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Working with a Student with Vision Loss

Visual disabilities can result from a variety of causes including: congenital conditions, injury, eye disease, brain trauma, or multiple sclerosis. A person is considered legally blind if corrected vision is no better than 20/200, or if peripheral fields are not more than 20 degrees diameter or 10 degrees radius.

Eighty to ninety person of people who are legally blink have some measurable vision or light perception. Even those students who may appear to travel and function without assistance are likely to still require some type of classroom accommodation. Most students with visual disabilities use a combination of adoptions for class participation including:  readers, note takers, Braille, books in alternate format, voice synthesizing computers, and optical scanning or enlarging devices.

It should be noted that not all student who are totally blind can or want to read Braille. Some medical conditions may actually preclude that skill. Conditions such as diabetes for example, may reduce sensation in the finger tips as a result of poor circulation therefore limiting a person’s ability to read Braille.

Instructional Strategies and Potential Accommodations

  • Provide a list of textbooks, assigned reading, and test dates as far in advance as possible. Students may need to make arrangements to have books converted to an alternate format, which could take several weeks or months.
  • Read aloud or have another student quietly read any written material presented in class to the student with a visual impairment. This includes materials on the blackboard, overhead, flip-chart, Power Point. 
  • Use good contrast in printed material for students who are partially sighted. Write larger and darker when using the chalkboard.
  • Create an environment as noise-free as possible. Unnecessary sounds can be distracting. For example, turn off the overhead projector when not in use.
  • When using teaching aides such as videos, models, or slides, have someone available to assist the student with a visual disability by describing the material. If possible, make the material available for private showing.
  • Try to speak directly facing the class; turning your head away can muffle or distort the sound of your voice.
  • Since the student with a visual disability cannot see visual cues, it is important for him/her to be seated in a position to receive verbal cues.
  • Dog guides are trained and well-behaved. Do not worry that they will disrupt your class. They will require no special consideration with the possible exception of planning a field trip.
  • Encourage student to meet with you at the beginning of the term to discuss any potential accommodations. Consider an alternative form of an assignment if the original format creates an excessive burden for the student with a visual disability. It is important to remember that any alternative version should require the same level of skill and effort as the original assignment.
  • Invite students to discuss timelines for projects and assignments with you. Information gathering and assistance from readers, note takers, or volunteers may require additional time.
  • Be prepared to give the student additional lead time to complete assignments.
  • The majority of students with visual impairments will use recorders, laptops, or the other technology for note taking. If not, a note taker may be necessary.

Communication Suggestions

  • Introduce yourself and anyone else present when speaking to a student with a visual disability.
  • Do not feel uncomfortable using words such as “see” or “look”, a students with visual impairments use these term also.
  • When walking with a student who has a visual disability, allow him/her to take your arm just above the elbow. Walk with a natural manner and pace.
  • Ensure that when giving directions to a person with a visual disability you are clear and accurate. Use north, south, east and west as well as left and right.
  • When guiding a person with a visual disability, slow down when approaching steps or obstacles and let them know what is in their path. Let the student know if you will be going up or down the stairs. When coming to a door, tell them if it opens in or out.
  • When offering a seat to a student with a visual disability, place the student’s hand on the back or arm of the chair. This gives the student a frame of reference to seat him/herself.
  • Let a student with a visual impairment know when you are leaving a room.
  • A guide dog is trained as a working animal and should not be petted or spoken to without the permission of the handler. A general rule of thumb is that the dog is working while in a harness.
  • In case of emergencies, alert the student to the nature of the situation. Offer assistance to the student and guide him or her to the nearest emergency exit and way form the building to safety. Some types of emergencies require safety within the building.  Depending upon the nature of the emergency, during crisis periods, there may be a lot of commotion and noise. A student who is blind may not be able to orient him or herself as well as in calmer times. Assistance is critical to their safety. 

Last Modified: 3/27/23 5:02 PM | Website Feedback