What is Dual Media?
Dual Media refers to the use of both print and braille simultaneously as modes for reading and writing. This decision is usually made by a student's team after a Learning Media Assessment has been completed. Some eye conditions in which there is a gradual loss of vision may be a factor in choosing this option. In some cases, print and braille are both taught from the beginning, while in other cases print readers are taught braille later in their educational careers.
How should a decision be made whether to use print or braille or both?
"In the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation of the child's reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the child's future needs for instruction in Braille or the use of Braille), that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the child;"
The team must therefore carefully weigh the decision about which medium is most effective for a given child.
What factors contribute to the decision to use dual media?
Some students have enough vision to be able to read print, but they require a great deal of time and effort in order do so. If the student requires an extremely large font size that makes it difficult to read with fluency or comprehension, then braille may be a better option. For these students, braille may be a more efficient medium for certain tasks, while print may be preferable forother tasks. For example, braille may be a better option for reading long passages, but print may be useful when shopping or moving about in the community.
If a child has a degenerative eye condition, and his or her vision is likely to worsen over time, it may be desirable to introduce braille at an early age. In this situation teachers and other members of the education team must be sensitive to the needs of the student and the family. When vision loss is an immediate reality, there are many emotional reactions to deal with and it may take time for parents and children to get used to the idea.
3. Visual Fatigue
Some students may become extremely tired and experience headaches or eye strain from reading print. Even though they may be able to read print, for these students it may be desirable to have an alternative.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to a dual-media approach?
A dual-media approach gives a student more flexibility, so that he or she can switch back and forth as circumstances change. At times print may be the preferable medium, while braille may be more efficient for reading with greater speed or ease.
Some parents and students voice a belief that they will "look blind" if they learn braille, and thus may resist it initially. For others who are losing their sight, there may be significant emotional adjustment necessary before a student is ready to learn braille. In these type of situations where a student is resistant to learning braille, it may be helpful to talk to an adult mentor who has been through a similar experience. Many adults who have lost their vision express regret that they did not learn braille at an earlier age.