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Leveling the Playing Field: Perspective of a DeafBlind User

A woman in a striped sweater helps a young boy use the Monarch on a table in a school library.

Danielle Burton, APH’s Communications Accessibility Editor, has long hoped for a piece of access technology that levels the playing field for students who are DeafBlind, like herself. The Monarch is just what Danielle has been waiting for.

“I was first introduced to the Monarch in early February 2023 at the Principals of Schools for the Blind (POSB) conference in Louisville,” said Danielle. “I got an opportunity to look at a tactile map of the United States and learn how the zoom feature worked. I was floored at what I could see on the Monarch and how it integrated the tactile graphics display, the braille, and of course, the Perkins-style keyboard.”

Joining the APH team in November 2023, Danielle was given the opportunity to test the Monarch’s Nemeth math feature. The ability to read multiple lines of math on one device made this task simple and less tedious. “It was easier to be able to say, ‘Okay, this part of the problem is here,’” said Danielle. She was able to hold her finger on one number while looking at the rest of the problem. While this is possible on paper braille, currently you are unable to do this on any other electronic braille device. “If I were trying to solve those problems, it would have made it a whole lot easier.” Danielle believes she would have gotten better grades in math if she had been able to utilize the Monarch in school.

The tactile viewer, an app that gives users access to the Tactile Graphic Image Library (TGIL), is Danielle’s favorite. “As a blind adult, I don’t need those graphics to review in class, but I still have a lot of fun going through and seeing the diagrams of things I learned about in school,” said Danielle. She can view numerous images, get a refresher on what something looks like, or even discover something she has never seen before.

Although Danielle is DeafBlind, she is a visual learner. “I have always had to have some kind of tactile representation to grasp a lot of concepts. For me, tactile graphics are the bridge in building concepts.”

The Monarch’s 10 lines of braille are also equally important for a DeafBlind user. Usually limited to one line at a time on most braille displays, “The ability to read multiple lines at once on a device like the Monarch would greatly equalize the playing field for DeafBlind students and adults because our primary communication mode is going to be tactile,” said Danielle.

By purchasing the Monarch, teachers invest in their students’ academic growth. “The Monarch will greatly increase literacy, not just your standard braille literacy, but also your math and tactile graphic literacy,” said Danielle. “That increase in students’ ability to understand tactile graphics is going to go a long way for education and provide more opportunities as an adult for employment.”

Preorder the Monarch today so you can utilize this revolutionary device in your classroom.

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