Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

ICT Accessibility and Usability to Support Learning of Visually-Impaired Students in Tanzania

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

ICT Accessibility and Usability to Support Learning of Visually-Impaired Students in Tanzania

Article excerpt


The rapid development coupled with widespread adoption of technology has fundamentally changed almost every aspect of life. For example, in education, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have changed the way of accessing and utilising learning, teaching and research resources. Despite the availability of a growing number of technology-enhanced and sophisticated assistive devices that provide alternative formats to support the learning of visually-impaired students, there are numerous challenges in when it comes to accessing and using ICTs tools at the University of Dar es Salaam. For example, limited availability of specialised disabledfriendly hardware and software resources, limited flexibility in training options for students with disability, attitude barriers towards people with disability, lack of appropriate disabled-friendly policies and their implementation strategies (see Wyclife & Nyambura; Ndijuye, 2009; Ndumbaro, 2009). In other words, the accessibility and usability of ICTs for the visually-impaired students in supporting learning continue to present a daunting challenge in Tanzania. Gronlund et al. (2010) confirms that access to special materials for education of disabled students also appears to be insufficient. This in turn may affect the accessing and using of information also education performance of visually-impaired students. To date, little is known on the extent to which ICT is accessed and utilized to support learning among visual-impaired students in Tanzania. It is against this backdrop that this study examined the extent of accessibility to and usability of ICTs to support the learning of the visually-impaired at the University Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and how they could be improved. Specifically was to examine the types of the required ICTs available for the visually-impaired students; establish the extent to which ICT supports learning among the visually-impaired students; and explore the limiting factors for the accessibility and usability of ICT among visually- impaired students.


2.1 Assistive ICTs and learning

Information Communication Technology (ICT) has now been recognised as the driving force and primary gadget for almost all progressive knowledge-based and skills-oriented development activities and initiatives in all spheres of human endeavour (Belay, 2005). Consequently, many people recognise ICTs as catalysts for change such as change in working conditions, handling and exchanging of information, teaching methods, learning approaches, scientific research, and in accessing information (Mikre, 2011). Just like other segments of the population, visuallyimpaired people have the right to expect the same standard of education. Indeed, they also have the right to access and use mainstream educational tools, including ICT-based which are tools for fostering education (Hitcock & Stahl, 2003). In this regard, Olukotun (2004: 49] opines:

Technology has impacted positively on the lives of persons with disabilities with regard to information use, education and lifelong learning. It would not only expand the world of the visually impaired students, it can serve as a great equalizer.

Onukotun's statement reveals that technologies do not only enhance access to information but also promote education and lifelong learning. Additionally, technology is a tool for fostering equality as technology provides assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities through proper selecting, locating and using of these tools depending on their disability (Belay, 2005). In fact, assistive technology has been used by blind and partially-sighted people to help increase the independence and boost their social inclusion when it comes to education access. For example, Lucky and Achebe (2012) list the most important ICT facilities that are beneficial in learning for the visually-impaired as the Kurzwell Reading Machine, Computer, Video conferencing, the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). …

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