College Guide


August 24, 2010 1:15 PM Online Education, Not for Blind People

By Daniel Luzer

The potential for online delivery to improve educational quality is debatable, but virtual education does have the advantage of at least delivering more content to more people. If a college can deliver course material online, all one really needs to take the course is a laptop.

Well, unless you have any significant disabilities. According to a piece at CityTownInfo:

As online education and educational technology—such as e-readers—make college accessible to a wider audience, it has also created an obstacle for blind students. “When faculty or course developers hear about a new tool being introduced at a distance education conference, they want to bring it home and try it out,” said Kelly Hermann, chair of the Online Education Special Interest Group at the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). “But what they fail to recognize is where that new tool might create barriers to accessibility.”

While there is sophisticated software available to help blind students access information, most of this software can’t actually process new online learning programs.

Consider software that makes use of changing images, often a central component of online content delivery, how can that ever work for blind students?

Even very basic things like college websites are often practically useless for blind students.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • CL Jones on April 23, 2012 8:55 AM:

    Upon review of your article I would have to somewhat disagree with the overall statement you presented "Even very basic things like college websites are often practically useless for blind students".

    As a blind student who attended online education due to barriers that failed to offer accessbility to local area education, I graduated in March 2010 earning an MBA.

    While the challenge was great, the ideaology that blind students cannot access online education is not completely founded. One example is the program developed by Adobe that offers a "FREE" tool that allows the information to be read to them. This can accomodate for those who feel the need to teach in a visual world rather than allowing all students to learn from a textual environment.

    More blind students learn from textual environment where the obvisous is present. However at the end of the day I would safely say that the blind student has learned as much if not more knowledge than those who depend on visual aids to learn.

    There was a very wise and successful entreprenuer known as Napoleon Hill. His philosophy to the world of learning was simplified and elegant for all. "What the mind can preceive the mind can achieve"

    Educational outlooks would by far improve the quality of education and the overall aspect of learned output by removing visual supports and reverting to old fashion text to fill the mind with a far greater extent of knowledge.

    On a final note. Think of a small child when first introduced to their favorite book. The child will ultimately memorize the storyline from the reader and association of the image files. Soon the adult will think the child is reading when in reality the child is memorizing that which was read and associating with visual aids. When the visual aids are removed and the child is presented only the text as a visual aid, they 98% of the time have no clue as to what is present.


    Because they have not been granted the opportunity to learn from a textual form rather than from a visual form.