Visual Veggies Software for the Visually Impaired
Visual Veggies Software for the Visually Impaired
This is a very unique story I just had to share. A few months ago, I was contacted via email by a dietetics student from Southern University of Baton Rouge in Louisiana asking if my RD Practice Exam will work for the visually impaired. At first, I said to myself, “well no”.
Not knowing much about visual impairment, I did some quick searches online. It turns out that visual impairment can range from slight blurred vision to tunnel vision to complete blindness. I then reached out to my development community forum and posted a topic there to see if anyone else has developed software for the visually impaired and how difficult the task was. I received a few responses saying it is doable but that I should contact the young man and see just what his needs were. So I did.
I responded to his email asking for specifics to his unique needs. A few days later, I received a phone call from his mentor at the university. She explained his needs and said he will be sitting for the RD Exam later this year and really needed a study tool to prepare. She informs me that he is completely blind. A challenge, to say the least. For those of you who have used the program, you know you need the mouse to perform nearly all of the tasks in the Practice Exam program. A blind individual simply cannot do this. She passed on my phone number for this student to call me to discuss more.
Later that day, he called me and provided some valuable information. He uses the computer solely by keystrokes and has a screen reader to read the text on the screen. Okay, I know I can easily have the questions and answers spoken aloud to him. That’s not the problem. But how do I assign certain tasks to keystrokes, such as choosing one of the four multiple choice answers, saving the answer, and then proceeding to the next question? During our conversation, I let him know this could be possible but couldn’t promise anything.
I copied the current RD Practice Exam into a separate folder, so any changes I made wouldn’t affect the program as it is today, and started plugging away.
Each action in the program was assigned a keystroke command: q to repeat the question; a, b, c, and d to read the answers again; A, B, C, and D to select the answer; and so on. I gave clear verbal instructions on how to proceed after a task was performed, such as “push the letter s to save your answer” after the user pushes A, B, C, or D to select an answer.
Now the actual multiple choice test screen had been optimized using only keystroke commands! But why stop there? For current students using the program, they also have the ability to view their overall progress in each of the domains, and also to review all of the tests they’ve taken and review the questions answered incorrectly. So let’s keep going! I then customized these two screens for the student, so he can also hear his overall progress, hear a review of his test results, and hear the review of all questions he answered incorrectly!
Done? Not yet. When going through the test runs, I discovered some characters in the database did not speak so well. For example, when you and I see “________ is an example of…”, we understand that the “_____” means “blank”, but to the computer, it was speaking “underscore, underscore, underscore, underscore, underscore…”. Ugh! So tweaks were made to the database for these occurrences and several others.
My final task was to simulate the experience of the completed program. Yes, I blindfolded myself and went through the entire program listening to the questions, selecting the answers, moving through the test, and then listening to my test result and incorrect questions. What I discovered for myself is that I really do not know where all the keys are on the keyboard without glancing down from time to time! But the program works!
I spoke with the young man this morning to share the good news. I asked out of curiosity, what his actual RD Exam experience will be like. He explained that he will have someone there with him reading the questions and answers. He will state his choice, and the assistant will make the selections and proceed through the test. His test will also be timed but will be allotted additional time to complete it.
And that’s the story. In the almost 10 years that I’ve been providing the most advanced study guides for nutrition students preparing for their national registration exams, I have never had this question come up, nor even had any thought to go down this road. A few months ago, a student came to me, knowing I have this great study tool and requested something unimaginable. I just couldn’t say no, at least not without trying. It could very well be yet another 10 years until the next nutrition student sends me an email asking the same. Now I can say immediately, “Yes, I can help you.”
The RD Practice Exam for the Visually Impaired is now available upon request! The DTR Practice Exam can also be adjusted to fit this unique format as well if needed. Please contact me for more information.
Ryan Hartz, MS, RD, CSSD
Visual Veggies Software