This podcast is part of a series that highlights adjustments that can be made in the classroom to enable students with disability to access and participate in education on the same basis as their peers.
In this episode, we talk about common adjustments teachers make in the classroom to support students who are blind or vision impaired. Students who are blind have complete or near-complete vision loss. Students with vision impairment have decreased ability to see. The impact and challenges presented by blindness or vision impairment are significantly different for every student, depending on the cause and extent of vision loss.
Sixteen-year-old Sam has been totally blind since he was 4 years old. He explains how he is able to be involved in all aspects of school, including sports and excursions. His mum Lisa reminds teachers that no two students are alike. She says that it is important not to make assumptions about the ability of students who are blind or vision impaired. Visiting teacher Di Bennett shares a story about a student who was initially resistant to learning braille and recalls the steps their teacher took to nurture acceptance of it. Marion Blaze, manager of the Statewide Vision Resource Centre in Victoria, states that with the right adjustments students can learn the curriculum alongside everyone else in the classroom, provided they have no additional disabilities.
Top five takeaways
Verbalise your instructions as much as possible and be very descriptive in your directions so you are filling in visual gaps with words. Your instructions need to be understandable and relevant to all students.
If a student needs to access braille, remember that not all parents read braille. Ensure that you provide print copies of homework tasks or any other communication to parents directly via email or other channels.
Encourage students who require materials to be enlarged to use optical magnifiers rather than waiting to receive adapted resources such as enlarged versions of worksheets – this will foster independence.
Vision impairment can cause students to have visual fatigue, making it difficult to complete tasks. Alternate your lesson plan between activities that rely on vision and activities that don’t, giving tired eyes an opportunity to rest. In addition, consider the strain that expecting a student to constantly alternate between near and distance work can cause (for example, copying notes from the board). In such cases, consider the provision of a hard copy of board notes.
Create an inclusive learning environment where braille and other aids such as tactile resources are incorporated into all aspects of the classroom environment.
Making materials ‘bigger and brighter’ is not always the best strategy for a student with vision impairment. Why is that?
How can I reduce visual fatigue in my classroom?
How can I incorporate assistive technology and other resources into the learning environment to help students who are blind or vision impaired?
What is the easiest adjustment I can make in terms of how I communicate so my instructions are accessible to all students?
Why is it important to collaborate with the parents of students who are blind or vision impaired?