Touch as a Way of Seeing

By: Diana Petschauer, ATP and Dr. Luis Perez

As important as personalizing learning is for all learners, it does not preclude the need to address barriers to learning for those learners who have disabilities. In fact, Universal Design for Learning, with its focus on variability, requires addressing the needs of learners at both ends of the spectrum: those who are gifted and those who face challenges in accessing the curriculum. In the FETC 2017 session Touch as a Way of Seeing, Dr. Luis Perez and Diana Petschauer, ATP, will demonstrate a number of built-in iOS accessibility features and apps for those who have low vision or are blind. While these features and apps were designed to support users who have low vision, their benefit can extend to other learners. For example, the teacher can use the Zoom screen magnification feature to focus attention on just the content learners need to answer a prompt, or to remove distractions such as ads while reviewing a website with the entire class. Ultimately, in order to be able to process and make sense of information, learners must first be able to perceive it. With features for adjusting the brightness and color of the display, having content read aloud by text to speech, and more, iOS devices such as the iPad and iPhone make ideal supports for learners who have low vision. These built-in features are supplemented by a number of apps for digitizing print resources through Optical Character Recognition (OCR), accessing textbooks and other learning materials with text to speech support and more.

For those with more significant vision needs, the VoiceOver screen reader provides a robust solution for learners who are not able to see the screen at all. VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader with support for Braille displays. Through a series of flicks and swipes, learners can hear the content of the screen read aloud by a high quality voice, or access it as Braille on a connected display. As important as technologies such as VoiceOver are for access, their impact is also felt in a sense of inclusion felt by learners who have been traditionally marginalized. When these learners use the same devices as everybody else, the stigma associated with more specialized devices can be minimized, resulting in greater participation and social inclusion as well as greater motivation to use the technology and reap its benefits. Furthermore, with support for translation between Braille and print, these devices facilitate communication and collaboration between Braille readers/writers and their teachers and peers.

The technologies, tools and instructional methods discussed in these sessions provide access and engagement for ALL learners. We encourage regular educators, special educators, related therapists and others who work with diverse learners to join us for these interactive and informative workshops! We are excited to share with all of you and are enthusiastic about facilitating our workshops as a model of UDL practice, so as to engage you and accommodate your learning preferences as a group!

Diana Petschauer, M.Ed., ATP is a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional and  founder of AT for Education ( Diana has over 20 years of experience in Special Education & Assistive Technology, preK-12, Postsecondary and adult services. She presents nationally & internationally including at conferences such as FETC, ATCNE, Closing the Gap, CSUN, ACTEM, ATIA & ARATA. Diana is a faculty trainer for the Center on Technology and Disability ( as well as ATinNH at the UNH Institute on Disability. Diana manages her multi-disciplinary team of consultants who provide AT & AAC evaluations, training & accessibility services for students and adults to access education, the workplace & community.


Dr. Luis Pérez is an inclusive learning consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. He has more than a decade of experience working with educators to help them integrate technology in ways that empower all learners. Luis holds a doctorate in special education and a master’s degree in instructional technology from the University of South Florida, and he is the author of Mobile Learning for All: Supporting Accessibility with the iPad, from Corwin Press. Luis was selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) in 2009, as a Google in Education Certified Innovator (formerly Google Certified Teacher) in 2014, and currently serves as the Professional Learning Chair of the Inclusive Learning Network of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). His work has appeared in publications such as Teaching Exceptional Children, Closing the Gap Solutions, THE Journal and The Loop Magazine.  Luis has presented at national and international conferences such as South by Southwest EDU, CSUN and Closing the Gap.

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