May 8 2020
TOKYO – As campuses shut and an increasing number of schools offer classes via the internet amid the coronavirus epidemic, a team of university professors has launched a website to support online teaching for students with visual impairments.
The website, called Accessible Online Lectures for Students with Visual Impairments and created in April, offers suggestions to university lecturers such as using magnified letters and reading out materials to help vision-impaired students.
As of April 23, around 60 percent of universities in Japan were scheduled to conduct lectures online, while about 39 percent are considering doing so, according to an education ministry poll.
Many students with visual impairments already have software or applications that magnify letters or other materials on screens and read words out aloud, but they may differ from those used in their online lectures, the team said on the website.
Newly enrolled students may have a particularly hard time because they have to join online university guidance sessions even before they get to know a support group, according to the website.
The team of around 15 members from various universities offers basics and detailed know-how depending on the software and application to be used.
As the environment and the level of disability differ among students, the website urges them to seek specific support from their universities.
The website also advises university lecturers against using many pictures and diagrams that may be hard for the disabled students to understand.
It also introduces a nonprofit support group for the disabled based in Kyoto that provides a consulting service on online lectures.