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Statement of the problem
Picture this; you are required to attend meetings, seminars, and conferences at different locations in a university. You are late for the first seminar and must attend the lecture. Besides, when you realized that you forgot your reading glasses, you may rely on the attendees to produce notes. You solicit the help of an attendee to read your notes and lecture guide. However, the impaired student will require assistance with the written paper. Let us change the scenario to a more complex situation. You are a blind student who has to attend classes in different classrooms. How can an impaired student move independently across different buildings on campus and have access to different facilities without a personal assistant? The faculty and students on campus will certainly provide help.
However, just as you cannot always have an attendee read your notes in a meeting, a blind student cannot consistently rely on other students or an assistant to read notes and move on campus. As a visually impaired student in my last year at the university, there have been several challenges that any student with a similar case might face. However, the obstacles should not hinder the progress of students with special needs. With technology, we could build a smart government, institution, and university.
Discussing the problem
Being on a large campus with more than ten buildings, it is quite demanding for a blind student to walk to classes that may be in different schools without an assistant or a white cane. Even if walking to different buildings is not necessary, the student will definitely have to move across the same building to different classes, which may be on different floors. It is easy to ask the staff or a friend for directions to the classroom, but it will be even better to encourage students to become independent. However, it comes with great courage and self-will. The most important factor in this scenario is self. The motivating factor surpasses heights and obstacles. Individual self-will will improve the situation by adapting to any environment.
Solutions to the problem
Just as other students have access to the different facilities that are available in each building, these provisions should be accessible for students with vision impairment. These include and are not limited to washrooms, vending machines, elevators, and other resources. A tool that improves individual self-will may improve the quality of life. These facilities must be accessible without prejudice or favor. Visually impaired students will adapt better if these facilities are provided.
Labs and the library are one of the most vital facilities that need to be accessible for special needs students. There are many occasions where a student like me needs to surf the library and look for books to complete a research paper or an assignment. Nevertheless, chances are minimal to find an electronic or even an audio version of the book. Although electronic books are available on the internet or different mobile applications, it is quite important to make use of electronic books because many professors and students tend to use tablets and Smartphones. About labs, a visually impaired person is not able to use any of the available computers because they do not have the screen reader software installed on them.
Science labs also lack accessible tools and equipment for students who major in science, engineering, and similar field. Polices that improves the welfare of impaired students must be enacted. Institutions of learning must use regulated standards for impaired students. Thus, the availability of visual aids will be enforced and not by chance. Therefore, science labs and the library will be equipped with visual aid tools to assist impaired students.
Improvements to the accessibility services cannot be achieved without performing some adjustments to the amenities relevant to course materials and examinations. Although professors upload slides on iLearn, visually impaired students do not have access to textbooks. Textbooks have to be purchased as a hard copy and be provided to the academic achievement center for scanning. However, this is an issue because the student can no longer use the book properly, as scanning a hard copy book can only be done by unbinding the book for the pages to be inserted into the feeder of the scanner. This is especially the case for courses that include both theory and calculation, as the student would have to purchase another hard copy book, which can be used by a sighted person in case the student needed some help.
Besides reading the text, students must also have the graphs and diagrams printed in order for them to fully understand the material. Education policymakers must enact laws that stipulate standard procedures for impaired students. Data collection on the population of impaired students will influence the debate for better education. Students with impaired vision must be given express access to books and materials prior to schooling activities. Educational materials must be provided on a regular basis.
In many instances, an unqualified proctor is asked to read an exam for the student. This becomes an issue with quantitative courses, as the reader must have the knowledge to read the numbers correctly and apply the mathematical formulas and rules as asked by the student. In the case where the professor allows the use of applications such as Microsoft Excel and Smart Reader, the spreadsheet workbook does not contain the inputs in order to perform the calculations.
Even when extra time is provided, listening to the question and the numbers and imputing them in excel is actually time-consuming as the student has to listen to the question several times and then navigate to the excel file to input the numbers. This becomes even more challenging if there are many inputs. However, educational caregivers must have specific roles in the education system. Using a proctor in engineering to assist an impaired biologist will be counterproductive. Educationists must provide quality-training materials for caregivers to mitigate the challenges of quality education.
Another major concern with examinations is that some professors refuse to provide students with the soft-copy version of the exam. When the soft-copy versions are provided, students prefer to work independently on a computer. However, professors should understand that exams that include essay questions are difficult to complete by having the reader write the student’s answer. Unlike multiple-choice questions, essay questions require details and a good expression of thoughts. The caregiver may rephrase a sentence or restructure the answer to suit his or her understanding. Thus, the written paper may not reflect the capabilities of the impaired student. This sounds easy for a student who writes his or her thoughts. However, it is hard for both the reader and the writer, who is dictating his or her thoughts.
Sometimes, exams for special needs students take place on a different date or place for the other students. This scenario affects the judgments of an impaired student. For example, the question materials may require clarification that could be given by other class members. Most proctors do not have the qualification to administer educational assistance to impaired students. Thus, impaired students may encounter challenges during examinations. Mistakes are common with exam papers.
Thus, an impaired student may not receive quality assistance from an untrained proctor. During examinations, only qualified personnel should be allowed to assist the impaired student. However, the introduction of advanced applications may eliminate the changes in the sitting arrangement. Impaired students must be allowed to write exams with colleagues. The procedure will improve the socialization process. It is worthy of remembering that impaired students will seek employment in conventional offices and should be allowed to socialize on campus.
Developing a Smartphone application, which includes a map of the campus, and other additional tools, which can also be used by impaired people, will actually benefit special needs students. The proposed concept makes moving on campus easier using a map of the application that will allow users to locate classrooms and buildings. The map applications are embedded with systematic navigation tools for offices and classrooms. Besides its use by visually impaired people, new students and staff can also benefit from the application. Thus, impaired Students will have a variety of assisted to use during school activities. Software developers should constantly update the application to provide better services for impaired students. Students like me will require the following features in the smart application.
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- Accessing Blackboard and Banner systems.
- Viewing the academic calendar.
- Viewing the list of events that will be held throughout the semester
- Connecting with faculty across different schools and departments without using the mail directory.
- Receiving notifications, meetings, notes, new offerings, and updates.
- Allowing students to view their achievements, certificates, awards, and propositions.
- Enabling students to view the daily schedule in addition to using the notification tool to view updates on the professor’s office hours.
Furthermore, the university should also contemplate having braille labels on classroom and office doors, elevators, and vending machines. Additionally, talking ATM machines will make the process of withdrawing cash more efficient for the blind. The central bank can authorize all commercial banks to develop talking ATM, for visually impaired students. The labels will facilitate easy guidance during night hours and rainy days. The choice of technical assistance may be considered during the decision making process. Policymakers and informatics can correlate the student’s needs to provide suitable change.
Creating an EBook store within the application will give students a choice to purchase either the electronic or the hardcopy version of a book using their ID number. The application may also include a unique feature, which allows students to rent a book for a certain period. Once the renting period is over, the student will be notified to return the material or reapply again. However, if the student does not initiate the rental process, the book will automatically be removed from the device. Qualified personnel will manage the EBook store to avoid education fraud. The management reserves the right to upload any book for rent during the semester. Thus, the system will facilitate the learning process of impaired students.
Additionally, audio and video versions of various learning materials will improve learning. The learning materials include documentaries, movies, songs, lyrics, and lecture notes that will assist impaired students. However, the institution may provide an E-library to facilitate easy access to educational materials by students and lecturers. The E-portal will have sections for impaired students to ensure quality-learning sessions. In addition, screen reader software should be installed on a few computers in each lab to enable students learning portals. Science labs must either be equipped with tools that have braille labeling or include a talking feature. The development will improve the learning process of impaired students. Since the gadgets are cost-driven, policymakers should provide funding to all intuitions of learning.
The aim of providing better accommodations, course materials, examination papers, E-library, visual labs, map applications, and smart devices will improve the quality of learning for impaired and normal students. Thus, students will have access to educational materials prior to the lecture. Since the visually impaired rely highly on the sense of touch, printing graphs, diagrams, and special printers will be provided in faculty halls and classrooms.
Thus, student learning will move from the Stone Age to a more developed environment. These educational materials will provide the student with a better understanding of the subject. Thus, educational caregivers will have less work when education materials and applications are readily available. Awareness campaigns can be used to solicit government and private support. Fundraising dinners can be organized to educate policymakers on the challenges of impaired students. Special intervention funds will be given as a reward to the best graduating student to boost creativity. Consequently, impaired students could form an association that will tackle the challenges encountered.
The American University of Sharjah is, without a doubt, one of the tops and reputed universities in the GCC. The accessibility services provided are certainly valuable. The university has been able to deliver high-quality education to its students via its programs, services, faculty, and department. Thus, the increasing population of special needs students on campus vindicates the position on the school management. Students are provided with special educational materials despite their challenges. It is on record that the population of impaired students in the American university tripled in 2013. The increase is a product of a favorable atmosphere for learning. Impaired students travel the distance to gain quality learning in the university. It is astride worthy of emulation by other universities and colleges of education.
The rising population calls for more learning methods and materials to accommodate and provide quality learning. To assist the school with educational materials and support, I will advocate the creation of an online website for donations to improve funding channels. The school’s alumina can provide personal donations as an example to other charitable organizations. Furthermore, science students should be motivated to building smart applications using open source technology. The application will assist impaired students in building a learning culture. This memo will encourage defaulting institutions to create an enabling environment for impaired students.