On the need for blind-accessible textbooks and journals in the life sciences

Charles Delwiche delwiche at sunflower.bio.indiana.edu
Mon Feb 22 10:54:37 EST 1993

In article <1m9mocINNfiq at MACAW.ZOO.CS.YALE.EDU> weed-matthew at cs.yale.edu (Matthew Weed) writes:
>Just after Thanksgiving (US), I posted a note about the need for
>blind-accessible textbooks and journals.

[useful information about electronic textbooks deleted]

>As a blind student of the life sciences, I know well how important
>increased availability of texts is.

You know, I've been thinking about this since your initial posting.  I
don't have anything to contribute in terms of text books, but the
posting got me to thinking about learning the biological sciences as a
blind person.

I would appreciate a discussion of what you find useful, and what you
(a blind student) find frustrating in biological sciences education.
Certain things are obvious, like not giving a lecture based entirely
on slides, pointing to each one and saying "This is a thingamajabber,
and a whatchamacallit looks like this".  And it is clear that some
disciplines would be much easier than others (I work with microscopic
organisms, which would create obvious difficulties).  One could get
around many difficulties using models and well designed hands-on
laboratories.  But there is a lot that is not so obvious.  As a
sighted person, biology is to me very much a visual discipline, but
I'm sure I would be just as interested in the subject if I were blind.
So the question is, how can I most effectively communicate both the
information and the fascination to a blind person.

Given adequate money and time I can imagine high-tech solutions to
most of the problems, but I suspect that there are simpler and cheaper
ways around many of them.  In general my feeling is that the best way
to provide access is to design a curriculum for all students that
minimizes barriers, although in some cases individual instruction and
taylor-made projects would be necessary.

Any insights?

Charles F. Delwiche       |  'O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
Dept. Biology, I.U.       |      The Walrus did beseech.
Bloomington, IN 47405     |  'A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
[delwiche at bio.indiana.edu]|      Along the briny beach'. -- L. Carrol

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