At many of the schools I attended, I served on the school news in some capacity. I love being in front of the camera, as well as working behind the scenes, and this activity was the perfect fit for me. Here are some tips for including students with vision impairments, including low vision and blindness on the school news team. There is no specific age range for this post, and I also include tips that can be applied to live and pre-recorded broadcasts.
About my school programs
Each school I attended had a different school news program. The elementary school I attended had a daily live broadcast in the morning that a group of 30 students produced. My middle school had a daily live broadcast in the morning with a small staff, and students could sign up to be anchors for the week- something me and a close friend decided to do. My high school did a pre-recorded broadcast as an after school activity, and a new episode was released anywhere from every week to every month.
Large print teleprompter
If a teleprompter is used for students, make sure it is in a large, clear font like Arial, on a high contrast background. If the teleprompter is not an option, consider having a smaller screen on the news table outside of camera view. One of the school news programs I worked with used a laptop as the main teleprompter and then had a small tablet that mirrored the laptop that was on the news table. Read more about smart font choices here.
Use a camera with auditory feedback
My video camera has many different beeps to let me know what is on the screen, even if I can’t see what’s on the screen myself. Different sounds can be enabled in the video camera notification settings.
Wear glasses on camera
A common complaint is that glasses cause glare or obscure eyes. However, do not remove glasses, especially tinted ones, as this can cause even more problems. After all, that’s technically discrimination. Read more about wearing glasses in photos here.
Have interviews in accessible locations
Reconsider interviewing people at the top of a staircase or on a gravel section. Instead, pick accessible locations that are easy to navigate with mobility aids like a blindness cane. This is better for all people on the news team. It will be much easier to film on a level surface than on an uneven one.
Allow students to have scripts printed or on devices
When I did segments outside of the normal news studio, I would print out a copy of the script. Alternatively, I would have it on my iPad for quick reference. While these items didn’t appear on camera very often, I appreciated having accessible materials at my fingertips if I needed them.
Don’t be afraid to have the cane on camera
There’s a bit of stigma surrounding the blindness cane, and that’s why I never used one in high school. It’s up to the student as to whether or not the cane should be included on video. Don’t shy away from it just because it’s a symbol of low vision. If you need the cane, then use it!
Have an assistant
I requested that I have a student assistant/human guide when working on school news projects. This was normally a friend of mine that would help me make sure the project came out looking the best that it can. They also would also help with moving equipment and similar tasks.
Check the background
One time, I started taking photos for a project and didn’t realize that there was a giant poster in the background that when covered, appeared to spell out an inappropriate phrase. Following that incident, I always asked someone to check the background before I started filming or taking pictures.
Sometimes, technology suddenly fails, or a student feels more comfortable memorizing information. It’s important to remember that for the most part, nothing needs to be memorized word for word. Practice improvisation and extemporaneous speaking when possible.
Train in different jobs
Explore many different jobs and roles on the school news, not only because it is good to understand all of the different jobs, but because a new position may eventually be necessary. Eyesight changes, and there may come a time when some jobs are more difficult than others. While it’s ultimately up to the student on whether they should change jobs or not, knowing how to work in different areas can be helpful when determining which job is the best fit.
I loved working with the school news and being able to reach out to my school community. I held many positions on the different school news programs I worked on, including videographer, editor, anchor, field reporter, writer, and I even served as a mentor for a group of students for an elementary school morning news program (more on that here). It’s a great extracurricular to join, and I am grateful for my teacher developing accommodations for school news.