It is hard to believe that the National Homework Hotline (NHH) has passed its one-year anniversary! NHH started last spring as a temporary, emergency service to assist blind and visually impaired students with navigating new remote education environments and technology tools. Since then, NHH volunteer responders have helped K12-college students gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to persist in their educational programs.
Beyond academic support, organic mentorships also evolve between NHH responders– most of whom are blind– and students. Founding NHH member Ida Behreini described this added value of NHH in a recent APH Family Connect Center blog post:
“NHH-BVI responders can viscerally empathize with the challenges of the students. Braille display isn’t connecting? We’ve been there. Frustrated by slow braille reading speeds? We’ve been there. Trying to figure out how in the world to get JAWS to cooperate? Oh, you better believe we’ve been there! Our team of responders practice what they preach every single day, and students know it. Requests for help are answered mostly by thriving blind people who shatter society’s (and sometimes even the students’) low expectations. Students learn that their NHH-BVI helper is a graduate student, engineer, business owner, or published author—and they are blind just like them. And then a truly transformative thought occurs: “If they can do it, maybe I can too!”
Ida’s sentiments are echoed in the following reflections by a TVI who supports her student with using the Hotline for access technology assistance:
“One of my middle school students benefited from the instruction given to her by one of the volunteers, Jessica, from your National Homework Hotline for Blind/Visually Impaired Students. Jessica assisted my student with using ChromeVox on her Chromebook. I was able to help my student with some commands, but your volunteer was able to give my student more support, so my student was motivated to figure out much more on her own. Your volunteer was so pleasant and patient with my questions and my student’s questions. On a side note, my student was happy to meet a role model in your volunteer, who was an adult with a visual impairment/blindness. I was pleasantly surprised after our sessions with the Homework Hotline, that my student said that she was aware of other things Jessica mentioned as we were working, such as having a guide dog and her professional career. Successful role models are so helpful to my students, especially when this benefit was not even planned.” – D.M., Teacher of Visually Impaired in California
Although the original plan was for NHH to be temporary service, feedback from volunteers, parents, educators, and students around the country has made it clear that the need for personalized, after school support specifically targeting blind and visually impaired students existed before the pandemic, and it is not just a temporary one.
Thanks to the generosity of our volunteers, we look forward to NHH continuing in the months and school year ahead!