Graph accessibility and comprehension for the blind: A challenge of its own kind
The purpose of this dissertation is to explore graph accessibility and comprehension for students with visual impairments (SVI) in high school mathematics courses. The dissertation is comprised of three articles. In Paper One, I propose a conceptual framework to guide understanding around the approaches SVI use to access and comprehend graphical information. To do this, I draw from literature bases centered on the cognitive strategies individuals with visual impairments employ to understand spatial representations, tools and instruction to assist SVI in mathematics courses, and training of professionals serving SVI regarding their unique learning needs. In Paper Two, I report the results of a multistate survey on the perceptions of teachers of students with visual impairments (TVI) regarding the needs of SVI in high school mathematics courses to access and understand graphical information. Teacher perceptions suggested that (a) instructing SVI entails more than solely providing SVI with tactile graphics or verbal descriptions, (b) SVI access graphs in tactile form over sound or verbal descriptions, and (c) visual experience may affect the level of accuracy with which SVI perform graphing exercises. In Paper Three, I report the results of interviews with TVI and mathematics teachers regarding their perceptions of, and interviews with SVI regarding their experiences with, access to and comprehension of graphical information in high school mathematics courses. I also report the results of a classroom observation with a single SVI and the teachers that serve her needs to understand teacher support for SVI to access and comprehend graphical information. The results of this study suggest that (a) professionals who serve SVI with graphical information encompass more than mathematics teachers and TVI, (b) onset of visual experience carries weight when considering the types of assistive technology and instruction SVI utilize to access and comprehend graphical information, and (c) each SVI has a unique set of approaches and challenges with graphs, even those with similar onsets of visual impairment. While these studies provide insight into graph access and comprehension for SVI in high school mathematics courses, they also point to areas where future research is needed.