The Hadley School for the Blind (www.hadley.edu) is the world’s largest educator of people who are blind or visually impaired as well as the world’s largest Braille educator. The school’s curriculum has always been delivered completely through online education, meaning students can study from anywhere at any time. Hadley serves nearly 10,000 students in all 50 states and approximately 100 countries. Hadley serves adult students, age 14 and over. Our mission is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers.
Hadley courses are tuition-free for people who are blind or visually impaired and their family members; there is modest tuition for professionals. Students study at their own pace and receive personalized, one-on-one instruction from their instructor by phone, email, virtual “office hours” or mail.
Students can take courses in four formats: large print, Braille, audio or online. Since we began offering courses in an online format in 2002 as part of our eHadley initiative, more than 13,000 students have completed one or more online courses. 89 of our approximately 100 courses are offered in an online format, and 20 new online courses were introduced in 2014. Most of our online courses also are now accessible on mobile devices, so that students can literally study on the go if they choose.
If you’re not familiar with blindness, you may be asking yourself how a blind person can take courses online. The answer is through adaptive technology, such as screen magnifiers or screen readers. A screen reader is a software application that converts text on a screen to speech. One of the most popular is called JAWS. If a student doesn’t know how to use a screen reader, Hadley has a series of courses to teach them how to use this technology!
While many students come to us to learn to read and write Braille, we offer much more than just Braille education. In addition to Braille, some of our most popular areas of study include access technology, independent living skills, employment skills and recreation. These courses fall within Hadley’s Adult Continuing Education Program, which represents the largest number of students at Hadley. Some examples of ACE courses include:
Independent Living Series: This series of two-lesson courses focuses on a variety of topics central to the tasks of daily living. When individuals lose their sight, it can be overwhelming. They must relearn key daily living skills, such as cooking, dressing themselves and getting around. These courses give our students the tools they need to retain their independence and lead productive lives. The individual course topics include: orientation and mobility basics; clothing care and dressing confidently; socializing and dining; and cooking.
Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness: Whether a student was born visually impaired or lost vision later in life, this course will help them understand the adjustment to life’s demands. Maintaining self-esteem with the changes and adaptations that come with blindness are discussed in-depth and illustrated with quotes from many blind persons.
Human Eye 1 and 2: These courses explain the parts of the human eye, how it works and how corrective lenses work. They enable the student to describe the basic anatomy, routine examination procedures and some common conditions of the human eye. Hadley also offers courses on some of the specific conditions that can lead to vision impairment, including: macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma. These courses are designed to help students living with these conditions to better understand them and how to manage them.
Developing Your Technology Toolkit: Technology plays a significant role in how people interact with each other, and most will likely encounter some aspect of technology in their everyday life. This course presents a variety of prominent desktop and mobile solutions. It also discusses how adaptive technology solutions provide access to mainstream hardware and software. In addition, it focuses on proprietary, adaptive technology products designed to be used specifically by persons who are visually impaired.
Enjoying Bird Songs: Listening to birdsongs helps people reduce stress, improve cognition and memory, interact with nature and even have spiritual experiences. This course guides students through the many bird songs presented in Hadley student John Neville’s audio CD set Beginner’s Guide to Bird Songs of North America. This course helps students become able to appreciate nature and birdsongs, as well as reflect on their experiences with birdsong.
Also part of the ACE program is the Forsythe Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship (FCE), designed to address the 70 – 80% un- and underemployment rate among people who are blind or visually impaired. The FCE is not an academic, college-level business program, but instead was designed to provide the requisite computer training; relevant social security, tax, accounting, legal, marketing, management and communications information; and content specific to the needs and concerns of visually impaired individuals who want to launch and grown their own businesses. All FCE courses are online, and many are just one-lesson modules, which makes learning quick and easy. Some examples of modules include: The Marketing Plan, The Business Plan, Forms of Ownership and Networking Skills.
Since the 1930s, The Hadley School for the Blind also has offered a nationally-recognized, accredited High School Program, available to students with visual impairments age 14 and up who live in the United States. Students may transfer credits from courses taken at Hadley to their high school to graduate locally. Students may also earn their high school diploma directly through Hadley. Frustration with local schools not offering quality vision services or accessible formats, difficulties passing the state-required exit exam for graduation or inability to travel long distances have prevented many of our students from earning their diploma in the past, so the Hadley High School Program is a much-needed “second chance.”
Courses are supplemented by Seminars@Hadley, free 60 to 90-minute webinars that are available to the public. These seminars are designed to bring together our blind and visually impaired students from around the world to discuss various topics in a virtual conference room with a panel, moderator and guest speakers. Participants listen to the seminar from their computer and post questions electronically. They also ask questions and/or make comments using a microphone. Seminar topics are timely, practical and determined by what our students tell us they need. Some of our most popular seminars include: Learning to Put the “You” in YouTube, Simplifying Internet Searching and Crafting with Vision Loss. Some seminars are approved for Continuing Education Credits (CEUs).
Hadley also offer a series of instructional videos on YouTube called iFocus (www.youtube.com/hadleyschool). These videos explain how to use the vision accessibility features on iDevices (Apple products such as the iPhone and iPad). Each video focuses on a specific task on iDevices, such as sending a text message or creating a calendar event . There are now 25 videos in the series, and they have been viewed nearly 10,000 times!