Re: Improving my teaching approach and/or sensitivity

Adrian Spratt

Soronel, I'm glad for your reminder of the visual cortex cause of blindness. The NIH broadcast a lecture last year on this subject. As you explain, it calls for a very different approach to managing the disability, including how to conceptualize JAWS functions.

-----Original Message-----
From: Soronel Haetir []
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2016 3:10 PM
Subject: Re: Improving my teaching approach and/or sensitivity

I would say that while 'click' is a common enough action, and possibly
right click (depending on audience) for anything less common you
should state the desired action ("select the text to copy") before any
means of accomplishing it.
I am extremely computer literate (I worked as a computer programmer
before my health unrelated to blindness made employment no longer an
option) and still mess with it as a serious hobby, and I could not
tell you what commands the newer style gestures invoke (I could of
course look it up, but that is beside the point for instruction).

I used to talk with someone who had enormous problems even with
directions (up/down/left/right) and building up the sort of visual map
you talk about. Her blindness stemmed from an unformed visual cortex
rather than anything actually wrong with her eyes. It turns out those
same brain circuits are involved in picture development whether
something is seen or not. So even the assumption that someone can
relate to that sort of description is not necessarily well founded.
Ina case like that you definitely need to stick with instructions like
"hit tab until you reach the 'Fonts' button", rather than "tab down to
the fonts button". The down in that case was something she would have
to take time to translate to something meaningful to her.

On 2/4/16, Brian Vogel <> wrote:
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

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."


Soronel Haetir

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