Earlier today, I received an email from a parent asking about using the Raz-Kids app with visual impairment and if the app could be used independently by an older elementary school-aged student with low vision. I’ve used this app in the past when helping students to access different reading activities for their classes, and while every student’s assistive technology needs are different, the students I worked with were able to access the app with little to no assistance. Here are my tips for using the Raz-Kids app with visual impairment, and for teaching students to use it on their favorite devices.
What is Raz-Kids?
Raz-Kids is an app from Learning A-Z that allows elementary school-aged students to read over 800 different books in English, Spanish, and French, and take quizzes based on what they have read. It is traditionally used by teachers/schools, though parents can also sign up for an account if they are interested. Raz-Kids is currently offering a two-month free trial, though parents can purchase a yearly membership for $115, while teachers are eligible for special education pricing.
How to access Raz-Kids
Users have many different options for accessing Raz-Kids through the Kids A-Z app, including:
- The Raz-Kids website
- Android app
- iOS/iPad OS app
- Kindle Fire app
Once the user gets to the login screen, they will be prompted to log in as a teacher or parent. For my students, the teacher would log in and then have students select their name from the list and enter their password either by typing or by selecting 1/2 pictures from a list. The login screen itself is fully accessible with large print and screen reading tools on the iOS and Android apps, though students will need login information from their teacher or parent in order to use the app.
After the user logs in to their Raz-Kids account, they are taken to a home screen within the app that will look different depending on the grade level set for students. The first time they use the app, the student will be prompted to take a reading assessment test so that the app can determine the student’s reading level, which will require students to read a short passage and answer questions. After that is completed, the Reading tab will have a list of books that are assigned for each student user by their parent or teacher.
For users who want to test out the app without creating an account, they can use the Guest Books feature which is found on the login screen to browse sample titles in English and allows users to see what the books are like.
- App Accessibility Checklist for Low Vision
- Seven Factors That Make Websites Accessible To The Visually Impaired
Reading books with Raz-Kids
When assigning a book for an assignment, teachers/parents have the option to configure how they want students to interact with the content, such as enabling audio versions of the text or requiring a quiz at the end. For users assigning books to students with visual impairments or other print disabilities, I strongly recommend enabling the audio versions of titles when available so that students can listen to the books out loud.
Once the student opens the book, they have the option to choose whether they want to read the book or listen along as the book is displayed onscreen. The books themselves feature illustrations and text just like physical books, and system font preferences are not taken into account. However, users can zoom in on the pages with the pinch-to-zoom gesture, and use the swipe gesture to navigate from page to page.
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Read
- Common Classroom Accommodations For Low Vision
- Assistive Technology For Fluctuating Eyesight
Using Raz-Kids with large print/screen magnification
The first time I tested this app was with a student with low vision who uses large print and an iPad to access school materials. For students with low vision who may have trouble distinguishing images, I recommend enabling a text-based password if possible and allowing users to choose between reading print and listening to audiobooks. With these settings in place, the student was able to independently find the book they were assigned to read and navigate the pages using familiar gestures, zooming in to see what was in different pictures. While the student did ask questions about what was in the pictures, they were overall able to read a book on their own and take a quiz about what they had just read, though they preferred to use the Zoom magnifier built into their device to take the quiz, since they had trouble reading some of the sentences.
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- How To Create Secure And Easy To Remember Passwords
- Ten Tech Skills Every College Student Needs
- Zoom Magnifier and Low Vision
- Assistive Technology For Fluctuating Eyesight
Using Raz-Kids with a screen reader
Another student I worked with uses a screen reader to access most content, and used a combination of devices including an Android phone and an iPhone to read books for their class- the student commented that they preferred to use smaller devices to listen to books instead of trying to balance a larger tablet or computer. We were excited to learn that Raz-Kids works very well with screen readers, especially VoiceOver, and the student was able to do their reading placement test without any assistance. The student frequently used familiar gestures such as double-tap to select, swiping with multiple fingers, and using their entire hand to zoom in on images as needed. Unfortunately, titles that were not available with audio tracks did not work with their screen reader, though their teacher did not assign any titles to them that didn’t have audio tracks.
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
- How To Use VoiceOver For Beginners
- How I Document Accessibility Preferences With Low Vision
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
Similar apps to Raz-Kids
Looking for apps that are similar to Raz-Kids that are available for students with visual impairments? Check out these links below- many of them also have Spanish and French titles available too.
- Amazon Rapids Review
- Epic App Review For Visual Impairment
- TumbleBooks For Low Vision Review
- Digital Library Resources For Vision Impaired Patrons
- Novel Effect App Review For Visual Impairment
- Ten Cool Things You Didn’t Know About Bookshare
I had a lot of fun testing out the Raz-Kids app with students earlier this year, and I’m glad to see that it can be used independently by students with visual impairments without requiring lots of technology skills. I hope this post on using the Raz-Kids app with visual impairment is helpful for others!