In response to recent school closures, VISTAS Education Partners (based out of New Jersey) has started a free resource called the National Homework Hotline for blind and visually impaired students to receive support and help with accessing classroom materials during this time. I am super excited to be one of the volunteers for this hotline as well, and today will be sharing information all about the National Homework Hotline for blind and visually impaired students, as well as sharing some of my favorite virtual resources that can benefit students.
Who is this for?
The National Homework Hotline is for students of all ages, from kindergarten through college, that are blind, have low vision, or have some form of visual impairment that need assistance with assignments or using assistive technology to make things accessible.
- How To Embrace Assistive Technology With Limited Funding
- How To Create A Disability Services File
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- What To Know About College Assistive Technology Specialists
- Common Classroom Accommodations For Low Vision
What exactly is the National Homework Hotline?
The National Homework Hotline is a free resource for students that are blind or visually impaired that need assistance with using assistive technology or with their coursework during school closures. The hotline is staffed by volunteers including TVIs, assistive technology specialists, tutors, blind/low vision mentors, STEM professionals, and college students. People can contact the hotline through email by sending a message with their student’s first name, grade, a specific description of the help they need, and a phone number they can be reached at, or by calling 732-835-6672 and leaving a message with the same information.
- How I Organize Emails In College
- How I Use My Phone As Assistive Technology In Class
- Ten Things I Wish My TVI Taught Me About Transition
- Five Things Your IEP Case Manager Won’t Tell You
- Make Any Android Smartphone Accessible For $8
- Official National Homework Hotline website
When will it be available?
The hotline is currently available now and will be available for the foreseeable future, as more states announce extended school closures.
Callbacks for messages on the hotline take place from 11 AM to 9 PM eastern standard time, Monday through Friday. While the exact length of calls may vary, most calls typically last about 30 minutes. This post will be updated if the hours change in the future.
- Virtual Classes in High School
- Tips To Stay Organized In Virtual Classes
- Why To Take Virtual Classes in College
- How I Attend College Classes Remotely With Chronic Illness
- My Favorite Tips For Attending Live Video Lectures
Where can the National Homework Hotline be helpful for me?
The National Homework Hotline is able to help with a variety of topics, including but not limited to:
- Using screen readers such as JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, and similar tools
- Using screen magnification tools
- Accessibility settings and app recommendations for completing assignments
- Help with using Microsoft and Google products for education
- Nemeth and literary Braille
- Cranmer abacus
- Refreshable Braille displays
- Core curriculum subjects (math, English/language arts, science, history/social studies)
- How To Use VoiceOver For Beginners
- Zoom Magnifier and Low Vision
- Windows Magnifier and Low Vision
- Ways To Read Webpages Without A Traditional Screen Reader
- Ten Fun Facts About Braille for World Braille Day 2019
- Seven Accessibility Features You Didn’t Know Existed In Microsoft Office
Why should I use it?
Blind and visually impaired students who are having trouble adjusting to virtual/distance learning can benefit from the resources provided by the National Homework Hotline, especially if they currently have limited/no access to their teacher of the visually impaired, assistive technology specialist, or other support staff they would traditionally have in the classroom or school environment. I know from experience that it can be challenging to learn new technology and new material in the classroom at the same time, and that it’s easy to fall behind in class if the student is being presented with inaccessible materials. Many of the volunteers on the hotline are also blind or have low vision, so they have firsthand experience of what it’s like to use screen magnification for algebra 2 or how to use a Braille display to read a paper for English. They can also share additional free resources for people that are looking for assistance with assistive technology or with other educational topics.
- What I Wish I Learned About Assistive Technology Before Starting College
- Ten Tech Skills Every College Student Needs
- Eight Things You Need To Know About Your IEP
- Learning to Self-Advocate
- Why I Prefer My Schoolwork Digitally
How do I volunteer for the National Homework Hotline?
The National Homework Hotline is currently accepting visually impaired and sighted volunteers that would be available for at least one 90 minute shift a week to answer phone calls and other messages. People who are interested in becoming a volunteer can fill out the form linked below, and someone from the group will contact you with more information after reviewing your application.
- Volunteer survey for the National Homework Hotline
- Why I Love Having Friends With The Same Condition
- How To Be An Ally For Disabled Friends
- Tips For BeSpecular Volunteers From A Visually Impaired User
- Tips For Be My Eyes Volunteers From A Vision Impaired User
I am so grateful that the National Homework Hotline resource has been made available for blind and visually impaired students who are learning more about how to use their assistive technology and how to create their own accessible materials, two skills that are highly valuable when preparing for transition. I highly recommend taking advantage of this free resource during this time of extended school closures, and I hope that the National Homework Hotline is helpful for others!