Blogs & News

Yellowstone’s Blog (3) Accessible Teaching

  • PowerPoint (or more often Google Slides) isn’t really bad on its own, but the problem is that it’s really easy to make it crazy so a lot of people do.
  • …if I can’t understand what I’m looking at, how am I even supposed to start on the math?
  • [two] teachers… are awesome because they just talk all the time and I’m able to get the same information out of listening.
  • [describing an ideal classroom]… minimal decorations, and probably a chalkboard…instead of a smartboard/projector/TV.
  • The teachers that have worked well for me have all explained things… in words
Photograph of Yellowstone national park with blue pool of steaming water.
Yellowstone is a teenager with CVI who was diagnosed a few years ago.

At open house (a school ‘open day’, when rooms are decorated for visits from the children who will be moving into that class, to meet the teachers and get their schedules) this year I asked one teacher if their room was usually decorated like it was an open house, because it was still decorated as it had been the previous year. They thought I didn’t like the sports teams they had on the walls. Fortunately they like to keep the lights down so the wall decorations don’t pop out as much as they normally would. We all know a clutter-free environment would be better for learning, but probably the issue is that we all think someone else won’t be happy about it.

This teacher really likes to make things ”pretty” and ”interesting” and COMPLETELY INACCESSIBLE. There are often PowerPoint presentations with pictures and crazy colors and a whole bunch of other stuff that distracts from what I’m actually supposed to be reading. I deliberately sit facing away from the TV in their classroom when they do this. My teachers for two other subjects, on the other hand, are awesome because they just talk all the time and I’m able to get the same information out of listening. 

[In response to a comment “there are arguments for banning smart-screens from classrooms and going back to blackboards and chalk, teachers and talk!”]

‘I’ve heard other people say the same thing about going back to blackboards. When I first started going to school it was all smartboards, and now the teachers even have TVs in their classrooms. And they show stuff like this (image below).

a black rectangular card with multiple bright squares and writing in different colours showing a school English schedule.

Everyone I’ve shown this to (regardless of how good their vision is) has said they have trouble making sense of it (my dad is also partially color-blind and couldn’t read the hyperlinks in the pink boxes). I think I read something about trying to make things more engaging for kids with learning disabilities, but I’m not sure how this is good for anyone. 

I know it’s a bad image but by the time assignments get to my class they’ve usually been photocopied beyond recognition, from previous years of teachers using the same assignments, so this kind of makes it more realistic.

I never really figured out how to use a textbook because they (at least the ones I’ve been assigned) have a bunch of pictures and it’s way too complex for me. Textbooks are a lot of information. There’s colorful headings, photographs, sidebars, and a lot of times the actual text is arranged in columns or tables or something that I can’t really make sense of. If there’s a textbook we’re supposed to read, I generally ask to just get a copy of whatever part of it we’re supposed to be reading since I can’t really find it on the page.

PowerPoint (or more often Google Slides) isn’t really bad on its own, but the problem is that it’s really easy to make it crazy so a lot of people do. To make things simpler, I generally just ask for Google Docs, which is capable of being just as crazy but all the ways to make it be like that are hidden from you.

The things that have worked best for me…

  • Classroom: minimal decorations, and probably a chalkboard (or at least a whiteboard, but those are harder for me to read off of because they’re shinier; I generally just tell my teachers to go ahead and write what they want on the board because I’m not looking at it at all) instead of a smartboard/projector/TV. 
  •  Teaching style: someone who talks. The teachers that have worked well for me have all explained things like ”pie charts” in words and have also had more of an emphasis on getting the information across than making it ”pretty”, which brings me to...
  • Teaching materials: I don’t really have a computer/paper preference if the only difference is whether it’s on paper or on the computer, but sometimes I ask for things to be digital just because it’s easier for me to modify them myself. I do like things to just be presented in plain black-on-white paragraph or list format (not tables) without pictures or anything like that, and I like sans serif fonts; usually about 11-14 point. What I tell some of my teachers is to make it as boring as they think they possibly can, and then make it even more boring.

With geometry, I’m not sure you’ve heard of Where’s Waldo? (or Where’s Wally?). For me, looking at a Geometry problem and/or graph is like trying to find Waldo: it’s confusing, pretty much everything looks the same, and it’s hard to tell if you’re looking at something you’ve seen before or if you’re looking at something new. And if I can’t understand what I’m looking at, how am I even supposed to start on the math?

Picture of an owl pointing to a blackboard with the words ’teachers and talk, blackboards and chalk’
Maybe there are arguments for more ‘old school’ approaches of teachers and talk with blackboards and chalk?

HELP SUPPORT US

Your generous donations will be put to immediate use in supporting our charity...

Donate Here

About Us

At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.