? I
>>>>             myself am in my third year at the University of North
>>>>             Texas, and I am constantly frustrated with how
>>>>             applications are taught here. If you don't mind, I'd
>>>> like to
>>>>             give a few examples of what I've previously dealt with.
>>>>             About two years ago when I was pursuing a degree in
>>>>             computer science, I took an introduction to digital logic
>>>>             systems as part of the core requirements for the program.
>>>>             The textbook, understandably, relied heavily on figures
>>>>             and diagrams to explain concepts such as the seven
>>>> types of
>>>>             gates, Karnaugh mapping techniques, synchronous versus
>>>>             asynchronous counting systems, and so on. From the outset,
>>>>             I expected this course to be challenging given the visual
>>>>             nature of the material. However, when I entered the
>>>>             laboratory, I discovered to my great dismay that the lab
>>>>             assignments gave instructions such as, "copy the figure on
>>>>             page 57 into the Altera graphical tool, and run a
>>>>             simulation with the following parameters." Not only was
>>>>             this software barely usable by a blind student, but I had
>>>>             to learn a variant of VHDL, a circuit programming
>>>>             language, to attempt to match the verbal description given
>>>>             to me by the lab instructor with the figures displayed in
>>>>             the book. Near the end of the term, I went about three
>>>>             days with no sleep trying to complete assignments which
>>>>             took my peers a few hours at most to finish.
>>>> Because I knew that even more inaccessible applications were used by
>>>> the next courses, I opted to switch my major to business information
>>>> systems in hopes that I would be more likely to find employment, and I
>>>> would save my sanity and a good deal of time in one fell swoop.
>>>> Luckily, I had only been in the CS department for a few semesters, so
>>>> I didn't lose too much ground when I switched to the business
>>>> department.
>>>> Unfortunately, I was just as dismayed when I began classes with the
>>>> new degree plan last Spring. Although the applications being used at
>>>> the time (Excel and Powerpoint specifically) are usable by a blind
>>>> person, the methods taught by the textbook never described how to
>>>> accomplish tasks through the keyboard. In a class I am taking
>>>> presently, we are using Access 2003 which I hope to God I never have
>>>> to see again. As I am sure some of you know, Access is quite
>>>> accessible in some areas like the table design and datasheet views,
>>>> but utter rubbish in the form and report views. Although I didn't find
>>>> it terribly difficult, I was also forced to research SQL to type up
>>>> queries for some assignments, because the textbook always showed the
>>>> click-and-drag method. We are about to start using Project, though I
>>>> have no idea if this is yet usable with assistive technology. I
>>>> suppose I'll find out soon enough.
>>>> On top of the software issues just discussed, it has been my
>>>> experience that scanning these types of textbooks yields very iffy
>>>> results. Those which deal mostly in text usually scan well, but others
>>>> like the Access and Powerpoint books, along with others including a
>>>> management accounting book, came out so garbled that I believe i would
>>>> have been better off leaving them alone. Add to the resulting text the
>>>> confusing "click this to do that" kind of instruction, and I think
>>>> you'll understand my frustrations. Because I've been fending for
>>>> myself during my years at the university, I'm honestly surprised a
>>>> blind student was able to sue a university for not providing
>>>> accessible materials and winning. Maybe I've just been brought up to
>>>> not ask for help unless I really need it, but I really think that if
>>>> you're a blind student, you should just get a scanner and read your
>>>> books yourself instead of constantly relying on others to do it for
>>>> you. As required by law, we do have an
>>>> office for disability accomodations, but due to the financial aid
>>>> constraints, I am unable to purchase my books until classes start to
>>>> have the office scan and proof them in time for me to use them.
>>>> I apologize if this message sounds bitter, but I have become
>>>> increasingly frustrated with what almost seems a blatent disregard for
>>>> those who rely on AT to get work done. Though your community college
>>>> sounds like it could stand some improvements, I am glad to know that
>>>> somewhere, somebody is at least making an effort to bridge the gap
>>>> between the full and partially sighted alike. Also, is there any
>>>> special method you use to scan textbooks? Currently, I scan the book
>>>> one page at a time with Kurzweil, and after about twenty hours the
>>>> book is finished, and I have very stiff joints in my right hand for
>>>> the next week or so. I look forward to your response.
>>>> Sincerely,
>>>> Steve
>>>> On Friday, March 24, 2006, 4:07:48 PM, you stood on a roof and
>>>> loudly proclaimed:
>>>>> I just had a very frustrating experience I thought I'd share. I'm
>>>>> curious
>>>>> what you others think.
>>>>> I work at a community college where I'm in charge of alternate
>>>>> media. Our
>>>>> Access technology specialist, (I'll call it AT for short) is a
>>>>> sighted guy
>>>>> and he's part-time. He is a speech pathologist with a ton of
>>>>> experience
>>>>> teaching dragon. He really doesn't know JAWS all that well, but he
>>>>> is smart,
>>>>> concerned about making the campus accessible and seeing that
>>>>> courses are
>>>>> truly inclusive. I hesitate to criticize such a caring guy, but he
>>>>> does
>>>>> teach JAWS with a keystroke cheat sheet at his side. And I'm sure he
>>>>> couldn't use the computer with his screen turned off.
>>>>> I think this guy's one downfall is that he is typical faculty; he
>>>>> teaches a
>>>>> few classes and just isn't here full-time.
>>>>> We are always trying to encourage our print-impaired students to
>>>>> use the
>>>>> computer more, and we try to wean them away from depending on
>>>>> their mom
>>>>> reading aloud, or using large print or whatever. We want them to be
>>>>> conversant with Microsoft Word for preparing their papers, and
>>>>> with Kurzweil
>>>>> or similarly appropriate AT for reading their books.
>>>>> We have a new blind student, I'll call him John Doe,  who recently
>>>>> started
>>>>> taking tests on the computer using JAWS and word. John has been
>>>>> brailling
>>>>> out his tests and I've been transcribing them in to print. But we
>>>>> all want
>>>>> to see John become more independent.
>>>>> Today, our AT guy got  John all set up, but   he couldn't stay
>>>>> because he
>>>>> only gets paid for an hour or two on Fridays.
>>>>> John spent four hours taking his test and then he printed it.
>>>>> Unfortunately, he printed 200 pages of gibberish. There was nobody
>>>>> available
>>>>> to help him. I work several buildings away from the computer lab, I'm
>>>>> encouraged to focus on my learning disabled students, and the guy
>>>>> who is
>>>>> supposedly in charge of the lab is never there because he isn't
>>>>> paid to be
>>>>> there.
>>>>> So John is a beginner. He's been taught how to type in Word, how
>>>>> to use a
>>>>> few simple JAWS commands and how to print. He hasn't been taught
>>>>> how to
>>>>> save. He doesn't know what saving is. So he simply waits until his
>>>>> test
>>>>> period is over,  gets escorted back to the disability services
>>>>> office and
>>>>> tells his story there. John also has a physical disability so he
>>>>> needs help
>>>>> getting from one building to another. But in no way is he mentally
>>>>> impaired;
>>>>> he's just very new to computers.
>>>>> At this point I am called. Even though they don't want me doing
>>>>> faculty's
>>>>> job, they want me to fix computer issues when everyone is in a
>>>>> panic and
>>>>> nobody  knows what to do. I get there, and John has very carefully
>>>>> closed
>>>>> out of Word the way he was taught and his four hours of work are
>>>>> lost. They
>>>>> were never saved.
>>>>> This happens all the time because our AT guy teaches keystrokes
>>>>> and not
>>>>> concepts. He shows people how to read the previous word, but not
>>>>> how to
>>>>> cope when things go wrong.
>>>>> I've noticed in general that AT people tend to get hung up
>>>>> teaching what to
>>>>> me seems very silly; students will learn how to bold and center,
>>>>> but they
>>>>> won't know what to do when they need to copy a file off a CD on to
>>>>> a flash
>>>>> drive. Even when people are taught how to save, they frequently
>>>>> have no
>>>>> concept of file management. I'm forever bailing out people who
>>>>> saved a file
>>>>> in the wrong folder and now they cannot locate it.  Just a few
>>>>> days ago, my
>>>>> boss, an able-bodied social worker type was in a huge panic
>>>>> because she
>>>>> thought she'd lost her power-point presentation for some important
>>>>> meeting.
>>>>> I have JAWS on her computer because I'm always rescuing her, and
>>>>> this time
>>>>> she'd put it in "My Pictures" instead of on her desktop. Someone else
>>>>> recommended she save to her desktop so she could find things. I'd
>>>>> like to
>>>>> sit her down and teach her how and where to properly save, but she
>>>>> wouldn't
>>>>> sit still long enough.
>>>>> She knows all sorts of fancy tricks in Power Point, but she panics
>>>>> so much
>>>>> that even the simplest file management tasks seem to thoroughly
>>>>> flummox her.
>>>>> But even more than able-bodied, the print impaired, in my opinion,
>>>>> need a
>>>>> firm foundation in how to think. Multiple-choice tests and
>>>>> memorizing steps
>>>>> to perform a procedure do them no favors.  In our AT lab, the
>>>>> command to
>>>>> read the title bar in JAWS is not taught , because it isn't
>>>>> necessary to
>>>>> complete the assignments. But that means when the focus goes
>>>>> south, the JAWS
>>>>> users have no skills for coping.
>>>>> My biggest beef with AT, which is a micro-example of how all computer
>>>>> courses are taught here is that people are taught rote methods for
>>>>> accomplishing tasks.   They can create a formula in Excel but they
>>>>> can't
>>>>> troubleshoot a printing problem.  They can use JAWS to spell the
>>>>> current
>>>>> word, but they can't restart it when it crashes. They are taught
>>>>> where
>>>>> programs are located on computers in our lab but not how to poke
>>>>> around an
>>>>> unfamiliar computer to find stuff. They know how to change fonts
>>>>> but not
>>>>> how to insert a paragraph from a document in a different directory.
>>>>> It seems a crime to me to teach computer stuff using a paint-by-
>>>>> numbers
>>>>> method.
>>>>> Sometimes I work with a new blind student, especially when I have
>>>>> to rescue
>>>>> him from something that happened while I was off doing my real
>>>>> job, and I'm
>>>>> always amazed at just how much hand-holding these people need. Are my
>>>>> standards too high, or are we just doing a really lousy job of
>>>>> teaching AT
>>>>> these days?
>>>>> --Debee
>>>> ----------
>>>> Stephen Clower
>>>> Email/.Net Messenger: steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>>> AIM: AudioRabbit03
>>>> Yahoo: sclower2003
>>>> Skype: sclower
>>>> Check out my little home on the web at http://www.steve-audio.net
>> ----------
>> Stephen Clower
>> Email/.Net Messenger: steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>> AIM: AudioRabbit03
>> Yahoo: sclower2003
>> Skype: sclower
>> Check out my little home on the web at http://www.steve-audio.net
>> -- 
>> No virus found in this incoming message.
>> Checked by AVG Free Edition.
>> Version: 7.1.385 / Virus Database: 268.3.1/291 - Release Date: 3/24/2006

Stephen Clower
Email/.Net Messenger: steve@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
AIM: AudioRabbit03
Yahoo: sclower2003
Skype: sclower

Check out my little home on the web at http://www.steve-audio.net

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