[bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

  • From: "Amy Billman" <abillman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 18:42:38 -0500


I have heard that as well, and have also dealt with similar situations on the employment side of things. As a manager working in a call center, I was given the responsibility of training a young woman who was blind that we had just hired. Unfortunately, when she began her training, I discovered that she had absolutely no knowledge of how to use Jaws, windows key strokes, nothing at all. She had apparently lost her sight a few years before this, and while she did go through some rehab training she either wasn't mentally present for or did not attend the computer training. She expected the company to train her on how to use jaws and of course we could not do that because we needed her to be able to perform the functions of the job. She expected the guy writing the scripting to basically give her a keystroke for everything--even reading the current line was too taxing apparently. She would have been fired had she not resigned before we had the chance.

I think that it is really sad that not only are people not being given the computer skills that they need to be successful in college or in the working world, but that there are so many people who have this attitude of "what will you do for me," rather than "what can I do for myself." I've never understood that mind set.

I graduated from high school in 1992, and even then I was being taught how to use a computer though of course everything was in doss at that time. I suppose that the type of assistance you get depends on where you are living, and how good your school system is. I agree with you completely though--how to use word and the internet should be taught in high school so that people are prepared whenever they go on to work or to get a degree.

Amy Billman
----- Original Message ----- From: "Maria L" <raynbo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 5:47 PM
Subject: [bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

I'm very sad to say that I have known several people who made it all the way to college without appropriate training in AT. Their parents expected the university to provide all the accommodation that high schools did, which obviously did not happen. The students didn't gain much exposure to AT in the first place, so they definitely didn't know what they needed or even might want in terms of tedchnology. I've heard stories of how other students struggled with the rehab system to provide them training, but were given the answer that since they didn't use their computers very much, the education didn't seem to be worth the cost.
I hope this isn't common everywhere, but I honestly don't know. I do know that these people often struggle in university, and it's a sort of endless cycle of not quite meeting everyone's expectations.
Then of course, there are people who have used special devices for years, like notetakers, and have a really hard time transitioning to computers. I think once people get into high school, they need to have training using programs like Word, the Internet, and have as much experience using both the computer and the notetaker or other device as possible. It's getting easier to do this now, especially as more and more papers start being required, but it still needs to be emphasized.
Hope this makes sense, a little.

----- Original Message ----- From: "Amy Billman" <abillman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 13:04
Subject: [bct] Re: Frustrations with how AT is taught

I have never understood why there are people who will either begin college or start at a job without knowing how to use a computer. These are fundamentals that are necessary especially if you are blind. I understand that the student could easily claim ignorance--in other words he was unaware that a knowledge of how to use word would be necessary, but that is why there are VR counselors who can and should be assessing the skills and abilities of perspective students before they go off to attend a college or to a job. We could all debate until next century, whether or not agencies such as services for the blind do their job and who fell short but that would not solve the problem and be a severe waste of time and email space. I believe that in part the reason why colleges do not always have people who are knowledgeable about any types of adaptive technology and on how to train a student to use various applications is because that is not their job. Students should know those things before they come to school. It may be necessary for some outside training either via one of freedom scientific's courses or the courses put out by the Access Technology Institute. How to open and save a file, selecting text, etc etc, those are all things that are the most simplistic tasks and involve relatively simple windows key strokes. I believe that it isn't just understanding the use of jaws or whatever screen reader you prefer, but also the concepts of using windows--it is the whole package. It's
just like applying for a job--if the position requires that a person know how to use Excel PowerPoint and Access, you don't go into the situation expecting that the employer will show you how to use those applications--nor should the school have to in this case, be the one who is responsible for teaching any of the students how to use the applications needed to do day-to-day school work. The hand-holding sort of has to stop once you leave home if you know what I mean... If they are still living at home, the hand holding still cannot continue because colleges are designed for teaching not hand holding. hehhehNot everyone is innovative enough to be able to figure out how something is used. Is there not some way that this individual can get the training that he so apparently needs outside of school? I realize that this may put him behind in his education, but if he cannot save a document and you are always having to come to his rescue, it sounds like he already may be behind or headed in that direction.

People who seem to refuse to teach everything about how to use a program including Jaws irritate me! You either need to teach the whole program or nothing at all--none of this bits and pieces stuff! That is a waste of time, not to mention a waste of funds paying someone who is only partially training someone!
Your student doesn't seem to know what he needs, and no one has told him or done their part to educate him about that.
****jumps down off of soap box****

Amy Billman
----- Original Message ----- From: "Debee Norling" <debee@xxxxxxxx>
To: "Blindcooltech@Freelists. Org" <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, March 24, 2006 5:07 PM
Subject: [bct] Frustrations with how AT is taught

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

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
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?


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