Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Straight from the Source: Perceptions of Students with Visual Impairments about Graphic Use

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Straight from the Source: Perceptions of Students with Visual Impairments about Graphic Use

Article excerpt

Visual displays of quantitative data are commonplace in our technological society (Postigo & Pozo, 2004). Increasing demand for the skills and knowledge to efficiently access these data correspond with the emergence of statistics and data management as key elements in school mathematics curricula (Friel, Curcio, & Bright, 2001; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). Reflected in these curricula is the goal that students develop the "ability to interpret and produce graphical representations" (Yeh & McTigue, 2009, p. 435). This skill set is referred to generally as "graphicacy." (Aberg-Bengtsson & Ottosson, 2006). For students with visual impairments, data encoded in visual graphics pose an intuitive challenge, particularly for those studying in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathamatics (STEM; Beck-Winchatz & Riccobono, 2008; Smith & Smothers, 2012). In order to mitigate the impact of vision loss on access to graphical data, teachers of students with visual impairments provide specialized materials and instruction (Rosenblum & Smith, 2012).

Practices and perceptions regarding graphics use by students with visual impairments are primarily understood via research with samples of teachers of students with visual impairments (for instance, Sheppard & Aldrich, 2001) or university programs preparing teachers of students with visual impairments (for instance, Rosenblum & Smith, 2012). Zebehazy and Wilton (2014a) examined practioners' perspectives via an online survey of 306 teachers of students with visual impairments in Canada and the United States. The survey probed their preferences, practices, and beliefs relating to graphics use by students with visual impairments in the areas of quality, instructional practices, and importance of graphics to student learning. Overall, responses emphasized the importance of both tactile graphics and print graphics to learning outcomes for students with visual impairments. In terms of the quality of the graphics, there was a significant difference in how teachers of students with visual impairments rated the appropriateness of adaptations on state or provincial assessments. Participants were more likely to agree that print graphics on large-scale assessments were more appropriately adapted than tactile graphics, but agreement was limited for both formats (less than 50%; Zebehazy & Wilton, 2014a).

This finding is particularly worrisome given the high graphical content of many standardized assessments. Yeh and McTigue (2009) reviewed late elementary and middle school standardized science assessments from 14 U.S. states administered from 2003 through 2007. Results indicated that, of graphical representations found across states and grade levels, nearly 80% were essential to arriving at a correct answer for a given test item (Yeh & McTigue, 2009). Since teachers of students with visual impairments did not enthusiastically endorse the quality of test item adaptations for graphics in both tactile graphic and print graphic formats, students with visual impairments may be at an inherent disadvantage on standardized assessments.

In terms of their own practice related to graphicacy, teachers of students with visual impairments emphasized the importance of providing direct instruction to both tactile graphic and print graphic users beyond what is delivered in the general classroom. However, they were not likely to agree that they instructed students in how to generate their own graphics. Given that graphicacy encompasses both the ability to understand and to create graphics, some students with visual impairments may be missing essential skills for efficient use of graphics at school (Aldrich, Sheppard, & Hindle, 2003).

The literature reviewed thus far has examined the quality and utility of graphics for students with visual impairments from the teacher's perspective. There is a dearth of perception-based research with samples of those school-aged students. …

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