MURFREESBORO — How can a totally blind college student pass a statistics class, which requires students to understand such visual items as graphs and charts?
Stuart Bernstein, a professor of psychology at MTSU, found ways to help rising senior James Boehm of Memphis, Tennessee, in his Statistics 2030 class in the fall 2014 semester. That ingenuity earned Bernstein an award from the National Foundation of the Blind.
The Stones River Chapter gave Bernstein an Educator of the Year Certificate and his own white-tipped cane at a chapter gathering in mid-April in the SunTrust Room of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building. Mark Riccobono, president of the national organization, congratulated Bernstein via speakerphone.
The chapter acted on Boehm’s nomination entry, which read, in part, “When I think of a professor who does whatever it takes to make a student’s education fully accessible and rewarding, I cannot help but think of Dr. Bernstein.”
Bernstein said Boehm had learned of a special tablet that would create raised lines on paper by drawing on it with heavy pressure.
The tablet, which is about the size of a mouse pad, enabled Bernstein to draw columns and graphs that Boehm could read by touching them.
“The probability tables are incredibly dense with columns and columns of numbers,” said Bernstein.
In addition, Bernstein used a multimedia interactive textbook that was paid for with a grant from the National Science Foundation. He also saved his PowerPoint presentations to the class in an outline format so that Boehm’s text reader could say them out loud.
“This is just a regular part of my job, to make sure that everyone I’m teaching understands and has access to stats,” said Bernstein. “It’s just what I do. And he did the hard work. I just simplified the tables. He learned everything.”
Boehm, who attends classes with the help of his trusty working dog, Shep, wrote, “Dr. Stuart Bernstein always made himself available to me if I needed further explanation on a lesson. If I emailed him, rarely did I wait more than an hour for a response.”
The certificate reads, “The National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, Stones River Chapter, recognizes Dr. Stuart Bernstein as the recipient of the 2015 Educator of the Year Award because of the ways he ensures that his MTSU students who are blind and visually impaired have equal access to every aspect of his classes, his individualized support and willingness to learn supportive technology and tools and his recognition of the unique learning styles of all students.”
Boehm and Bernstein also credit MTSU’s Adaptive Technology Lab and Disability and Access Center with providing critical assistance.
For more information on MTSU’s services for the disabled, contact the Disability and Access Center at 615-898-2783 or go to www.mtsu.edu/dac/index/php.