After having their in-person instruction cut short by COVID-19, Michigan State University is taking steps to improve their online learning programs for blind students.
The school says that beginning in the fall 2020 semester, The MSU Resource Center for Person with Disabilities will provide electronic braille displays to all incoming blind students. This will make MSU the first university to make the technology broadly available to students at no cost.
“The transition to online learning during the pandemic has been especially difficult for braille readers. Previously these students would work with our office to receive large printouts of braille on paper for their classes. That isn’t practical in an online setting,” said Michael Hudson, director of the resource center in a news release. “With the support of our donors, we can now provide accessible braille through a refreshable display no matter where a student resides and without the challenges of paper printing and delivery.”
“Pursuit of a college degree requires extensive reading and for people who are blind, that means braille. This technology will build fluency, speed availability and grow technical sophistication to assist students in reaching their fullest potential,” Hudson added. “MSU has a tradition of growing leaders and showcasing that disability need not stop progress. Providing electronic braille displays to enhance academic achievement is another way we help our students succeed.”
The displays work by raising and lower braille pins to that the students can read the words in a document. It can be powered by either a computer or smartphone and will be paired with accessible books and other available campus materials.
Each display costs about $3,000. They will be provided to qualifying students thanks to the support of the Angela Sebald Ability Access Fund, Carlson Accessible Media Program, and Emerging Opportunities Endowment.