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MTSU professor taps into technology to help blind ...

MTSU professor taps into technology to help blind student with statistics

How can a totally blind college student pass a statistics class, which requires students to understand such visual items as graphs and charts?

Dr. Stuart Bernstein

Dr. Stuart Bernstein

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Dr. Stuart Bernstein, a professor of psychology at MTSU, found ways to help rising senior James Boehm of Memphis, Tennessee, in his Statistics 2030 class in the fall 2014 semester.

That ingenuity earned Bernstein an award from the National Federation of the Blind.

The Stones River Chapter of the organization gave Bernstein its 2015 Educator of the Year Award and his own white-tipped cane at a chapter gathering in mid-April in the SunTrust Room of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building.

Mark Riccobono, president of the national organization, congratulated Bernstein via speakerphone.

“When I think of a professor who does whatever it takes to make a student’s education fully accessible and rewarding, I cannot help but think of Dr. Bernstein,” Boehm said in his nomination entry to the local chapter.

Bernstein said Boehm learned about a special tablet that would create raised lines on paper when heavy pressure is used to draw on it.

Dr. Stuart Bernstein, MTSU professor of psychology, poses with his certificate from the National Federation of the Blind Stones River Chapter designating him “2015 Educator of the Year.” Bernstein holds a tipped cane also presented to him in acknowledgement of his work with a blind student. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

Dr. Stuart Bernstein, MTSU professor of psychology, poses with his certificate from the National Federation of the Blind Stones River Chapter designating him “2015 Educator of the Year.” Bernstein holds a tipped cane also presented to him in acknowledgement of his work with a blind student. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

The tablet, which is about the size of a mouse pad, enabled Bernstein to draw columns and graphs that Boehm could read by touching them.

“The probability tables are incredibly dense with columns and columns of numbers,” said Bernstein.

The professor also used a multimedia interactive textbook paid for with a grant from the National Science Foundation and saved his PowerPoint presentations to the class in an outline format so that Boehm’s text reader could make the presentations audible.

“This is just a regular part of my job, to make sure that everyone I’m teaching understands and has access to stats,” Bernstein said. “It’s just what I do. And he (Boehm) did the hard work. I just simplified the tables. He learned everything.”

Boehm, who attends classes with the help of his service dog, Shep, wrote, “Dr. Stuart Bernstein always made himself available to me if I needed further explanation on a lesson. If I emailed him, rarely did I wait more than an hour for a response.”

The certificate from the Stones River Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind praises Bernstein

… because of the ways he ensures that his MTSU students who are blind and visually impaired have equal access to every aspect of his classes, his individualized support and willingness to learn supportive technology and tools and his recognition of the unique learning styles of all students.

Boehm and Bernstein also credit MTSU’s Adaptive Technology Lab and Disability and Access Center with providing critical assistance.

For more information on MTSU’s services for the disabled, contact the Disability and Access Center at 615-898-2783 or go to www.mtsu.edu/dac.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


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