Re: Improving my teaching approach and/or sensitivity

Jean Menzies <jemenzies@...>

Hi Brian,
First, perhaps a better way than asking “How blind are you”, might be to simply ask straight up if the person has any useful residual vision that would be helpful when learning the computer. They will know the answer. lol.
As for directional elements, I am congenitally blind and have no problem with that so far as it goes. However, because JAWS works in a linear fashion, the visual layout doesn’t always match up. For example, when people tell me to click on a link on the left of the page, that has no meaning so far as JAWS is concerned. So, that kind of direction is pointless. Yes, thee are arrows to move left, right, up and down, but that is about as far as is important for me in terms of directional visual concept of layout.
And, you said:
I mean, I realize that a screen reader user does not literally click or right click, but they had ought to know that click translates to select (most of the time), double click translates to activate ...
Gee, huh? I’ve been using JAWS since 2001 and am a fairly decent user. I didn’t know that. I thought click was like pressing enter or spacebar to activate something. I thought double click was like right clicking. And speaking of “clicking”, I still don’t get left and right clicks per se. I know that right click is like bringing up the context menu, but I’m not sure what a left click really is.
I just was wondering why you thought this concept of “clicking” should be obvious to anyone who has never used a mouse.

Sent: Thursday, February 4, 2016 7:35 AM
Subject: Improving my teaching approach and/or sensitivity

Hello All,

          I have recently been e-mailing back and forth with several members here off-forum about topics and issues that go beyond the scope of discussion here.  In the course of a specific exchange, and from the previous occurrence here of someone telling me, "that's a sighted answer," I composed the following in an e-mail, which I'll share here verbatim:


            I actually try to avoid purely visual descriptions to the extent I can.  You may find the following amusing, and it took me a long time to get comfortable asking it, but the first question I ask any of my clients when we start tutoring is, "How blind are you?"  I often have very sketchy information about what residual vision, if any, they have and it's critical to know that (and whether it will remain) as far as how to approach certain things.  I then follow up with, "Has your vision always been this way or could you see previously?"  Both of these answers factor in to whether I ever mention specific colors, for instance, because the actuality, as opposed to the abstract concept, of color is meaningless to those who've never had the sensory experience of color.  Everyone, though, has to have the concepts of left, right, up, down in both the vertical and horizontal planes, so I don't hesitate to say something like "at the lower right" because I know that that translates in a very specific way once you have any orientation at all to "how you get where" in relation to your own computer screen.  If this is a bad idea, for reasons I can't fathom as a sighted person, I welcome suggestions as to what is more appropriate and efficient for communicating location information for access.  Mind you, I do use specifics like "in the main menu bar," "in the insert ribbon," "4th button over by tabbing," etc..
            I've never understood "the furor" that some people get into over the use of common computer actions like click, right click, triple-finger double-tap, etc.  I mean, I realize that a screen reader user does not literally click or right click, but they had ought to know that click translates to select (most of the time), double click translates to activate, there exists a "right click" function to allow you to bring up context menus (which are often a godsend), etc.  This is a situation where I actually feel it's incumbent on the student to ask if they do not understand what a specific "sighted" reference which is what they'll always be hearing from someone other than a fellow screen reader user translates to in "screen-readerese."  You're never going to get a sighted assistant telling you to "press spacebar to select/activate" something, they'll tell you either to select it or to click on it.  If you go to training classes for non-screen reader software you absolutely have to know and understand how common computing control jargon "translates" for you.  Mind you, if I've got an absolute beginner I teach the translation at the outset but what I don't do is use screen readerese unless it's essential.  I think that limits independence rather than building it.


Just as I said yesterday that it is members of the cohort here, not I, who are best able to determine if a given document is accessible via JAWS.  The cohort here is also better able to instruct me in where my assumptions, presumptions, techniques may either be completely wrong or in need of some improvement.

The only thing I will ask is that if something in the above is considered really offensive, please don't excoriate me about that, but make me aware that it is offensive and why.  I am honestly trying to get better at what I do both as a tutor and as a sighted person working with people with visual impairments.  I know that my frame of reference is different than yours, or at least could be, and that it may be in need of adjustment.  The only way I can make that adjustment is to put my thoughts out there and ask for help.

I'll close with a quotation from Carlin Romano that I think has direct parallels here, "When intellectuals take their ideas to the mass market, they are not just doing a good deed for the mass market. They are doing a good thing for themselves.  The mass marketplace of ideas proves to be a better critic of big assumptions in any field than is the specialized discipline, or one's peers."


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