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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Teaching English as a New Language to Visually Impaired and Blind ESL Students: Problems and Possibilities

Sylvie Kashdan
Robby Barnes
Kaizen Program for New English Learners with Visual Limitations

Cecilia Erin Walsh
St. James ESL Program

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants and refugees who are visually impaired or blind involves complex challenges such as working with mainstream ESL programs that have low expectations of people with disabilities, coping with inaccessible intake tools and training materials, locating and recruiting students from immigrant and refugee populations that do not always believe people with disabilities can become literate and productive citizens, locating and recruiting appropriately trained volunteer tutors, and matching students with tutors. In this paper, the authors identify the challenges and propose solutions. They also describe a collaborative project between the Kaizen Program and the St. James ESL Program, both in Seattle, Washington designed in part to respond to some of these challenges. Finally, they present an interactive teaching tool that they demonstrated at A Celebration of Solutions: National Symposium on Literacy for Adults with Visual Disabilities, which they have used effectively with both ESL learners and prospective tutors.

In 1998, the Kaizen Program, a small nonprofit organization in Seattle, specifically devoted to helping blind and visually impaired immigrants and refugees who need to learn English, was formed (Kashdan, 2002). During 2000 and 2001, the Kaizen staff undertook a survey to determine the approximate number of immigrants and refugees in the Seattle area with visual limitations. They surveyed three groups: ophthalmologists and optometrists, organizations that specialize in serving people who are blind and visually impaired, and organizations that specialize in providing ESL instruction.

The results revealed that during the previous year, the 20 ophthalmologists and optometrists who responded had provided services to 656 immigrants or refugees with significant visual impairments not correctable by the use of standard optical lenses (i.e., they were legally blind). Of these patients, 577 requested the assistance of interpreters, indicating some difficulty or lack of confidence in using English. The responding ophthalmologists and optometrists and the personnel working with them believed that at least 500 demonstrated difficulty communicating in English. Responses from the organizations that specialize in providing ESL education revealed that 33 immigrants or refugees with significant visual impairment had been served. However, only 10 of these clients were receiving services related to ESL or literacy education, suggesting that about two-thirds of the people with visual impairments were not receiving any services (Kaizen ESL Program, 2001).

In the course of surveying the mainstream ESL programs, Kaizen staff contacted the St. James ESL (SJESL) program director. SJESL is a mainstream program that primarily serves fully sighted immigrants and refugees. It is a nonsectarian community outreach service of St. James Cathedral. There are no requirements regarding religious affiliation for staff, volunteers, or students. In 30 years of service, SJESL has been meeting the ESL needs of low income immigrants and refugees from all over the world, many of whom might otherwise be overlooked and under-served.

The Kaizen survey coincided with a request for proposals from the Washington State Office of Adult Literacy, for English language instruction that would increase civic and community involvement among residents. The SJESL administrator suggested a partnership between Kaizen and SJESL to create a project specifically devoted to serving the needs of immigrants and refugees with visual impairments. Kaizen would provide the expertise and resources for serving blind and visually impaired students, and for training blind and visually impaired volunteers with the necessary literacy and adaptive skills to teach non-English speakers. SJESL would provide the necessary expertise and resources for program building and coordination. The Kaizen staff agreed, the proposal was written, submitted and accepted, and the Civic Action Project was initiated. From drafting the initial proposal, through hiring, and through the on-going process of development and implementation, the Civic Action Project's Enhanced ESL for Immigrants and Refugees has been an interagency collaboration between the Kaizen and the SJESL Programs.

Challenges and Responses to the Challenges

In the following sections, the challenges of teaching ESL to immigrants and refugees who are visually impaired or blind are described and solutions are proposed whenever possible.

Challenges with Mainstream Programs and Responses

Mainstream programs do not prepare staff or volunteers to appreciate the potential and actual abilities of immigrants and refugees with visual limitations nor to encourage such students to develop their abilities by becoming literate and oriented to the new culture. This is something that even elderly people who have experienced age-related sight loss can do successfully with encouragement and the appropriate assistance. Research findings clearly indicate that during the aging process there is no decline in a person's ability to learn (Schleppegrell, 1987; Weinstein-Shr, 1993).

Barnes and Kashdan presented a paper addressing some of the assumptions and problems that mainstream organizations encounter when working with blind and visually impaired students at a statewide ESL conference (1998). During 2003, the authors have been revising that paper to include more information about possibilities for dealing with those problems, including more information about blindness and literacy, preparing and obtaining materials in accessible formats, and presenting them in ways that are most understandable to students with visual impairments.

Most mainstream programs assume that the best they can offer new English learners with visual impairments is oral English instruction. Most programs that offer citizenship training to disabled and elderly people have not considered literacy training for visually impaired immigrants, although there is no reason to assume that literacy is either impossible to achieve or irrelevant to people with visual impairments. Even in the vital area of citizen preparation, few programs provide the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) application form N-400, the INS 100 Typical Questions, or any other citizenship study materials in an accessible format. Audiocassettes, a seemingly obvious choice, as they do not rely on printed references or graphics, are not available. Some videotapes about citizenship have been translated into other languages, but they rely heavily on visuals, and they are not audio described. They are, therefore, of minimal use to immigrants and refugees with visual impairments.

Currently, the Civic Action Project is attempting to educate staff members in mainstream, community-based programs about the literacy capabilities and needs of blind and visually impaired people. Training includes the most effective ways to assist students in learning and practicing reading and writing. Moreover, Kaizen staff members are producing the citizenship application (Form N-400) and other citizenship materials in braille and large print formats then distributing them to public libraries and other places where regular print versions of this material are found. They have also prepared a basic citizenship course in simplified English that does not depend on visuals for teaching and learning. They plan to inform mainstream programs about these efforts in a systematic manner and to encourage wider use of these adapted materials.

Challenges with Tutor Recruitment and Training and Responses

Mainstream community-based ESL programs rely on fully sighted, fluent, English-speaking volunteers and professionals who are both literate in regular print and familiar with the ways to navigate the mainstream culture. These fully sighted people are generally not familiar with the equivalent competencies and resources required by blind and visually impaired newcomers. In addition, most ESL volunteers and professionals are neither interested in nor prepared to commit time and energy to becoming fully literate in accessible formats or to learn the other skills and information that are vital for adjusting to living as people with disabilities in society.

We find that when ESL teachers and tutors are not natural and regular users of accessible formats, students are often not motivated to learn or practice with these formats. Some students will learn to use speech-accessible computers, if they can afford to purchase them or receive them from state or private organizations. However, a majority of students do not want to practice braille literacy, or even large print literacy, because of social issues relating to embarrassment about being different or a desire to "fit in." Further, when teachers and tutors are not familiar with skills and information vital for adjusting to living in our society with a disability, they are unable to effectively assist students in using the new language to learn about these important topics.

We are strongly committed to assisting new English learners with visual limitations to achieve a functional level of literacy because we know that it is vital for truly empowering them to participate in the sighted world. This includes participation in mainstream educational programs where they can successfully learn other subjects with their sighted peers. We have found that blind and visually impaired immigrants and refugees learn English literacy most effectively when using braille and large print materials in contexts that encourage practice. We also find that they derive tremendous benefit from studying English with people who are using alternative formats on a regular basis, because this provides students with both positive role models and reasons for practicing reading and writing in accessible formats.

Therefore, the most realistic and best way to find volunteers with the necessary competencies and knowledge is to recruit blind and visually impaired people who are fluent in English, literate in accessible formats, and who possess the other necessary competencies and knowledge for participating in our culture. We are actively seeking such volunteers as part of the Civic Action Project.

Still, many blind and visually impaired people have been hesitant to volunteer to become ESL tutors, either because they believe that they will not be welcomed as volunteers (accommodations will not be made for their visual limitations), or because they had negative experiences when they tried to volunteer their services in other settings. To counter these negative expectations, we have sought the assistance of local consumer groups. They help publicize our need for volunteers. Potential volunteers are informed that the intake and training are fully accessible, and that they will be supported on an ongoing basis.

Our Bridging the Gap minigrant project includes a series of informational presentations that encourage local volunteer community programs to actively recruit visually impaired and blind volunteers and to train those volunteers using fully accessible materials and methods. We also share materials and conduct training for other community-based programs, so that they can engage the services of blind and visually impaired volunteers.

Challenges with Student Recruitment and Responses

Census figures reveal that more than a million people a year currently immigrate to the United States. At present, 30 million foreign-born people live in this country. More than 10 percent of the current U.S. population was born in other countries. More than 146,800 foreign immigrants came to Washington State between 1990 and 1999. Currently, approximately one of every 10 Washington residents is foreign-born. An average of 10,000 to 12,000 people per year move from other countries into the Seattle metropolitan area (Cat Le & Olsen, 2001; National Immigration Forum, 2000, 2002; Radio Station KUOW, Seattle, 2001; U.S. Department of the Census, 2000).

Medical and social service professionals report that the newcomers include people who are blind and visually impaired. However, no one knows exactly how many newcomers are blind or visually impaired because many are isolated from fluent English speakers, whether fully sighted or visually impaired. Blind and visually impaired immigrants and refugees with little or no English proficiency are difficult to find. In addition, they are rarely informed about specialized help that may be available to them. For example, most immigrants and refugees with visual impairments do not seek out the services of rehabilitation agencies for the blind. This is especially true of women because their families frequently do not want them to work outside their homes. Older immigrants and refugees who have no interest in paid employment may see little value in contacting such agencies. Seniors who do seek help usually find they are not eligible for most rehabilitation services, and would only receive minimal (if any) assistance to gain adaptive skills. This may discourage them from seeking assistance in learning English. Further, they may believe that they are too old to learn a new language and the ways of a new culture. Finally, many working-age newcomers believe that no help is available to them because agency staff members are frequently ill-prepared to assist people who are not proficient English speakers.

Some newcomers with visual limitations have sought assistance from mainstream community-based ESL programs or in community colleges. They often find it difficult to participate in programs designed to meet the needs of sighted immigrants and refugees or the general population. There, they have been offered, primarily, oral learning assistance. They often have few of the necessary independent living skills and only limited ideas of how to adapt to opportunities in their new communities. Usually, even those who were resourceful enough to develop strategies and independent living skills appropriate for survival in their countries of origin cannot easily transfer those strategies, skills, and experience to the new context.

Elderly immigrants and women are unlikely to seek out ESL or literacy education services, because they question the benefits. They may feel uncomfortable exposing themselves to the possible scorn and discrimination of fully sighted students, whether from their countries of origin or elsewhere. Many women are discouraged by their especially low status and others' low expectations of them in those countries (Boylan, 1991). Moreover, during the past two decades, many refugees and immigrants have been people of color. In the U.S., they are viewed as "minorities." They did not experience the discrimination concomitant with being minorities in their countries and they are often emotionally unprepared to understand and cope with the racial and ethnic discrimination they may face in this country. The experience has been profoundly depressing for many, especially people who are elderly, disabled, or those who already carry the possible stigma of low status (Boylan, 1991; Kaizen ESL Program, 2001; Weinstein-Shr, 1993).

To begin to addresses these challenges, the Civic Action Project provides informational brochures to local social service agencies, including providers of rehabilitation services to blind and visually impaired adults, medical providers, and mainstream ESL programs. We ask them to inform potential students, as well as friends and relatives of immigrants and refugees with visual impairments, of our services. In addition, SJESL has a part-time staff of multilingual student liaisons who have translated outreach materials from the Civic Action Project into the students' native languages. Many of them have also spoken to individuals and groups in their communities about the Project's help for blind and visually impaired people who want to learn English. Translation services have also been provided by the Red Cross Language Bank.

Challenges with Student Intake and Assessment and Responses

Currently, mainstream community-based ESL programs in Washington State use standardized intake tools, which incorporate pictures and other graphics to conduct initial assessments of students. These tests are part of the requirements in Washington to report standard rankings of students entering basic education programs that receive state funding. However, these tests are not appropriate for assessing the skills of students with visual impairments. When students with visual impairments have enrolled in community-based programs and taken the standardized tests, they have scored"0" because they cannot complete the items. Consequently, staff members develop low expectations for them. A few of the community colleges have simply enlarged their standard intake tests on copy machines or had them translated into braille by nonbraille readers who apply the automatic default settings of braille translation programs. This has resulted in large print and braille tests that have been difficult and confusing to read. The failure to provide accessible and appropriate intake assessment tools has been part of the pattern of serving students with visual impairments in ways that do not meet their needs or in ways that make their participation appear less satisfactory than that of other ESL students.

As part of the Civic Action Project, Kaizen staff members are adapting the basic assessment tools used by the SJESL Program and other ESL programs in Washington. They provide three-dimensional objects to exemplify graphics, change some questions to eliminate visually oriented content, rephrase items to make them relevant and appropriate, increase time allowances for completion, and provide accessible formats. These adapted intake tests are intended to give a program coordinator a way of ranking the literacy skills of visually impaired and blind ESL students, using much the same rankings as for fully sighted students. The adapted measures are not intended to be diagnostic tools or used to determine students' specific content needs. They are in the process of preparing working manuals for each test for fully sighted examination administrators, and a comprehensive guide explaining the reasons for the adaptations.

The adapted tests in accessible formats, the working manuals, and the comprehensive guide are used for student intake by the Civic Action Project. These materials will be shared with other programs that use the same tests. The hope is that by making these materials available, other community programs will be encouraged to provide more appropriate and expanded ESL services to blind and visually impaired immigrants and refugees.

Challenges and Responses when Serving Students

A substantial number of fully sighted adults with low literacy choose not to participate in available adult basic education and literacy programs. Likewise, a large number of immigrants and refugees choose to not attend ESL programs. Recent research shows that the primary reason given for nonparticipation is the perception that these programs do not meet the attendee's needs for learning things that are relevant to their lives. Although no definitive statistics are available regarding the attendance of adult immigrants and refugees who have visual impairments in available adult basic education and literacy programs, the results of the Kaizen survey and anecdotal evidence point toward an even lower rate of participation than the rate reported for fully sighted adults. This is understandable because such programs do not address the special needs and concerns they have (Imel, 1996; Sticht, 1997, 1998, 1999; Sticht, McDonald, & Erickson, 1998).

To best serve students with visual impairments, we use methods and lessons that are specifically relevant to their needs. This includes methods and lessons that approach literacy as a source of necessary information, a skill for valued work, and a tool for important communication, rather than simply decoding, reading, and writing exercises. Lindsay (2000) notes that teachers who want to promote their students' independence need to focus less on explaining various aspects of the language being learned and more on organizing learning activities that enable students to take control of their own learning. Although explanations are sometimes necessary and appropriate, learners need to use the language in situations where they can experience learning by active involvement in the ways others express themselves and the ways others respond to them.

With these goals in mind, we use a variety of techniques and materials that help students to participate actively and become independent learners. For example, we both use and train tutors to use, the Equipped for the Future framework, which was developed by the National Institute for Literacy (Stein, 1995). To develop functional literacy, we go beyond teaching individual skills such as decoding that have no meaningful content to a strong emphasis on accessing information. As a result, they learn to orient themselves in the world, give voice to their ideas and opinions, and have the confidence that their voices will be heard and taken into account, solve problems and make decisions on their own, and act independently as individuals, family members, community members, and paid or unpaid workers, for their own good, the good of their families, and their communities. For more information, see National Center for ESL Literacy Education (1998). For adapted versions of the EFF visuals, that provide a verbal description of the concepts represented in the graphical schema, see Kaizen ESL Program (2002) training handout, Equipped for the Future: The Concept and the Interrelationships and Equipped for the Future: Four Purposes and Four Roles.

The Kaizen staff continually adapts materials relevant to adult learners with visual limitations into accessible formats, so that they can have interesting and significant reading materials that inspire them to engage in literacy activities.

They seek out and apply current research findings and best pedagogical practices, focusing particularly on those that offer the greatest possibilities for students with visual impairments. For example, they have familiarized themselves with the work of researchers in cognitive studies, such as Howard Gardner, who have explored the multi-sensory aspects of learning. Gardner has developed and elaborated the concept of multiple intelligences. He has found overwhelming evidence for the importance of a variety of senses in all learning, including language learning. The evidence shows that we all learn through multiple senses, even though we often are only aware of using one or two of our senses in specific situations, and even though we sometimes prefer to emphasize the value of only one or two senses in specific learning contexts (Gardner, 1993, 1994).

Based on research, Gardner has defined eight or nine human intelligences (linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalist, and possibly an existential intelligence, with more being anticipated). We all have multiple intelligences, which we use at different times in different ways to accomplish different goals. Gardner notes that learning a new language involves more than linguistic intelligence; we learn a new language through a variety of intelligences focused on meaning and communication. Moreover, many researchers have found that when learners explore concepts or topics through a variety of senses, using their multiple intelligences, they are much more likely to be interested in and to remember what they have learned and to be able to use it in flexible and innovative ways in new situations. This is particularly true for adult learners (Viens & Kallenbach, 2001, 2002).

Understanding the importance of multisensory and multiple intelligence learning processes is vital to helping learners with visual limitations improve their opportunities for learning. As Gardner (2001) so eloquently puts it, to facilitate effective learning, "We must help students to find meaning in daily life, to feel connected to other individuals and to their community-past, present, and future; and to feel responsible for the consequences of their actions. We must help them to achieve the state of flow-the balance between skills and challenges-which motivates individuals to return to a pursuit time and again." An understanding of this is particularly vital for those of us committed to enabling blind and visually impaired students to develop functional literacy skills.

The Kaizen staff has also found the writings of Holtgraves, a social psychologist at Ball State University, of great value. He draws upon recent research in anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, pragmatics, philosophy, sociolinguistics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive psychology to delineate the reasons why language cannot be understood as simply a symbolic, abstract system, but must be understood as a behavior that is affected by other people and a means for influencing the behavior of others (Holtgraves, 2002). Other researchers have also found that students learn new languages most effectively when their teachers replace isolated skill exercises and drills with actual real-world social interactions involving interesting activities with both people and objects (Cambourne, 2001; Kroeker & Henrichs, 1993; Lewis, 1997; Peyton & Staton, 1996; Weaver, 1994).

A holistic communicative perspective is crucial for enabling visually impaired and blind adult students to learn a new language, and especially for helping them to develop authentic functional literacy in accessible formats. They need to learn English literacy through braille and large print materials in contexts that interest and encourage them to practice. It is not enough to teach them the braille code or the print alphabet and punctuation using large print. We need to focus on meaningful and relevant reading and writing. Fluency in spoken English does not necessarily lead to literacy, unless there is a real focus on it along with oral language development.

Challenges with Tutor Intake and Responses

The SJESL program provides all prospective tutors with an introductory packet, including a Volunteer Information Form, description of volunteer opportunities, travel directions, and a newsletter. They are then interviewed and asked to sign, in person, a form agreeing to a background check, which must be satisfactorily completed before they are enrolled in the program. However, the written material related to the intake and background process was not available in accessible formats. To deal with this challenge, the Kaizen staff has prepared and provided all intake material in braille as well as enhanced and large print for potential volunteers who need them. They also provide written travel instructions for getting to the SJESL office, including braille and large print bus directions.

Finally, SJESL staff members are trained in protocols for welcoming and assisting blind and visually impaired prospective volunteer tutors.

Challenges and Responses in Matching Tutors with Students

When matching tutors and students, we consider the adaptive skills of the tutors, students' need, students' goals, the locations of students' and tutors' homes, and transportation. It is important to match students with those tutors who have the best skills to help them attain their goals. Therefore, we strive to understand each student and the volunteer tutors.

During the intake and assessment process, we find out as much as possible about each student's skills, needs and learning goals, including educational and work backgrounds, vision history and plans for the future. Similarly, during the volunteer tutor interview process, we learn about the skills and interests of tutors: Do they use braille? How well? If they have some vision, how much do they have? What adaptive technology do they use, and with what level of competency? Are they able to tutor writing, reading, or math? Before a tutor is assigned to a student, we consider which of the available tutors has the most competencies needed by the student.

It is also important that tutoring take place in a setting which provides the appropriate context for achieving the student's learning goals, the appropriate atmosphere for promoting learning, as well as the necessary reading and writing tools. To address this need, we ask students during the intake process to express a preference for where they want to be tutored. We encourage students to choose their homes or the tutors homes for the majority of sessions. It is best if the tutoring occurs in real-life settings that contain many of the objects necessary for exploring and demonstrating ideas and activities that the students need to learn about in English.

Because many tutors rely on public transportation and some work full time, time and energy spent getting to the tutoring session should be manageable. So, when students choose to have tutoring in their homes, we try to assist tutors with their transportation needs. If it is practical for them to use the public bus system, we help them learn the routes. The SJESL staff has also been recruiting volunteer drivers to assist with transportation and discussing the use of taxi vouchers paid for by the Program when using the bus is not a viable option.

Challenges Within the St. James ESL Mainstream Program

The SJESL program primarily serves fully sighted students through the efforts of fully sighted volunteers. All of the materials, resources, procedures, and events are developed and provided on the assumption that participants will be able to see materials and engage in procedures without adaptation. Working with people with visual limitations is a somewhat new experience for the staff at SJESL.

For the Civic Action Project, the Kaizen staff has provided training and ongoing consultation for SJESL project coordinators on conducting intake and assessment of students with visual impairments. The project coordinators, in turn, have shared information and project development, and have initiated discussions and in-house training with colleagues on issues related to serving people with visual impairments.

For the Civic Action Project, the Kaizen staff has provided training and ongoing consultation for SJESL project coordinators on conducting intake and assessment of students with visual impairments. The project coordinators, in turn, have shared information and project development, and have initiated discussions and in-house training with colleagues on issues related to serving people with visual impairments.

Another challenge arises because all new SJESL volunteers and staff are supposed to receive Professional Ethics Training, which provides instruction and guidance on the personal and professional behaviors expected of volunteers and staff in the interest of those served. The training consists of a video, a print brochure highlighting protocols for reporting suspected abuse, and a print viewer's guide. None of the print materials have yet been produced in accessible formats, and the video lacks any descriptive narrative. The Civic Action Project has requested from the Human Resources Department that print materials be provided in large and enhanced print as well as braille. Viewing the video together, Kaizen and SJESL staff identified moments that would be more accessible if descriptive narrative was added and have asked that this be done in the new version of the video that is currently in production. We have offered our assistance in making these improvements.

Another area requiring adaptation came to our attention when the SJESL program staff decided to encourage visually impaired students to attend the social and instructional events provided for all students and tutors. We realized that invitations and announcements to these have been provided only in regular size print or electronic format, not accessible to many visually impaired or blind students. To promote inclusion, invitations and announcements are now provided in accessible formats, depending on individual needs.

Instruction Example

Lojban Hokey Pokey is an activity that demonstrates, in a simplified way, some of the methods the authors have found useful for teaching new English learners with visual limitations. This activity uses a language that most people are unfamiliar with, along with demonstrations of physical activity—in a game similar to the child's game of Simon Says—to simulate how students can learn when the new language and a physical activity are combined in a comprehensible and enjoyable way.

For this activity they use Lojban (pronounced lozh-bahn), a constructed language first developed in 1955 (Brown, 1960). During the past 40 years, Lojban has been developed by linguists and others as a tool for observing the ways in which languages grow and affect human thinking and learning. Thus it can be used as a test vehicle for scientists studying the relationships between language, thought, and culture. For details, see Lojban, The Logical Language, Introduction and Frequently Asked Questions (http://www.lojban.org/files/brochures/lojbroch.html). There is also an official web site of the Logical Language Group (http://www.lojban.org/cnino-index.htm) and an e-mail discussion list (lojban@yahoogroups.com).

Lojban is well suited for demonstrating the problems of and possibilities for teaching a new language. It is a relatively simple language when compared with natural living languages. It is easy to learn because its rules have no exceptions. Its grammar is based on the principles of formal logic, with no variations or idioms. Lojban also has phonetically consistent spelling and unambiguous resolution of sounds into words. Therefore, the confusion and frustration experienced by new Lojban learners cannot be attributed to difficulty with the complicated structures or rules of any specific living language. They can be understood as common to all new language learning experiences. The actual comprehension that does occur in the context of the activity can be understood as the product of the interactive activity and context clues (not related to prior specific knowledge of the language), thereby demonstrating the value of combining the use of the new language with directed physical activity. Moreover, no one participant has any advantage over another in the learning process owing to prior knowledge of the language.

In her book Dancing with Words: Helping Students Love Language through Authentic Vocabulary Instruction, Michaels (2001) notes that movement is a language and that speech is, in part, gesture. This is true, for totally blind people as well as for those who can see gestures. With students learning English as a new language, working from this perspective is particularly helpful. We find that students who are blind or visually impaired benefit from participating in games that combine words with activities because they enable them to learn by associating language with body movement experience. Research has shown that when people enjoy what they are doing they learn more effectively than when they are stressed. Therefore, we regularly use Lojban as part of our training workshops for students and for volunteer tutors, to help them understand and empathize with the kinds of challenges and learning processes their students will be experiencing.

During the symposium, we used the Lojban activity to teach some language for parts of the body: hands, feet; some directions: forward, back; and some motions: shake, turn. All of these are vital terms for blind and visually impaired students to learn as part of their background for acquiring good mobility skills. The symposium handout for this exercise is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Instruction Example

mo'i crane zunle xance
Put your left hand forward.

mo'i trixe zunle xance
Put your left hand back.

mo'i crane pritu xance
Put your right hand forward.

mo'i trixe pritu xance
Put your right hand back.

mo'i crane zunle jamfu
Put your left foot forward.

mo'i trixe zunle jamfu
Put your left foot back.

mo'i crane pritu jamfu
Put your right foot forward.

mo'i trixe pritu jamfu
Put your right foot back.

ko desku desku desku
Shake, shake, shake.

ko carna ko carna ko carna
And turn yourself around.

References

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