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Welcome to Challenge Solutions

Hello, and welcome to Challenge Solutions. This website is created and maintained by a group of blind students for blind students and their teachers. Our mission is to provide lessons about life and technology for the blind and visually impaired via our blog, podcast, and YouTube channel. To have our latest activity around the Internet sent to your inbox, please subscribe to this blog at the bottom of the page. If you have questions for us or suggestions for future content, please reach out via the contact form in the top menu.

Halloween Activities for Blind and Visually Impaired Children

In this video, Macy gives some examples of Halloween activities that blind and visually impaired children can enjoy with parents, teachers, and friends. Below is a list of these activities. 


Carving or Painting Pumpkins: If your child is young, you can do all the carving and let them scoop out the inside of the pumpkin and pick out the seeds for baking. When you’re finished carving, let the child feel the face or picture on the pumpkin, and you can place the candle inside together. If your child or student is a little older, you can guide their hand and cut the outlines of the shapes together. Another option is to use puff paint to outline the face of a jack-o-lantern and let your child or student fill in the shapes with flat, black paint. 

Hay Rides: Hay rides are a common activity for Halloween parties and fall festivals, and they can be fun for blind and sighted children. A parent or teacher might want to accompany the visually impaired child for their first ride, but after that, if sighted children are riding alone, it is probably perfectly fine to let your blind child or student ride alone. Just be sure to orient them to the trailer before the other children get on. 

Bonfires: Along the same lines, bonfires are fall activities that people all over the world enjoy, and this should not be any different for a blind child. Let your child hold a stick and roast a marshmallow. Let him or her smell the smoke and feel the warmth of the fire, and if the child is young, teach them about fire safety, and show them how to stay a safe distance away from the heat. Invite some friends and family members to join in on the fun, and allow your child to socialize. Maybe play some fun party games and make it an event. 

Decorating: Whether you’re decorating a house or a classroom, preparing an area for fall can be a fun learning opportunity for blind children. Keep in mind that children with low vision cannot see decorations in houses, classrooms, and stores. They may not understand which places are appropriate for which decorations, so decorating together gives you the perfect opportunity to teach those skills

Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Hide some braille clues around a large area, such as a house or park, and be sure one clue leads to the next. If sighted students are playing, print out braille decoder sheets for them. You can hand out prizes at the end of the hunt or make it a competition to see who reaches the end first. To add a Halloween twist, place slime, plastic spiders, or other spooky items around the clues for the kids to feel. 

Skeleton Game: Buy some plastic skeletons, and be sure their heads and limbs are detachable. Take the skeletons apart and place the pieces of each in its own bag. Blindfold any sighted children, and hand the bags out. The first person to put their skeleton together correctly wins the game. 

Texture Games: Mix two types of Halloween materials together in a big bowl, such as candy corn and plastic spiders. Blindfold any sighted players, and give each player a small bag. The goal of the game is to pick out one type of material and not the other. For example, each piece of candy corn in a child’s bag might be worth one point, and each spider might be negative five points. The person with the most points at the end wins. You can make this game harder by changing the materials (for example, using similar candy bars) or by only allowing the players to use one hand. 

Make Costumes: This activity will look different for everyone. Find a costume idea, and have your blind child or student help make it. This could be an opportunity to teach sewing, gluing, knot-tying, and many other valuable skills. 

Read Books and Watch Movies: A lot of the Halloween culture today is based off of popular books and movies. Be sure that any child who is interested has the opportunity to experience this part of our culture. The American Printing House for the Blind and bookshare.org are two good resources for finding popular books in braille, and Halloween movies with audio descriptions can be found on streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+. However, many blind children prefer to read and watch movies with family members and friends, so you can take turns reading aloud and describe your movies verbally. 

Tips for Science Teachers with Blind or Visually Impaired Students

In this video, Caitlyn provides ten tips for science teachers with blind or visually impaired students. Below, you will find a written list of the tips along with links to the resources mentioned in the video.


1. Maintain constant communication with your student and their TVI, (teacher of the visually impaired). Try to get your lesson plans to the tVI ahead of time so that they can evaluate the assignments for accessibility and modify them as needed. Remember that all blind people are different, just like all sighted people are different. Each blind or visually impaired student is going to have a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and needs. These tips can serve as general guidelines for making your classroom accessible and inclusive, but only your student and their TVI can tell you how to best meet the needs of your particular student in any given situation.

2. Be descriptive when you are teaching. Some science classes can have a lot of visual elements, and it is important to provide your blind student with context for what is going on visually. Make sure you describe any pertinent visual aspects of experiments like light, color, motion, etc. You may also need to describe the visual layout of equations and charts. Your student’s TVI can provide tactile graphics as needed. just make sure you get the material to the TVI at least a week in advance so they have plenty of time to adapt it.

3. Use accessible materials. Many online programs like IXL and Kahoot are not accessible for blind students. If you plan on using these tools in your classroom, you will need to work with your student’s TVI to come up with alternative assignments for your blind student. One option is to have your blind student do work out of the textbook while your sighted students complete interactive online activities, or your student’s TVI may be able to create accessible copies of the assignments.

4. Use tactile manipulatives whenever possible. There are many kits available that contain tactile graphics, braille charts, and print/braille numbers and symbols that can be used to demonstrate concepts to your blind student. Plastic skeletons, fake or real plants, and models of the solar system can be beneficial for your blind student as well as your sighted students. The more hands-on you can be, the more your blind student will take away from your class. The following links will take you to some useful braille and tactile resources:

5. Make sure experiments are accessible and inclusive. Many experiments are not useful for blind students because they require the observation of color and other visual elements. Try to choose experiments that your blind students can hear and touch, and make sure you describe what is happening visually in detail. If you have your students working in groups to complete experiments, one option is to have the sighted students describe their research findings in detail, and the blind student can be responsible for recording the data and turning in the worksheet. You will need to consult your student and their TVI on a case by case basis for experiments in order to modify them as needed. Each visually impaired student is at a different skill level, so some may be more comfortable participating directly in experiments than others. For instance, some visually impaired students are perfectly capable and comfortable measuring and pouring liquids for experiments, while others would rather be the notetaker for the group or be given an alternate assignment.

6. lessen your blind student’s workload for some assignments. It is not necessary to modify all assignments, but some things like reading tactile graphics, solving equations, and looking things up on the periodic table are very time consuming for blind students. If the assignment requires solving equations or reading charts, there is no need to make your blind student answer a hundred questions if they can master the concept by answering ten.

7. Work one-on-one with your blind student as needed. Some concepts will be more difficult for your blind student to grasp, and they may need some supplemental instruction using tactile manipulatives.

8. Adapt group projects as needed. Many sighted students do not understand how to interact with blind students in a constructive way, and asking your blind student to participate in group projects that require a lot of math or visual elements can sometimes be detrimental to both your blind student and the sighted students n the group. Work with your student’s TVI on a case by case basis to determine whether or not each group project is appropriate for your blind student and adapt it as needed.

9. Provide descriptions for images and videos as well as video transcripts. Make sure you describe any visual elements of videos that aren’t apparent based on the narration, and describe any images and charts that you use in class. you can also have your student’s TVI create tactile representations of images. It can be difficult for blind students to follow videos, so having a transcript that they can read and keyword search is very beneficial.

10. Challenge your blind student just as you would any other student. Some elements of science classes are extremely difficult without vision, but blind students are perfectly capable of succeeding in the STEM field if the proper accommodations are made.

An Introduction to the Focus 40 Blue Refreshable Braille Display

In this video, Caitlyn provides an introduction to the Focus 40 Blue’s features and briefly explains the functionality of each of the buttons.

A Comparison of Three Screen Readers: JAWS, NVDA, and Voiceover

In this video, Caitlyn compares and contrasts the top three screen readers: JAWS, NVDA, and Voiceover.

Tips for Math Teachers with Blind or Visually Impaired Students

In this video, Caitlyn shares ten tips for math teachers with blind or visually impaired students. These tips are primarily directed at elementary and high school math teachers, but some can be applied to college professors as well. Below, you will find a written summary of the tips.


1. Be descriptive. Make sure that your lessons can be followed with no visual context. Vague visual statements like, “We’ll move this over here,” are not helpful for blind and visually impaired students. Be specific about what you are doing with the numbers on which side of the equation.

2. Make sure you get all of your course materials to your student’s TVI, (teacher of the visually impaired). Your student’s TVI will be able to evaluate the materials to determine whether or not they will work for the student in question and adapt them as needed. It is crutial to get the materials to the TVI at least a week in advance because converting math assignments into braille and creating tactile graphics is very time consuming.

3. Make sure that your blind or visually impaired student understands the visual layout of math problems. This may sound contradictory, but math is a very visual subject, and your blind student needs to have some degree of context for what is happening visually. If they don’t know what an equation looks like, balancing both sides of the equation won’t make much sense. If your student is a braille reader, it is extremely important that they both read and solve the majority of their math problems in hard copy braille on paper so that they can fully grasp the layout of things. Failing to understand this early on will make more advanced math classes extremely difficult.

4. Be hands on. Make sure you are working with your blind student in a way that they can understand. Bring in manipulatives to explain concepts in a more tangible way. Show your student a cube and explain how the sides of the 3D object relate to the two dimensional representation of a cube on a page, (your student’s TVI can create the tactile graphic for this). You might also consider using a Math Window so that you and your blind student can solve problems together. A Math Window is a magnetic panel with print/braille numbers and symbols. This should not be used as a replacement for solving problems in braille on paper, but it can be useful for teaching new concepts and making sure your blind students understand how to solve problems without the delay of waiting on a TVI to translate braille assignments.

5. Use accessible resources. Online programs like IXL and Kahoot will not work for your blind student. If you plan on using these tools in your classroom, you will need to work with your student’s TVI to come up with alternative assignments for your blind student.

6. Work one-on-one with your blind student. It will most likely take your blind student longer to fully grasp certain mathematical concepts because they are so visual. It may be necessary to work one-on-one with your blind student before and/or after class to ensure that they understand the layout of the problems, know how to set them up in braille, and understand the process for solving them. It can be beneficial for some students to have your student’s TVI braille a list of the steps needed to solve each type of problem. You may also wish to use a Math Window to present visual concepts like factor trees to ensure that your student understands what they are before you discuss them in class with your sighted students. Even if you are being specific with your descriptions, your blind student most likely will not be able to keep up with everything you do in class without supplemental instruction.

7. Familiarize yourself and your blind student with the TI-84 graphing calculator. The only accessible graphing calculator is the Orion TI-84 Plus which is a version of the TI-84 that has been modified to provide auditory feedback for the blind. This is the calculator that your blind student will be expected to use on the ACT and any other standardized math test.

8. Be careful with group projects. In general, it is best to avoid group projects in math classes with blind students. Most sighted students do not understand how to communicate mathematical concepts in a way that blind students can understand. Putting your blind student in a group of sighted students who don’t know how to interact with them can set both your blind student and the sighted students in their group further behind. If you wish to have group projects in your class, it could provide an opportunity to work one-on-one with your blind student while your sighted students work in groups. You can consider having your blind student participate in group projects if the projects involves a concept that the blind student understands very well, and/or if you have a group of sighted students who will work well with your blind student. This is something to discuss with your blind student and their TVI.

9. Lessen your blind student’s work-load when possible. It takes blind students a long time to solve math problems. One algebra problem might take your blind student an hour and six sheets of braille paper to solve. If they can demonstrate that they understand the concept and can apply it to a variety of problems by solving ten problems, there is no need to make them solve a hundred problems.

10. Challenge your blind student. Being blind makes math difficult, but it does not make it impossible. Some blind students go on to work in computer science and other STEM fields. while you should give them fewer problems when possible, you should also give them problems of progressing complexity just as you would your sighted students as they demonstrate that they are ready for them. They will definitely hate you in the moment for making them spend their Saturdays solving seemingly impossible math problems in braille, but they will probably eventually thank you for not simply letting them pass because they are blind. Equality does not just mean providing equal access to educational materials; it also means providing equivalent challenges. I am forever grateful to all of the teachers who pushed me to do more than most of the sighted world believed I could.

Example Emails to College Representatives

As you prepare to make decisions about where to attend college or university, it is important that you reach out to the institutions you are considering to ask questions about your accommodations and gain general knowledge about the college or university from a representative. In the video below, Macy shares her personal experiences and gives advice on when and how blind and visually impaired students should go about contacting colleges. 

 

Click here for the video. 

 


To supplement the video, we have drafted some examples of well-written emails to college representatives. Feel free to base your own emails off these templates. 

 

Email to Admissions 

 

Hello, 

I am a Senior at Nonexistent High School, and I am considering attending the University of Nowhere after graduation. I am legally blind, and I have some questions regarding my accommodations, as well as some general questions about your university. Is there a time when I can call you to discuss these? 

 

Thank you, 

John Doe 

 

Email to Disability Services 

 

Hello, 

I am a Senior at Nonexistent High School, and I am considering attending the University of Nowhere after I graduate this coming May. I am legally blind, and I have received several specific accommodations throughout my elementary and high school education. I hope to make the transition to college as smooth as possible, so I would like to speak with you about my current accommodations and needs. Is there a time when we can meet virtually to discuss my accommodations and your policies regarding students with visual impairments? ? 

 

Thank you,

Jane Doe 

College Research Tips for Blind Students

In this video, Macy provides tips for researching colleges. Below, you will find a worksheet that will help you keep track of important information about the colleges you are interested in.


College Research Worksheet

  • College/university:
  • City:
  • Average tuition: (if out of state for Arkansas students)

Location:

  • Distance from home:
  • Public transportation:
  • City/campus layout:
  • Friends/relatives in the area:
  • Other notes:

Admissions office contact info:

  • Email:
  • Phone number:

Questions for admissions:

  • Get information about your degree program and disability services.
  • Will there be any campus/virtual tours that you could attend?
  • Get any relevant contact information that wasn’t accessible via the web site.

Your thoughts:

  • Did they take time to answer your questions thoroughly?
  • Did they seem educated and confident when they spoke?
  • Did they seem friendly and happy to help you?
  • Other notes:

Degree program:

  • Graduation rate:
  • Student reviews:
  • Credit hours needed to graduate:
  • Classes per semester:
  • Total time it will take to earn degree:
  • Class relevance: (Are the classes required relevant to the career you intend to pursue?)

Department contact info: (if necessary)

  • Department head:
  • Email:
  • Phone number:

Questions for department head:

  • Have they had a visually impaired student before?
  • If so, how did they accommodate for that student?
  • (Add questions specific to your area of study)

Your thoughts:

  • Did they take time to answer your questions thoroughly?
  • Did they seem educated and confident when they spoke?
  • Did they seem friendly and happy to help you?
  • Other notes:

Disability services contact info:

  • Low vision coordinator:
  • Email:
  • Phone:

Questions for disability services:

  • Testing policy:
  • Format for class materials (textbooks, modified assignments, etc.):
  • Ask about your specific accommodations.

Your thoughts:

  • Did they take time to answer your questions thoroughly?
  • Did they seem educated and confident when they spoke?
  • Did they seem friendly and happy to help you?
  • Other notes:

Overall experience with college/university:

Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra with Voiceover for mac OS

In this video, Caitlyn provides a walk-through of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra with a screen reader. This tutorial is done using Voiceover on a Mac in safari, but some of the concepts can be applied to JAWS and NVDA for Windows.

Using Google Classroom for iOS with Voiceover

Google Classroom is the learning management system used by most public schools in Arkansas. The Classroom app for iOS is typically the easiest platform for blind and visually impaired students to access their Google classes. In this video, Macy talks about Google Classroom and discusses the layout of the Classroom app.

Click here for the video.

General Guidelines For Making Online Classes Accessible to Blind and Visually Impaired Students

1. Maintain a consistent layout for the online course. Screen reader users tend to memorize the layout of websites they visit often. It is difficult for blind and visually impaired students to quickly scan webpages for newly added content, so it is important that new information is consistently posted to the same location within the online learning platform. For instance, you can create a folder for weekly lessons and pin it to the course menu within Blackboard. If the newest material always shows up at the bottom of the folder, it will be very easy for screen reader users to find it. Do not change up the layout randomly or move things unnecessarily, as this can drastically throw off your blind students’ workflow.

2. Add alt-text to all of the images in the online course. Alt-text is a way of providing image descriptions to the blind and visually impaired. If images do not contain alt-text, screen reading software will simply read the default name given to the image file or say that it is an unlabeled image. This can be a big problem if assignments rely on information contained within charts and info graphics or if important announcements are posted in the form of pictures. The following links explain alt-text further and provide instructions on how to apply it in commonly used programs:

3. Be descriptive in lectures and video presentations. Do not use vague, visual words such as, “Let’s move this down here”. This does not give blind students verbal context for what is happening visually. Make sure that all visual content is described well enough that it can be understood only by listening to the auditory explanation.

4. Provide the slides from lectures and video presentations in an accessible, downloadable format. Blind students cannot see slideshows that are presented within lectures or video files. It is important to provide a copy of the slideshow as a Word doc, text-based PDF, or accessible Powerpoint file that blind students can download. Your student’s TVI or university access office can help make sure the files are accessible.

5. Make sure all of the documents in the online course are accessible. Pictures of hard copy documents that are saved as PDf’s are not accessible to screen reader users. All documents must be text-based, and images embeded in the documents must contain alt-text. Word docs are generally best for most screen reading software and assistive technology. Text-based PDF’s and Powerpoint files can work with some screen readers and assistive technology. Your student’s TVI or university access office can make sure the files are accessible.

6. Avoid assignments that use the Blackboard discussion forum. The Blackboard discussion forum is technically accessible, but it is extremely difficult and confusing to navigate with screen reading software. It is best for blind students to simply hold class discussions over Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

7. Avoid drag-and-drop assignments. Blind students cannot use the mouse effectively. Therefore, most drag-and-drop assignments are not accessible. Any assignment that requires dragging and dropping will need to be converted to an alternative, accessible format.

8. Avoid matching assignments. Screen reader users can read only one line of text at a time. This makes matching assignments extremely difficult, confusing, and time consuming for blind students because they have to scroll up and down between the questions and answer choices. simple multiple choice or short answer questions are best for most blind students.

9. Avoid services like ProctorU and respondus Monitor. ProctorU is technically accessible, but it is an absolute nightmare to navigate with a screen reader. Respondus Monitor was not accessible the last time it was tested by any of our team members. Respondus Lockdown Browser without Monitor is accessible on Mac OS with Voiceover, but it was not accessible on Windows or IOS the last time our team tested it. It is best to provide exams for blind students without third party proctoring services. Another option is to have a proctor stay in a Zoom or Collaborate session with them as they are taking the test.

10. Communication is key. It is important for students, instructors, TVI’s, and university access departments to be kept up to date on any accessibility issues with online classes so that they can be addressed quickly and prevent blind students from falling behind.


Click here to view the related YouTube video and here to listen to the podcast episode.