Computer skills boost for visually-impaired students at NMMU

JULY 5, 2016

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s School of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) has identified a serious need among its visually-impaired students, for assistance with computer skills.

Visually-impaired students already use specialised devices to participate in all their lectures, which include recording devices, laptops and headphones, but they require additional assistance for computer-based work.

To boost their computer skills, which are essential for their studies and future careers, the School of ICT, in association with the University’s Disability Unit, recently hosted a Jaws (Job Access with Speech) Training Workshop.

Jaws is a screen reader programme, specifically designed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse.

Jaws training instructor and software provider Bruno Savaria said: “The programme reads out loud what is on the screen for a particular individual, who then uses that information to navigate around the screen.”

Jaws training was attended by School of ICT lecturers, Disability Unit representatives and visually-impaired students.

The School of ICT lecturers were impressed with how well the students took to Jaws, said the School of ICT’s Public Relations Intern Siphe Mwellie.

“They explained that the ICT programme was challenging even for people who can see … The difficulty for visually-impaired students is that their interaction with the computer is done without the screen and the mouse, and completely relies on using the keyboard, which is like learning a new language altogether.”

On the last day of the Jaws training, the students completed a test to make sure they understood the information they had learnt during the week and could apply it to their daily learning environment.

The School of ICT is looking into making this workshop an annual event for visually-impaired students.