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The Impact of Technology and Presentation Mode on Reading Comprehension Among Blind and Sighted Individuals

  • Author(s): Stepien-Bernabe, Natalie Nicole
  • Advisor(s): Orel-Bixler, Deborah
  • et al.
Abstract

Rapid advances in technology are facilitating the electronic distribution of information, especially via auditory formats. These methods of acquiring information are prevalent in educational settings, such as the use of audiobooks. While auditory formats may be more

convenient and economical, they may not be the most beneficial for comprehension ability. In fact, previous research has shown that reading rather than listening leads to superior comprehension among sighted individuals. Two possible explanations for this benefit in

comprehension exist: (1) Visual processing is fundamental for reading comprehension, or (2) Reading text is more physically-engaging and effortful than listening, leading to better comprehension ability. This dissertation presents research that contributes to this debate by

comparing reading and listening comprehension between sighted individuals and blind, fluent braille readers.

The findings from this research clarify how distributing reading material using different technologies and presentation modes affects comprehension ability. These results are particularly essential for the blind community because previous research on this topic is severely lacking, and currently-used assistive technology primarily presents reading materials in auditory formats. Furthermore, this research is the first to create an assessment that accurately measures comprehension ability among two distinct participant populations, allowing for comparisons between blind and sighted individuals. The benefit of making such comparisons for elucidating the neural underpinnings of cognitive processes, such as comprehension, will be discussed as a novel methodological technique.

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