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Accessible Mathematics for Students with a Visual Impairment Transitioning from High School to College

taught by: Susan Osterhaus

co-presented by: Maylene Bird

Session Summary:

Explore various low-tech and high-tech accessible math tools, technology, and materials appropriate for use by students with a visual impairment transitioning from high school to college.


During this class, we will introduce and allow hands-on exploration of various low-tech and high-tech accessible math tools, technology, and materials appropriate for use by students with a visual impairment enrolled in high school mathematics classes who plan to transition to college, where they plan to take entry level math classes or possibly major in a STEM field. These will include a glimpse at the Nemeth Code (braille for mathematics and science notation), tactile math graphics, and our favorite math tools and technology. We will provide links to resources that will provide more detailed information on many of these and provide opportunities for independent study and review.

There has been a recent resurgence of interest in learning, producing, and using the Nemeth Code, and a proliferation of ways to do so have emerged and continue to grow. These methods need to be accessible to all and meet the needs of the high school and college student, as well as the teachers of said students and even the trainers of teachers.

The need for high quality tactile math graphics to accompany these brailled materials and the ability of students to independently create their own tactile graphics is of paramount interest at this time as well. This includes hard-copy tactile graphics and hands-on accessible drawing boards to high tech refreshable graphic displays that are interactive. That is, students can both interpret an electronic tactile graphic, and they can also create one with the touch of a fingertip.

The accessible math tool box contains both low tech and high tech tools. They each have their place as we prepare students to explore their options of transitioning to college and possibly moving into a STEM career upon graduation.

Although a student in high school with a visual impairment will most likely have a teacher of the visually impaired to assist them, once this student transitions to college, they are on their own unless the college of their choice has a Student Support Services program with knowledgeable staff in the area of accessibility.

We will furnish various vendor contacts and free public resources and demonstration videos. In addition, we will highlight recent inventions designed by MIT engineering graduate students, collaborative efforts of existing companies, and a joint project among a company, schools, a consumer organization of blind individuals, and blind computer science majors. Finally, we will challenge the audience to consider developing new products through collaborative efforts among companies, educators, and students at all levels.

Practical Skills:

  • An overview of the Nemeth Braille Code necessary for math and science notation and where to learn more about it.
  • An overview of tactile graphics, hands-on practice in creating a tactile graphic, and resources to learn more about them.
  • An introduction to various low-tech and high-tech accessible math tools and technology, hands-on experience using them, and resources to learn even more.