OKLAHOMA CITY – Any high school student would rather use an iPad in class instead of a regular, old textbook. For Southmoore junior Katie Loman, who has a visual disability, a 1.45 pound iPad not only customizes print size, it liberates her from juggling more than 60 pounds of text books.
Students with visual impairments generally use three large print books for each standard print book. Braille students use seven to ten volumes.
Loman, age 17, is crazy about her iPad. It’s on loan from the Accessible Instructional Material Center at the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
She has the developmental reading disorder dyslexia and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid and can inflame and swell eye tissue.
“I take pictures of everything, notes on the board, anything I can’t see well like a test … and blow it up so I can see it better and not have to strain so much,” Loman explained. “On a lot of math tests, I used to need somebody watching to make sure I was putting them (the answers) in the right order, but now I’m able to double-check … and say, ‘OK, I’ve got it.’”
The Library for the Blind, a Visual Services program at the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, currently has only29 iPads available to loan through their AIM Center. Even with donations this year of 10 iPads from the non- -profit organization Oklahomans for Special Library Services, more than 760 legally blind students who could benefit are waiting for iPads.
“There is a huge, huge waiting list and so many kids that need them and want them,” AIM Center Director Pepper Watson said. “Using an iPad for classwork sets blind students apart in a good way, unlike older disability-specific technology that made them look and feel so different from other students.”
The benefits of textbooks on iPads include the ability to vary features to accommodate students’ individual visual needs.
“I can customize everything, even the color, which is good for me because I have it color coded to help me with certain words,” Loman explained. “If I’m using my math book, I’ll make it smaller so I can see the full equation. When I’m reading a book, I’ll have it on 50 (points).”
Point size is a measurement used in graphic design and printing. Newspaper print is generally 9.5 points.
“You can set the speed to super slow or really, really fast,” she said. “I can have it up almost all the way. Sometimes when I’m with my mom we’ll listen to books together, but I’ll put it in the middle speed because it’s good for her.”
A new Apple application became available in January that connects iPads to Braille equipment for translation into Braille that can be read beneath the standard keyboard.
The transition to iPads also saves money, according to Watson: “The library can purchase one iPad with a protective case for $600 compared to $2,000 for each braille textbook or $450 for each large print book.
“A lot of people wonder why I get the iPad,” Loman explained. “It is kind of like a personal question. If it’s a close friend, I say it’s to see if the iPad can help kids with seeing impairments. If they’re not, I just say it’s an experiment I’m helping with.
“Then they ask, ‘Does that mean that kids like me can get on next year?’” Loman explained with a laugh.
The AIM Center maintains a central collection of braille and large print textbooks, novels and other specialized instructional materials for loan to Oklahoma students who cannot use standard print. The program serves children from birth through 12th grade who attend school, are home schooled or receive services from SoonerStart. They must be blind or visually impaired, or have a physical disability or medically diagnosed learning disability.
“We have worked with the Library for the Blind from the git go – that’s just our main source for what is new, what’s available, what funds are available,” Moore Public School Teacher of the Visually Impaired Theresa Bleecker said.
The AIM Center lends instructional materials for students to use as long as needed during the school year.
For more information, contact the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at 405-521-3514 in the Oklahoma City area, 800-523-0288 toll free or firstname.lastname@example.org www.library.state.ok.us .