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System Aims to Expand Access to Math Resources for Visually Impaired Students

A new technology project, funded by the National Center for Special Education Research, aims to provide visually impaired students with broadened access to math coursework and assessments from their computers. The solution was presented recently at a research forum in Washington, DC.

The system, developed in tandem by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and Design Science, Inc. (DSI), includes "advanced synthetic speech and interactive navigation software in its programming," said Lois Frankel, principal investigator for the project and senior assessment specialist at ETS, in a prepared statement. The new programming, she elaborated, "allows the audio portions of an assessment to either supplement Nemeth Code -- the highly specialized braille code for mathematics and science -- or provide an alternative to it for blind students who are not familiar with Nemeth Code."

The technology aims to create a familiar learning experience for the student, according to Beth Brownstein, senior Assessment Specialist at ETS and Math Accessibility Lead for the project, by incorporating language commonly used by teachers to describe math concepts. "This means that the audio portions of the assessments will be familiar to students, making it easier for them to understand the math spoken by the computers," Brownstein explained.

Neil Soiffer, senior scientist at DSI and Technical Lead for the project, reported that the system "already works with the software and screen readers that teachers and students currently use."

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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