Access and Challenges of Assistive Technology Application: Experience of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments in Singapore
Purpose: Assistive Technology (AT) enables persons with visual impairments to lead independent and productive lives. Teachers play an important role in facilitating education for students with visual impairments. This study describes the experiences of AT use by teachers of students with visual impairments in Singapore.
Method: 6 teachers were recruited from the only school for the blind in Singapore. In-depth interviews were conducted in order to understand beliefs, practices and needs regarding the use of AT. The teachers were asked: how they learnt AT, where they acquired the knowledge, how they used AT in their teaching, what were the challenges or successes experienced. Qualitative thematic content analysis was used to evaluate the transcriptions.
Results: There was unequivocal recognition that AT is a facilitator for accessing information and improving the quality of life for students with visual impairments. At the same time, there were indications of significant gaps and disconnection in AT knowledge and skill among teachers. A noteworthy feature was the use and teaching of AT being driven by a teacher champion. Other focal areas include teaching of Braille and AT, whether AT is to be taught as a curriculum or enrichment subject, and whether the integration of AT is overlooked. The findings also point to limitations in resources, and inadequacies in pre-service training and professional development.Conclusion: Knowledge of AT is inadequate and its use by teachers of students with visual impairments is inconsistent. AT needs to be viewed as a complementary tool to aid teaching; not as something separate and a competitor to Braille. These gaps can be addressed by improving pre-service, in-service and professional development courses for teachers.
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