LOW VISION AND BLINDNESS
BY KIM SHIBLEY
DESCRIPTION FOR TEACHERS AND PARENTS
DEFINITIONS AND TYPES OF VISUAL DISABILITIES
Visual Disabilities - Limited use of sight
- Low Vision - Some functional eyesight
- Blindness - No functional eyesight
- Visual impairment (instead of visual disabilities)
- Partial sight (instead of low vision)
- Legally blind - Those with vision worse than 20/200
Being legally blind is based on a measurement that is used to implement special service support for those with visual disabilities. This does not always mean that the individual is completely blind. Individuals may even have 20/20 vision, but the vision impairment affecting the other parts of the eye places them in this category (Allegheny College; 2015)
- Impaired acuity (how well a person can see at various distances)
- Impaired peripheral fields (how well a person can see outside of the direct line of vision)
- Impaired lower visual field
- "Blind spots" in the visual field
Students with visual disabilities may exhibit different signs such as:
- Having an awkward head tilt
- Watery or unfocused eyes
- Complaints of scratchy eyes
- Complaints of head aches
- Excessive eye rubbing
- Difficulty in discriminating letters or symbols
Prevalence: Around 1 in 4 students within grade school have some type of visual impairment, however, most of these students can correct their disability with eyeglasses or contacts without needing special services. Also, 2/3 of the time those who have a visual disability have another disability as well. Therefore, many students with visual disabilities fall into different categories of special education. Including these students, those with a visual disability take up approximately 0.04% to 0.1% of school children (Smith, D. D. & Tyler, N. C.; 2014). As of 2015 the number of students who's visual impairment is blindness is approximately 60, 393 (National Federation of the Blind; 2015)
The student with visual disabilities encounters many challenges within the classroom. Here are three data based practices that can help to support those students.
1. Making the text accessible - Although students with visual disabilities range in visual acuity, many students will be able to access the classroom texts if certain accommodations are made for them. This includes providing students with enlarged texts, digital texts, or text enhancers. Students may perform better if the text is enlarged to the point where it becomes legible to them. Also, if these students cannot access the text by sight, then audio books or personal readers are another source of communication for the student to access the materials.
2. Modifying the physical environment - Many problems that students with visual disabilities encounter come as a direct result of how the physical environment of a classroom is set up. They may trip on unseen carpets, or be bothered by the sharpness of the light, or have difficulty seeing the materials the teacher is pointing out. Teachers can set their classroom up in appropriate manners and teach their students to make accommodations for individuals with visual disabilities. This may mean that a student who has a problem with bright light should sit away from the window, or the lights could be dimmed to a point where he/she is comfortable along with the rest of the class. Objects in the class that could be harmful to the student could be put out of reach, or in a constant position so the student knows where they are. Items that the student needs to access could be put into varying shades of bright color so the student can comprehend them better.
3. Braille - Although this approach is becoming less popular, Braille is a means of accessing materials on an individual level. Consisting of letters made of bumps on a paper, braille lets the individual access classroom materials at his/her own pace. The student can then further his/her own learning beyond the classroom and access materials as long as they are in this format.
Home Strategies to Generalize Classroom Supports
1. Making texts accessible - Those with visual disabilities need to be able to access the information they need in their own homes. This could come in the form of calendars, organizers, books, television, and computers. Parents can make sure that the text their children are trying to access are available to them. They can provide their children with enlarged print books or digital devices that enlarge print for them. They can also have magnifiers on hand so individuals can read labels and charts. Television screens and computer screens can be larger so that textual information is easier to read. These are all small accommodations that are a large support.
2. Modifying the physical environment - It is important that an individual with a visual disability feels comfortable and safe in his/her own home. That means that the environment in which they live should be accommodating. One way to do this is to keep the environment constant. If an individual knows where specific pieces of furniture are then he/she will be less likely to stumble over them. Out of sight objects that they could fall over could be placed out of the way. Doors could either be left open all the time or closed. Even the use of lower or brighter lights and shades can help an individual feel comfortable and safe.
3. Braille - Although this may seem like a school related support, it is important that an individual feels supported in the home too. This means that if braille is a way that they can individually access information, then they should be given that material. Hard copy books can do this, but certain assistive technologies have been made so that individuals can access computer information as well as type out their own braille work. This is a means of taking in as well as expressing.
American Foundation for the Blind
National Federation of the Blind (2015). Blindness Statistics. Retrieved from https://nfb.org/blindness-statistics
Smith, D. D. & Tyler, N. C. (2014) Introduction to Contemporary Special Education: New Horizons. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 13: 978-0-13-294461-8.
Allegheny College (2015). Student Disability Services. Retrieved from http://sites.allegheny.edu/disabilityservices/students-who-are-blind-or-have-a-visual-impairment/