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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Train-the-Trainer Programs

Access Technology Consultant Upgrade Training Program
at Florida Division of Blind Services (FDBS)
Rehabilitation Center for the Blind

A prevailing need throughout the country is the requirement that currently practicing access technology (AT) specialists maintain and update their knowledge and skills. In Florida, the state vocational rehabilitation agency serving blind people, FDBS, offers 2-week, level 1 and level 2 courses at the rehabilitation center to fill this need. Practicing AT specialists (consultants), who contract with FDBS and who work either for private blind agencies or freelance, attend one or both sessions. Topics include: Low-vision products; fundamental and advanced aspects of PC equipment management (installing cards, cables, and software, virus management); basic and advanced aspects of speech software; Internet access; installation, configuration, and use of braille displays; electronic note- taking and other blindness products; combination access software (e.g., Zoomtext Xtra); scanning software and hardware; on-site activity (e.g., job analysis); and aspects of working with consumers and sponsoring agencies (e.g., evaluation, making recommendations).

The program attempts to address two additional needs: Setting standards to evaluate the qualifications of AT specialists and training rehabilitation counselors to be knowledgeable about and proficient with PC-based technology. The Rehabilitation Center for the Blind list of qualifications includes: Basic requirements (motivation, dealing with clients/employers, problem solving, software and hardware knowledge, knowledge of various operating systems, trouble-shooting, systems interface hardware/software, and local area network requirements); access technology (synthesized speech, enlargement hardware/software, braille access, note- taking devices, OCR hardware/software, equipment interface connections, low-tech solutions, job modification, blindness skills, essential and superfluous system requirements); and sources of information and support (user groups, local community colleges, colleagues, computer stores, AT vendors, etc.).

Rehabilitation counselors are provided with hands-on training in the basics of the Windows operating system, starting and closing access and applications programs, Windows controls, file and folder management, document formatting and management, aspects of speech access, and screen enlargement.

The Florida program faces stresses found in many programs, namely, the stretching of limited staff between the AT Specialist training program and the rehabilitation counselor program. However, it serves as a model for other state vocational rehabilitation agencies to emulate as their programs directly address critical problems faced by the blindness service-delivery system throughout the nation.

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CSUN Certificate Program

The CSUN Certificate program in Adaptive Technology consists of 60 hours of on-line instruction, 40 hours of in person instruction/lecture, and a project, due 90 days following the in person training. The goal of the program is to provide basic, yet somewhat in-depth instruction to computer literate people in adaptive technology for people with a variety of disabilities, including visual impairment. A certificate of completion is awarded to participants who complete all course requirements.

Topics include: Future Trends in AT; AT Assessment Process; AT for Persons who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf; Electronic Aids to Daily Living; Doohickeys, Thingamabobs, and Whatchamacallits; Seating, Positioning and Mobility; Ergonomics; Computer Access; Learning Disabilities & AT; Augmentative and Alternative Assistive Technology for People who are Blind/Visually Impaired.

The CSUN program represents an excellent way for people interested in assistive technology to launch their career. It provides sufficient overview to enable trainers to make decisions about their own career direction and to continue learning by taking additional specialty courses and obtaining practical experience.

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Northern Illinois University (NIU)

Training New TVIs and RTs in Adaptive Technology

NIU, under the direction of Dr. Gaylen Kapperman, in recognition of the need for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs) and rehabilitation teachers (RTs) to instruct their students and clients in electronic communications devices, infuses courses in adaptive technology (AT) into its regular curriculum. The courses cover:

Braille 'n Speak and Braille Lite (including foreign languages and math); JAWS; Arkenstone; MS Word; Internet Explorer with JAWS; topics on multiply disabled students; use of Grollier's Encyclopedia; other resources; and how to remain current are topical areas covered in the NIU curriculum. Also included is information on screen enlargement (Magic, Zoomtext, etc.) and inexpensive strategies for making computer screens accessible.

As more TVIs and RTs instruct their students and clients in AT, pressures on the rehabilitation system to provide AT training will be reduced. Young blind and visually impaired people will be better prepared to approach higher education and the job market. Older individuals, the newest consumer group for AT training, will learn basic e-mail and internet skills as part of the independence skills training they currently receive, again, reducing the demand for time from highly trained AT specialists who will then be more available to work with employment-bound consumers.

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Lions World Services (LWS)
Assistive Technology Instructor Training Program (ATITP)

The purpose of the ATITP is to expose AT trainers who already have familiarity with adaptive technologies to material relevant to the instructional process, as well as to a variety of teaching styles. Different LWS staff members give the presentations.

Students are expected to complete all assignments and develop a resource file. They are provided with information on a 'real' client to use for planning a course of instruction.

Topics include: Educational Theories and Practices; Adjustment to Blindness; Interviewing Techniques; Eye Conditions and Related Physical Considerations; the Learning Process; Organizational Techniques (Personal and Professional); Working as a Professional Team Member; Searching for a Job (Career Placement); Speeches and Presentations.

The ATITP emphasizes elements of professional and instructional procedure missing from the training that most AT specialists acquire through self-study and apprenticeship. Many consumers have expressed concern about variability in the level of professionalism and teaching skills of many AT specialists.

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Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB)
Professional Training in Adaptive Technology (PTAT)

The Colorado Center for the Blind, recognizing the nationwide shortage of qualified access technology specialists, has designed and will shortly implement a train-the-trainer program to prepare individuals who possess basic computer skills and an appropriate outlook on the capabilities of blind people to teach blind consumers how to use PC-based mainstream and adaptive technology.

Designed as a 5-month, intensive and hands-on residential program, the first PTAT classes are expected to commence in Spring-Summer, 2001. The program is marketed to various funding sources, including State vocational rehabilitation agencies, to cover training and residential expenses.

The PTAT curriculum emphasizes practical approaches to training access technology specialists. Internship and other hands-on experiences, designed to enable the trainees to apply their knowledge throughout the program, are combined with in-class instruction. Instructors are trained to teach their students to become independent learners. By providing them with basic knowledge and stressing the need to generalize that knowledge to a variety of situations, their students will learn to solve unexpected problems whenever they occur.

Curriculum topics include: Basic Knowledge of Computerized Mainstream and Adaptive Hardware and Software; Elements of Instruction (including Curriculum Development, Lesson Planning, Teaching Techniques, and Independence Building); Business Planning and Self-employment Concepts.

The PTAT seeks to develop self-sufficiency not only in the trainers who will graduate from the program, but in all the consumers they will train. This approach represents a much-needed attempt at reducing the number of hours spent in retraining both instructors and consumers by a system with insufficient resources to meet current needs.

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North Central Technical College (NCTC)
Assistive Technology Associates' Degree Program

North Central Technical College, located in Wausau, Wisconsin, is currently developing A 2-year Associates' degree program that will provide courses specifically in access technology for blind, visually impaired, and learning disabled people. The goal of the program is to enable graduates to earn a bona fide credential and to acquire the skills needed to provide quality AT assessment and training to consumers.

Staff from NCTC's Disability Services and Technology departments, recognizing not only the need to increase the number of AT specialists, but to offer an opportunity for college-based professional training, combined efforts to create this unique program. Among the important elements the curriculum will cover are Teaching strategies and a solid grounding in adaptive and mainstream hardware and software.

The NCTC program represents a needed effort to provide a college credential specific to AT specialists. It attempts to answer a concern among consumers and many professionals that the method by which AT specialists presently obtain their training is neither standardized nor packaged in a way that allows independent analysis of its quality.

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Vendor Training

Freedom Scientific's JFW Training Workshops

In addition to selling access software and hardware, Freedom Scientific offers special training opportunities for access technology professionals and trainers. Freedom Scientific offers regularly scheduled workshops at its training center in St. Petersburg, Florida, with a separate workstation for each participant. Classes are limited to twelve participants to ensure personal attention and a good learning environment.

"Supporting and Teaching Windows 98 With JAWS" is a training program for professionals that offers tips and techniques for setting up and training end users to work in the Windows 98 environment using JAWS for Windows. This intensive four-day workshop is designed for teachers and access technology trainers who already have a good working knowledge of using Windows 98 with JAWS, and wish to apply those skills to training others. The course uses the "Train-the-Trainer" concept to introduce students to teaching Windows 98 with JAWS. Students are provided with an opportunity to learn Windows 98 and JAWS topics, and present them to the class in structured teaching exercises. The course includes an overview of Windows 98 features and functions, as well as issues specific to running JAWS for Windows.

Another course, "Customizing JAWS for Windows," a concentrated four-day workshop, is designed to equip access technology trainers with a thorough knowledge of customizing JAWS by using built-in configuration settings, and by writing scripts for specific applications. The workshop provides participants with hands-on experience with the JAWS script language including file structure and syntax. Participants in this advanced workshop need to have a good working knowledge of JAWS, as well as the Windows Operating System. Previous experience with programming languages is helpful, but not required.

Courses are offered at Freedom Scientific's St. Petersburg facility. The same training workshops are offered at off-site locations, permitting agencies with enough staff to fill classes to save airfare, lodging, and meal expenses.

Vendor-provided training for practicing AT specialists, combined with tutorials and on-line help for newcomers to the field and end-users, will remain an important vehicle for professionals to learn new skills and upgrade their old ones. Many access software vendors provide similar training. The cost of offering these courses remains problematic for some individual trainers and group classes would appear the best way to keep costs down until accessible and cost-effective distance learning methodologies can be developed.

Freedom Scientific
www.freedomscientific.com

Return to "In This Brief," for the contents of this paper.



Microsoft Certification

Microsoft technical certification requires no actual formal training. All that is required is passing the Microsoft examination. The Microsoft testing requirements are being changed so that Windows Professional 2000 will become the core requirement. Currently, the core requirement is passing the workstation and server examinations.

Three major certifications are available from Microsoft

  • Microsoft Certified Professional
  • Microsoft Certified Professional plus Internet
  • Microsoft Certified System Engineer

Microsoft offers a series of certification exams on various networking topics. They are computerized and provide instant performance feedback. If students pass one exam, they receive a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification.

Students who pass three specific exams receive a Microsoft Certified Professional plus Internet certification. Students who pass six exams receive a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification. This certification is in great demand. The average annual salary for an MCSE certified employee is reported to be $72,000.

Many community colleges offer the courses required to help students attain these certifications. Distance learning options are available.

Large-scale mainstream software producers provide certification opportunities for IT professionals. With the increasing availability of on-line course and examination materials, as well as short course offerings at community colleges, many practicing access technology specialists can now take advantage of an accessible way to upgrade their skills and stay current about mainstream technologies. As is the case in the mainstream information technology (IT) job market, blindness access technology specialists who are familiar with systems interface concepts are highly valued. These individuals provide the bulk of the job site adaptations so important to the employment of blind and visually impaired persons.

For further information, see Microsoft's web site at www.microsoft.com; and click on the "IT Professional" link. Also, consult local community colleges for Microsoft courses.

Return to "In This Brief," for the contents of this paper.



Certification Initiatives

Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), United Kingdom

Trainer Certification program

The British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB) in collaboration with the British Healthcare Association and the Institute of Information Technology Training (IITT) has developed an accreditation program for trainers referred to as the "BCAB Trainer Certification Scheme" (BTCS). In January 2001, the IITT 3-day Delivery Skills Refresher (DSR) Course was successfully piloted as a VI-friendly course.

The first group of VI access technology trainers is well on their way to BTCS Certification. All six trainers successfully completed the course two blind trainers, one partially sighted and three sighted trainers, with the aid of braille, large print and regular print documentation, and with slightly modified practical work.

The curriculum for the course is based primarily on the skill development materials already used by the IITT (a mainstream organization) in its current certification program for Information Technologists. For specifics, including the IITT competency framework, please visit the IITT web site at www.iitt.org.uk.

The pilot revealed training areas that require further improvement, most often related to accessible materials, and remedies are already underway. Another pilot will run in March to double-check the full accessibility of the course materials A 5-day course, designed for individuals who wish to become new trainers, is expected to be available later this year.

This project represents one country's attempt, at a national level, to design a certification scheme and bears watching as a potential model for a certification process for the United States.

For further information, contact Steve Plumpton, BTCS manager
Tel: 024 7636 9530
btcs@bcab.org.uk

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