Thursday, 03 January 2013
A Computing lecturer at the University of Worcester developed a unique device to help a blind student understand part of the course.
When Dr Colin Price teaches his students about ‘logic gates’, on his Nature of Computing module, the norm is to use a set of graphics. However, when he realised that Alex Williams’ screen-reader could not cope with images, he had to think of another way to help explain the theory to her.
Dr Price, who is a National Teaching Fellow, developed a small computer which allowed Alex to use her fingers to make electrical connections between copper strips laid out on a board to represent the inputs to the logic gate. The output of the gate was audible, as a clear beep.
“I was riding home on my bike thinking about how to interface a blind student with a computer, and the idea of making real electrical connections using fingers and copper strips to provide inputs popped into my head,” Dr Price said. “The use of sound as an output was fairly obvious.”
“Alex learned the layout of the computer quickly; using the strips and the telephone-like keypad through which she selected the exercises I had programmed for her,” Dr Price added. “I gave Alex the same worksheet as all the other students in the class, but I removed the diagrams and provided directions on how to use the computer. But the content of the worksheet was identical as were the challenges and investigations.”
Alex, age 21, said the device helped her to learn what would have otherwise been a difficult concept.
“Not many lecturers would go to so much effort,” she said. “It was really fantastic and I found it so easy to use and it really helped me to learn about the logic gates.”
Alex, who is in her final year studying for a BSc Computing, is hoping to work in IT after graduation and said she would like to design technology to help blind and visually impaired people.