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Soaring to New Heights: A Professional’s Perspective on the Monarch

Seth LeBlond poses for a photo outdoors in front of a fountain and beside a column where a folded white cane is resting.

APH’s Monarch has flown into the hearts of many professionals. We recently spoke with Seth Leblond, the Assistive Technology Coordinator at the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Arizona, about discovering this new device and how it would be useful to him and his son who also has a visual impairment.

Seth first saw the prototype of the Monarch at the CSUN conference in 2023. In January 2024, he completed the Monarch Masters Program teacher training at the ATIA conference. When he first sat down with the Monarch, Seth noticed how the device, which was built by HumanWare, had a similar interface and command structure to their other displays, making the Monarch easy to use. “By the time the instructors told us to check out the main menu, I had connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and already downloaded some additional language packs and as well as changed the device’s voice,” Seth said. “I was checking out the contents of the thumb drive and was ready to roll.” Seth breezed through the training and helped other participants with their Monarchs. As a trainer, Seth often presents to TVIs and enjoys working alongside them to learn about the Monarch. “These are passionate people who are invested in their students. They’ll do anything to get their students what they need.”

Seth’s favorite Monarch app was the tactile viewer, which allows users to view and zoom in on thousands of graphics from APH’s Tactile Graphic Image Library (TGIL). “I never had tactile graphics in school,” Seth said. “If I ever had anything that was tactile, it was some teacher who took out a piece of tooling foil and something pointy and made a rough sketch of something for me to feel. I never had access to tactile graphics that made sense, and now, when I put my hands on stuff, I can’t tell what it is. The need to help kids with their tactile literacy stuck out at me, but now, I can start that process, and I can start that process with my son Gavin, too.” The Monarch’s instantaneous access to tactile graphics will help increase students’ and adults’ understanding of the world around them along with assisting in a classroom setting.

KeyMath, which includes a tactile graphing calculator, is another unique feature on the Monarch. Seth says he can remember not having access to graphs, or, if they did have access to them, he would get a graph, but it wouldn’t have any meaning for him because it wasn’t something that was created from numbers that he used. It was something that someone else had created without him. “I can’t use my Perkins Brailler to effectively create a scatter chart. But with KeyMath, I can plot these numbers right now with no other person involved, no transcriptionist, no anything. I can immediately have a graph generated and see what those coordinates look like on that graph,” said Seth. “This blew my mind because I’m thinking I might have gone further in math. There’s stuff after calculus that I would have been interested in, and it didn’t happen for me.” Today, students like Seth’s son, Gavin, will have an easier time in math class as KeyMath helps build understanding of different types of graphs.

Seth was excited about the Monarch’s upcoming ability to display electronic textbooks with tactile graphics. These digital materials will allow students immediate access to the same books their peers are reading instead of having to wait for braille volumes to get delivered to their school. “This is an expensive device, but when you compare it to the cost of the transcription of all of a student’s materials throughout their schooling, it’s pretty affordable,” said Seth.

The Monarch will be publicly available in September and eligible for purchase with Federal Quota funds. Stay tuned to the website, APH News, and your email inbox for more information on this upcoming device.

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