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DARS Division for Blind Services Training Program
The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Division for Blind Services is a division of a state agency dedicated to ensuring that people who are blind or visually impaired have the same opportunities as other Texans to pursue full and productive lives. The commission offers a large number of programs and services aimed at providing support to people who are visually impaired in order for them to enjoy equal employment and growth opportunities.
DARS approached MicroAssist Inc., the only training center in Austin, TX capable of meeting such unique requirements, to train its employees in Microsoft Access and its various applications.
Training students that are visually impaired, either completely or partially, presented in itself a great challenge. In addition, Access and its applications are not necessarily designed for such an audience. MicroAssist met the challenge by customizing its teaching methods and employing innovative approaches.
MicroAssist developed customized classes that focused solely on using Access and creating sound databases, the same focus that all our Access courses have. Keeping in mind the unique needs of the client, two types of Assistive Technology(AT) were used. The first is JAWS, a program that converts text to speech and enables students to hear and distinctively recognize the interface through voice output. JAWS is used by the completely visually impaired students. The second is ZoomText, a program that magnifies objects on the monitor. It was used by students with partial vision. It was important for our instructors and curriculum to focus on the use of keyboard shortcuts and functions. With the successful completion of the introduction and intermediate Access courses, MicroAssist introduced an advanced training class that focused on teaching the management, administrative and technical staff of TCB to use one of their in-house Access based applications. This application was widely used within the agency to track the requirements and resources of its employees. Students learned critical tasks of using the GUI interfaces, performing queries and creating reports.
As a result of a successful training program, employees at TCB can now:
- Use Access in concordance with their AT software. This has made the program become a viable option for DARS to create databases for in-house needs and to give their incoming students a much-needed knowledge of databases.
- Enroll in one-on-one and classroom training with MicroAssist.