Braille and technology enable Victoria to learn at the same pace as her class

The start of the college year is an anxious time for all students – this year in particular – as blended learning and social distancing become the norm, changing the landscape of the college experience. For Victoria Alves De Oliveira, 20, from Co. Roscommon, the challenges are even greater. Victoria is blind and so must also ensure that she can find her way around the campus and the city centre and that she has the technology she needs to allow her to study alongside her peers.

Victoria, who moved to Roscommon from Brazil at the age of 7, has been blind since birth. Victoria is a big advocate of Braille but also uses assistive technology to help her work faster and loves the ability to combine Braille and technology.

“I’ve always used Braille. When I was in primary school my teachers would print out worksheets for me on a Braille embosser. Then an SNA (Special Needs Assistant) would write my answers under my Braille answers for me, so you can imagine that was a bit slow! I started to use a device called a Braille Note, which allowed me to type in Braille, it converted that to a Word document for my teacher and I could email it,” explained Victoria. a

Digital Braille or refreshable Braille allows Victoria’s teachers to email her work, respond quickly and, vitally, allows Victoria to keep up with her classmates.

“In secondary school I found it easier to use a scribe for some subjects. But the assistive technology I use has given me an advantage. It meant that I could work faster and allowed me to work at the same pace as the rest of the class.”

Victoria is now looking at options for what technology she will use when she starts her Social Work degree in Trinity College Dublin this September. As well as working with Sight and Sound for product demonstrations and training, Victoria will also work with the Disability Office in Trinity and has already been in touch with them to find out how she will access the service in September. “They will provide what I need so my focus now is to look at my options and see what would work best. Sight and Sound Technology will demonstrate the various types of technology so I can see what’s out there that I might not have used before.”

Options include the Mercury 12 – a device that has a distance camera, which would allow Victoria to take a photo of work being demonstrated in a lecture and to have it read aloud to her, or to do the same with a text book. With Braille an important part of her education, Victoria will also be looking at the Focus, so that she can take notes in Braille and to store them digitally.

“I always learnt through Braille. So, while I use a laptop, Braille is my main way of taking in information and of reading.”

We look forward to working with Victoria over the next few weeks and throughout her college journey and wish her the best of luck.

Victoria was interviewed in a recent Remote but not Restricted podcast, which you can listen to here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7657936-episode-16-the-student-voice-with-vitoria-alves

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