At a time when students everywhere are struggling with remote instruction, students at North Carolina’s Governor Morehead School (GMS), the state’s residential school for the blind and visually impaired, also faced the additional challenge of not having enough technology that fit their unique needs
Learning from home, many students were using devices that limited their learning and contact with their teachers and classmates. Some applications or programs – including those needed to prepare for industry certifications in their Career and Technical Education classes – were not compatible with the technology that was available for at-home use.
But in late Fall 2020, students at the residential school in Raleigh received new laptops and technology “bundles” from HP, the California-based technology company. Each technology “bundle” includes a laptop, large external monitor, headset, docking station, external mouse, external keyboard, and braille tactile labels. A portion of the bundles were sent home with students for remote learning use, while the rest remains on campus in the school’s computer learning lab so that when students return to school, they will have access to the same bundles on campus. The donation also included a number of multi-function printers to support students and staff.
Dylan McCleary, a high school sophomore, now has a well-equipped learning space in his family’s home.
“The technology makes it easier for him to access his online classes,” said Rachelle McCleary, Dylan’s mother.
“For a long time, he used [a tablet] and that was a little difficult,” Rachelle said. “With the HP donation, he’s able to talk to his peers more and all of his teachers can see him now. With everyone in one place online it makes it easier for him to communicate with everybody. He can also save all of his documents, which was harder for him to do before.”
(In the photo above, Dylan uses his donated HP laptop, external monitor, and headset to do his lessons from home. He also has a school-issued Braille display and Brailler to use.)
“The technology is really helpful for his band class because his teacher can see how he’s playing an instrument. If he’s making any mistakes, she can correct them immediately. Also, he’s connecting with his orientation and mobility (O&M) teacher online, so he can see how Dylan is practicing using his cane.”
Students use the HP equipment to virtually connect and engage with friends from school as well as during school-sponsored programs. The opportunity to stay connected with friends and maintain social well-being is a priority at GMS throughout remote learning.
(Amaya, left, a middle school student, is using the laptop, docking station, large screen monitor and external keyboard donated by HP to do a Braille lesson.)
Dr. Sarah McManus, digital learning director for the school, said that prior to providing the devices for student use, they were equipped with accessibility software valuable to the blind and low vision users, such as Jaws screen-reading software and ZoomText, an application that magnifies everything on a computer screen to make it more readable.
“We’re very grateful for this donation from HP,” McManus said. “Especially at this difficult time, when students can’t be physically in school, this technology has helped fill a big gap for us and helped students continue to learn remotely.”
Michele Malejki, global head of social impact programs at HP, said the support for GMS is part of a broader effort by the company to help communities of color, women and people with disabilities achieve digital equity and to enable better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025.
“Students with visual impairments shouldn’t get left behind because they lack proper technology to help them learn from home,” Malejki said. “Collaborating with Governor Morehead School represents HP’s purpose to create technology for everyone, everywhere. We look forward to working with them to empower students with the knowledge and skills to participate in a digital world.”
Students, faculty and parents will share product feedback with HP’s Office of Aging & Accessibility to help the company enhance the technology experience for people with access needs.
About Governor Morehead School (GMS)
Established in 1845, the Governor Morehead School (GMS) offers specialized educational opportunities, community outreach and an immersive environment for North Carolina students with visual impairments and additional disabilities. Our vision is to Nurture, Innovate, Challenge, and Empower. More information can be found at www.governormorehead.net.
Since 2011, the Governor Morehead School has been managed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction/Education Services for the Deaf and Blind along with the other two residential
schools for the blind and the deaf. For more information visit: https://www.dpi.nc.gov/students-families/student-support/education-services-deaf-and-blind