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Considerations & Adaptations
When Working with Visually Impaired Students
Please note: This information should be used as a
reference guide. Not all recommendations will apply to all students nor
all persons who are blind or have a visual impairment.
Write in manuscript rather than cursive when
presenting handwritten materials.
- Consider the size of print the student requires to
access information large print = 18 point print (some students will need
larger when specified on eye condition sheet); regular print= 10-12 point
print. Increasing the print for some eye conditions may not be
beneficial–Bigger is not always better!
- Each student will have his/her own distance for
reading. Don't be concerned if this distance is very short. They may have to
put a print paper up to their nose to see it. Some students require reading
stands that rise the material up to their viewing distance rather than them
leaning over and blocking the light source. Using reading stands may help
avoid back and neck pain for the student.
- Consider the size of stimulus used e.g. picture or
objects- do diagrams need enlarging or reducing?
- Consider pictures and their detail- some may need
- Reduce visual clutter, i.e. leave out unnecessary
detail on worksheets.
- Watch for signs of visual fatigue such as red or
watering eyes, rubbing eyes and/or headaches. Allow for rest/breaks and use
non visual activities such as listening to taped materials from time to
time. Alleviate visual fatigue by modifying the number of exercises a
student has to complete.
- Allow additional time for the student to explore
- Contrast work areas by using contrasting colored
cloth, a colored tray or a place mat to defined work areas. Consider the
clothes you wear, e.g. don’t ask a student to look at a red object you are
holding in front of your red shirt.
- When producing materials for a student, consider
contrast. Does the student require bold lines around picture symbols? Is
color appropriate to use to highlight? Bold line paper and black felt tipped
pens increase contrast for a student when writing. Beige paper with bold
lines is also available or can be made by using beige or photo copy the bold
Consider student’s reading rate when giving
Consider environmental adaptations-modifications
to maximize the use of vision, i.e. changing lighting, contrast, color,
distance, and size of object in the environment.
- Provide verbal warnings or comments, e.g. say the
student’s name and verbalize what is about to happen; use verbal rewards and
praise as the student cannot see a smile or nod of the head. Read out loud
as you write.
- Ensure lighting conditions are appropriate to the
student’s vision impairment i.e. does the student require high or low levels
of illumination? Additional lighting may be required e.g. use of a desk lamp
or floor lamp.
- Is the student sensitive to light or glare, e.g.
phobophobia? Never position a student facing a light source (natural or
artificial). Teach from a position without a light source coming from behind
you; avoid standing with the window behind you. Consider sunglasses and a
hat for the student, even when working inside. Reduce glare in the classroom
e.g. use blinds or curtains to cover windows producing glare. Avoid glare on
tasks, work surfaces etc. e.g. avoid using glossy paper. Some students find
white paper gives off too much glare, try pale colored paper. Place computer
screens to minimize glare. Try using a black background on the screen.
(Reversed polarity). Allow time for the student to adjust to different
lighting levels when moving from outside to inside or vice versa
- Consider visual impairment - where is the
student’s best field of view for presenting work? Placement of materials,
(including null position for students with nystagmus).
- Consider low vision aids.
- Allow the student additional organizational time
e.g. when asked to pack up.
Use white or yellow chalk on chalkboard.
Use black felt pens on white boards.
Avoid glare on white boards.
Allow students to hand out materials. This will
help them to know where the other students in the class are seated or
Leave information sheet in the materials being
assigned for substitute teachers so they can be made aware of the student’s
needs and adaptations.
Consider areas in the school environment which
need to be made more visible, e. g. edge of steps, outlining a light switch,
defining doorways. A painted strip (usually yellow or white) can be used to
provide greater contrast in these areas.
Consider lighting conditions in all areas of the
school environment ( inside and out) in which the student will be operating,
e.g. stairs, covered walkways, locker areas and toilets.
Alert student to any changes in the room.
A student may need storage room for equipment.
Consider using paper with bold and enlarged spaces
for students who are having difficulty writing with regular paper. A range
of different bold lined paper is available.
As well as being necessary for listening to audio
cassettes, tape recorders are useful for the student to take notes, record
lessons, do assignments, answer questions and complete exams.
The teacher can use the tape recorder to record
worksheets or assignments, to make comments on assignments or tests and give
extended directions as required.
Many students produce their work using computers.
Some software packages come with accessibility options for larger print and
icons. However, some students may need specialized software for large print,
speech, or Braille access.
Keyboarding often replaces handwriting for the
student with a vision impairment. There are a wide range of keyboarding
programs available from educational software providers. Using the key
commands as an alternative to the mouse can assist the student to navigate
around the screen.
- And finally, it’s important for us all to remember
that from time to time it is also important to step back!
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