Braille System, Computer Technology and Development of Inclusive Pedagogies
MUHMMAD SAJJAD HAIDER, VEHARI
The concept of quality teaching, universalism and inclusive ideas have affected the education in perspective of delimitation of its boundaries in the name of specializations. As a result of this paradigm shift, new avenues have been discovered in the area of pedagogical development in the recent past. In the echo of the slogans of social justice, equality and non-discrimination, the education for the Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) was visualized under one roof with their normal peers and policies were formulated in this direction (Foreman, 2008). Focusing on the story of education for the students with visual impairment, it is posited that it was just a result of the brilliance Louis Braille that he discovered a literacy based pedagogy known as Braille system. Although the Braille System was introduced by Louise Braille as an exclusionary regime in the area of visual impairment but it was a main breakthrough and has the capacity to be compatible with modern ideas of inclusive education. Louis Braille discovered a system by using tactile sense and following the principle of sensory compensation (Rauschecker, 1995). This system provided literacy based instructional methodology and gave the student with visual impairment a channel for interaction and expression with general society. This method was based on the principle of sensory compensation and the tactile pathway was used in this approach. It was the system with embossed dots readable by the tips of the fingers. All the alphabets are written in a six dotted Braille cells. According to Miller (1997), the height of the cell is 6.3 millimeters and the diameter is almost a little more than a millimeter. The space between the dots as recorded by Nolan and Kederis (1969) is 1.5 millimeters. It is a general perception about the Braille that it is a language of people with visual impairment or it is a system of embossed shapes. In fact the Braille shapes just express sounds and any language can be converted and expressed in Braille form. The purpose of this article is to explore new avenues in the direction of curriculum and pedagogy by reviewing the technological options so that the requirements of the students with visual impairment can be fulfilled and they can be included in general classroom according to the spirit of modern ideas.
Louis Braille has accomplished a foundational work for the teaching of the students with visual impairment by introducing the literacy based approach but it has utilized only one sense (touch). On the other hand, it is equally the fact that it has the capacity to extend in different directions according to the requirements of modern ideas in education such as universalism and inclusive approach. In this connection, two considerations are presented herein. Firstly, the use of computer technology can become a cause of development of multisensory and total communication method based protocols for the students with visual impairment. Secondly, the use of computer technology can facilitate the implementation of social model of disability and inclusive regimes in the class room and consequently this approach based on said considerations can become the cause of enhancement in higher order thinking.
The first consideration is based on holistic and multisensory approach for the teaching of the visually impaired students. In this context, Millar (1997) has made an effort to theorize the concept development of shape through tactile sense among the students visual impairment. For this purpose, she has recommended the use of other senses as Horovitz, Lewis, & Luca (1967) has stressed on the use of imaginative abilities in the teaching of students with visual impairment. Barraga (1973) has also discussed this issue and has advised the use of not only other senses but also the whole body and movements. According to him/her in this way a better pedagogy can be developed for the students with visual impairment by following this principle and affirms her argument on the basis of Piaget (1966) theory. The opinion of Heller and Schiff, (1991) resembles with views of the above scholars they declare visual perception as the collective outcome of the performance of other senses. In short the literature written in this paradigm recommends a holistic approach in some way or the other and along with use of Braille or touch sense for the teaching of visually impaired children.
The second consideration of the review is based on implementation of social model of disability and selection of inclusive pedagogies for the teaching of visually impaired children would not only help in development of higher order thinking among these children but also would have its effect on their social inclusion pattern. Hersh and Johnson (2008) have recommended that the intervention for visual impairment should be developed in the light of social model of disability. The social model of disability which is considered as the basis of inclusive ideas and it demands that the system should be according to the needs of the PWDs. Along with literacy oriented pedagogy (Braille) an inclusive approach in teaching will improve their capability to perceive abstractions of both of the areas; literacy and numeracy. Christina & Elkins (2009) has noted their recommendations for both of these areas and there is in-depth discussion on the subject.
Pagliano & Gillies (2009) have defined peer-mediated learning as a procedure in which children learn collectively with mutual help. Further, they focus on peer tutoring in which the students having capability can work their peer with lesser ability. Following this protocol and seeking guidance from the said model students having vision impairment can be attached with their peer who have no more such limitation. Moreover, they have recommended Response to Instructional model (RTI) for curricular adjustment according to the severity of the impairment. This model can also be used for visual impairment as suggested by the Kamie-Hannan et al. (2012).Similarly, along with use of Braille for the children with visual impairment Four Resource Model devised by Luke & Freebody, (1999) can also be followed specifically the activities based on cooperative learning, guidance, sharing and use of computer technology. Furthermore, they also have focused on numeracy noted the strategies for this area but Chapman and Stone (1988) have stressed on a specific language to used in teaching of mathematics for example ‘fewer’ ‘less’ ‘large’ ‘heavier’ ‘equal to’ he recorded(p.119). In short according to this consideration, the strategy for the teaching of visually impaired students should be planned keeping in mind the social model of disability and inclusive protocols.
The third theme emerges in the consequence of above mentioned two considerations which posits that the computer technology can not only be helpful in adopting social model of disability and inclusive protocols for the students with visual impairment but also can provide a support for multisensory approach. The instruments of software technology support the ideas based on universalism and inclusion. Hence, the use of this option can emerge as barrier breaking strategy specifically in the area of visual impairment. Moreover, the software can also help in the development of holistic approach based on total communication method and multisensory protocols and specifically at the stage of middle year level, higher order thinking can be improved. Apart from this, the independence level of the students with visual impairment might be also increased through this adopted strategy. The software which is potentially suggested for the said purpose is discussed below:
Optical Character Recognition:
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology has the ability of scanning the characters and it can change the data into speech or Braille form (Mori et al., 1999).According to the Encyclopedia of New Media, OCR technology changes analog signals to digitalis. Similarly, Sood et al. (2012) has focused on its performance with and without internet connectedness but they have their stress on quality. The functionality of this technology can be understand that it takes picture of the character, recognize and save them. For further extension, it can send the signals of the data for voice production or Braille print (Goto et al., 2007).
In concluding remarks of their research they expressed their claim regarding the accuracy of the software. They have further posited that they have purified the process of the use of OCR from unwanted elements of
sound and scars on paper. They have identified its usages at present as “word processing, mail delivery system scanning, ticket reading” and few others. However, they have foreseen the future prospects of this technology and by declaring that in future the soft form of the data would be used with OCR. Further, they have expressed their vision that in future this technology would also be used with help of Robots and there would be a series of advancement. Mates, (1991) have elaborated its specifications for a better choice that it should be accurate in recognition of the characters. It should identify the margins of the text and size of the paper without any additional instrumental support. Moreover, she stresses on convenience and choice in connection with requirement of lesser efficiency in information technology and the option of compatibility with a broad range of computers. Similarly, Shen & Coughlan, (2012) have introduced their work on OCR with some additional characteristics and claim that their version can search the text from videos. According to them the search ability of the text of their product is not conditional to the user’s capacities but it can to the site of data independently. Furthermore, they also have enunciated their vision that in future the e system would work speedily and accurately. Moreover, Suzuki et al. (2004) have covered the area of mathematical depictions by using XML format. It works with an editing soft device making mathematical description comprehensible for the people with visual impairment.
Jaws is one of the imperative products of the character recognition technology (OCR) and it can change the personal computer into an accessible form for the students with visual impairment. In the written manual training of this software Sweetman (2011) has described its features and choices for the people with visual impairment. According to him, with a little effort all the keys of the computer can be shifted in to talking mode and tell the assignment just by pressing them. Another option, he has introduced for the user or teacher that this software can enable the system to inform its user in speech form about the title of data or web page. It clarifies the alphabets with the common words and save the user from the irritation of ambiguity in sound. Similarly, the software has the option to keep the user aware about the position of the curser and dispense independence in typing. In short, it provides the user assistance in window operating, Microsoft applications and paragraphing of the text. Furthermore, the software with similar characteristic is Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) which fulfills the academic requirements of the students with visual impairment (Wills & Rice, 2013).
Openbook Scanner Software
Another brilliant piece of technology built on the foundation of the advancement of character recognition (OCR) is Openbook Scanner Software. This technology gives an option and freedom of reading to the students with visual impairment. It has the capacity to change written text into speech output. The use of this soft device is just to put the page on scanner and the system will start reading by recognizing the text. Different software versions offer various specifications such as pace of reading, information about change in line or paragraph, skimming and quick reading. Moreover, the characteristics of this technology also facilitates to the students with low-vision by highlighting, masking and contrasting. Furthermore, it is also help in the searching and editing the documentations.
Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT)
This sort of OCR based technology has solved the problem of conversion from ink-print to Braille script and Braille script to ink-print. Duxbury Braille translator (DBT) technology provides facilities of translation in different international languages. Moreover, the sighted users along with visually impaired people and it can produce the text in Braille not only for academic purpose but also official use and fulfill other life requirements. It can translate in both directions and facilitates Microsoft Word and Corel Word Perfect (Duxbury Systems, 2013). The manufacturer of the product claims that it has only six keys function for Braille usage with a connecting ability with a broad range of the key boards. Moreover, it has a flexible system of text designing and it has made easier with the addition of template and a choice of connectivity with all kinds of Braille printers.
Braille system coined by Louis Braille is generally perceived as a code specifically for the people with visual impairment and the advancement in this pedagogy was also only made in the direction of speed in production of text and maintained entity in shape of the Perkin Brailler and Braille press. The mentioned proves that the Braille system has the space of extension and compatibility not only with the modern technologies but also with the modern universal and inclusive trends in education. The reason for the said argument is that Braille system is an effort in itself made from the camp of darkness to the lights of vision. The comparison of this scenario with the picture behind the inclusive education movement shows that there was a similar kind of background despite of global distance between these two scenarios. Besides this, there is also a similarity in underlying principles of Braille system and inclusive education.
Discussing the principles of inclusive education (Foreman, 2008, p. 3) has the four areas on which the philosophy of inclusion is based on. He has stressed on human rights, the rights of children to learn and the rights of to be treated as normal. A view of Braille system using this lens proves that it has also the same principles, perhaps unknowingly or knowingly Louis Braille invented this system to educate the people without vision so that they can live in a general society. It was a process of normalization stated a long time before in the history for the coming people with visual impairment. There was just a distance of time in between. If there is a supposition that the Braille system was not invented, there would have only capacity of audition and memory which could have educate people with visual imperilment and it could be a possibility that they would have been living inside the walls exclusion. It means that system always demand from individual that he should have the ability to get fit in. This fact make it clear that there is need of thinking on social model of disability for the PWDs and it is a new avenue of pedagogical research with the lens of this model and the role of these technologies as the solution to a lot of problems.
Similarly, the Braille system has also the space of extension in the direction of computer technology and it can be said that the use computer technology with Braille can enhance the abilities of the person with visual impairment. For example, there can be limited number of books produced in Braille text or time and other factor can be involved in the process of production of Braille text. On the other hand Openbook Scanner Software gives the choice of reading of any book. Focusing on the students who are at this stage of middle year education, higher order thinking can be developed among the students by providing them plenty of books with multiple ideas and developing and organizing schemas in their minds (Hilton & Hilton, 2005). Moreover the other technologies under the umbrella of OCR also help in capacity building, and teaching the visually impaired students holistically by utilizing all the senses collectively. In this regard, Jaws Software makes it possible to use the computer by the students with visual impairment without any assistance, making the computer talking and providing them a lot of options. Besides this, the scanner soft ware can solve the problem difficult conversion and provide an easier option of individualization of this protocol.
Further it is suggested that the sequential use of the converter and scanner software by the class teacher or the educational institution can become a cause of pedagogical development with inclusive protocols. The text can be produced and convert on both side and the listening of the text with reflection and having the option of writing in both scripts may enhance their thinking abilities as well as the possibility of functioning of their whole body. The Jaws software can complete the task of data creating, data saving and can provide an access to the larger sources of knowledge. Beside this, in-sequence use of this technology develops the capability of command on other computer program which enables the students with visual impairment to work just as their normal peers.
As it has been argued earlier that there was a similar scenario behind the conception of Braille system and the movement of inclusive education, it is also argued that by switching over the Braille with the modern technology and its use in other areas can include the students with visual impairment practically. The abilities such as typing, independent reading, data base consulting gained through these devices bridges a huge gap. The capacity building particularly in reading through Openbook Scanner Software enable a visually impaired student to consult with a broad range of resources and he/she enjoys the facility of easy conversion as well. The use of this technology leaves a very little room for other inclusive procedures such as the area of tertiary prevention of Response to Instruction model (RTI). It utilizes auditory sense and gives visual impression through audition by elaborating the visual data. It is quite possible that there are grey areas in the use of the proposed technology. but they can also be focused following the protocols of peer mediation and collaboration. For example the facilitator of the group student can help in such portion of the lesson which has been missed by the technology. The students with visual impairment can be include in reading by using a little help of software for key word pronouncing and vocabulary development and then proceeding can be continued adopting this design as suggested by Vaughn, Klingner, & Bryant (2001).
Recapitulating the discussion it can be accepted that there was a similarity in the backgrounds of the discovery of Braille System and movement for inclusive education in spite of the temporal and spatial distance. Moreover, both of these paradigms can be noticed on the same footing, established on the platform of the principles of social justice, equality, non-discrimination and normalization. Furthermore, the Braille System has adjoining ability not with computer technology but also with modern ideas in education. Utilizing this quality of the Braille system and the capacities of the technologies, new pedagogies for the students with visual impairment can be developed. This strategy would not only enhance the independence level but it would also open the doors of social inclusion for the people with visual impairment.
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