Teaching a student with visual impairments for the first time can be intimidating, but there are many resources available to help and there are lots of assistive technologies specifically designed for students with low vision or blindness. Every visually impaired student is different and has different needs so there is no one-size-fits-all guideline. To get you started, here are:
1. Always Use the Student’s Name When Speaking to Them
Because visually impaired students have limited vision, they may not be aware when someone is speaking to them, to the entire class or to another student. Always use a visually impaired student’s name when speaking to them so that they are aware that the communication is addressed to them.
2. Seating is Important for Students with Visual Impairments
It is important that the student is able to sit where he or she sees best. Let the student decide where the best seat location is for their visual field. The student may choose to sit as close to the blackboard as is practical and/or near an outlet to be able to plug in any assistive technology. Work with the student to find the best location for their seat.
3. Reduce Glare and Be Sure There is Good Lighting
Glare can be distracting, can interfere with what is being read and can reduce the vision that a visually impaired student has. Whenever possible, draw shades and curtains to reduce glare. Also, be sure when possible that the visually impaired student can sit with his or her back to the window or other light sources that cause glare. Make sure there is adequate lighting for the students to see.
4. Make Handouts Both Hard Copy and Electronic
Be sure that any handouts given are in large print that meets the needs of the individual student. The student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program/Plan) will give you guidelines for your student. If your handouts are given in paper copies, then black print on white paper is typically best of low vision students. Whenever possible make both printed (hard copy or Braille) and electronic versions of handouts available.
5. Use the ViA app for iDevices to Find Resources for Blind and Low Vision Students
The ViA app (Visually Impaired App) is a great resource for teachers and students that was developed by Braille Institute. This app is for anyone who is blind or has low vision to find any app that is developed for people with visual impairments. ViA gives you access to accessible apps, such as games, talking or large print calculators, voice over, zoom or magnification, etc. The ViA app is specifically for Apple iDevices (iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad).
6. Teach Typing Skills and Encourage Your Students to Practice Typing
Visually impaired students who are excellent typists tend to be more successful students. Learning to type early is a gateway to accessing technology (computers, iPads, low vision and blindness devices). Typing is faster than dictation when it comes to capturing communications. Teaching your blind and low vision students how to type is a key to success when using technology. Whenever possible, encourage your students to practice their typing skills.
7. Keep a Quick Reference Resource Guide for Unified English Braille (UEB) Readily Available
Braille is currently going through a major transition to Unified English Braille (UEB) that is like learning a new language for both visually impaired students and teachers. This transition is temporarily making working with Braille more difficult until the new UEB system can be mastered. To help both you and your student learn the new UEB, it is great to keep a quick reference or resource guide for Unified English Braille Readily Available.
8. Sign Up For Low Vision and Blindness Education Training Services from NELV&B
New England Low Vision and Blindness (NELV&B) offers low vision and blindness assessment and training services for students, teachers and schools. NELV&B can assess needs, recommend low vision and blindness products, set up systems and provide training for visually impaired students and the education professionals who work with them.
Our training services enable students and teachers to use technology to get the visually impaired student immediate access to tests, notes, presentations, etc. and to have the same equal access to educational information as their peers.
Click here to learn more about our top low vision production for schools and educators.