Low Vision and Blindness

Resources for Teachers and Parents

Definitions and Descriptions


A visual disability is an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a persons daily routines. Visual disabilities are broken into two subgroups:

  • Low vision
  • Blindness
Low vision enables some functional eyesight
Blindness enables no functional eyesight

Major Characteristics

  • Peripheral vision
  • Tunnel vision/ Restricted central vision
  • Near-sighted vision
  • Far-sighted vision
  • Legally blind
Children with visual disabilities may not develop the same play and social skills that other children develop. Children who ave visual disabilities typically demonstrate a two year lag in the development of play skills that require them to use their vision. These children usually prefer noisier games and activities and only play with toys that are familiar to them.

Age of Onset:
  • Congenitally blind: from birth or infancy
  • Adventitiously blind: lost sight after age 2

  • Normal acuity- 20/20 vision
  • Impaired acuity (less severe and with correction can be normal)- 20/40
  • Impaired acuity (low vision)- 20/70-20/200
  • Legally blind- anything below 20/200

"The primary causes of childhood visual disabilities include those due to premature birth, accidents and hereditary condition" (Smith & Tyler, 2014). About 1 and 4 school aged children have some sort of vision impairment, however most are aided by glasses. Approximately 83% of children with a visual impairment are in fact blind (NFB, 2014). However, most students do not need special education accommodations. Only .04% to .1% of all school-aged children receive special education services due to their visual disability (Smith & Tyler, 2014). "A student can be considered functionally literate without being able to read print or braille if she or he can interpret the environment through the auditory" (Zebehazy, 2014).

Parental Guidance is Key

A Child with Blindness -- The Planson Family -- Our Special Life -- Episode 2

Home-based strategies to help children with vision impairments

1.Provide instruction- home based instruction help children create routines. Routines are key in helping the child become familiar with every day situations. A child who is blind does not have the pleasure of seeing something and allowing it to stimulate a action or feeling. With a scheduled routine for certain days, the child will be able to make things "concrete" and be more willing to grow and learn.
2. Encourage social skills- many children who are blind tend to socially develop two-year later than a sighted child. Parents must work harder to create a safe and comfortable environment for their child to explore social skills. Parents can teach basic social skills such as sharing, greetings and appropriate manners. Parents can even initiate and plan play dates for their child.
3. Explaining the nature of the impairment- as a parent it is your duty to keep your children safe and secure. Providing an explanation for your child's differences has been proven to help a child with a disability's self esteem. Remind your child that they are different but different is not a bad thing; everyone is different in their own way. Once he or she is willing to accept their differences it will be easier for them to succeed in life despite of them.

Links to Additional Information

Instructional Practices

Challenges arise everyday in the classroom. The challenges for a child with a vision impairment call for extra effort and appropriate accommodations in order to meet the needs of the child. Challenges may include having trouble with instruction because it is written on the board or on a piece of paper, reading bulletin boards and name tags and etc. Teachers can implement accommodations such as:
  • Providing numerous examples of instruction: Students with visual impairments may have trouble reading print from a distance or even certain prints within a textbook; teachers can provide texts with enlarged print or audio texts.
  • Providing material: Teachers can work with agencies and organizations to access materials such as Braille textbooks, worksheets and tests and also find books on tape (Smith & Tyler, 2006)
  • Creating a safe environment: Teachers must make the classroom the safe for all children, not just those with disabilities. Teachers can teach students to always push in their chairs if they are blocking a walk way, make sure all rugs are always flattened, allow the student with the impairment to learn the classroom before hand (Smith & Tyler, 2006).

There is always hope

This video documentary is of a 14 year-old boy named Ben Underwood living in Sacramento, CA, who was born completely blind but has taught himself to "see". Ben advocates for all people with vision impairments. His motto is just because he cannot physically see with his eyes, he can see with his ears, hands, nose and mouth. He uses echo-location to live a normal life as possible. Motivation is key.
The Boy Who Sees Without Eyes

Useful App

Audible.com has created a app for Iphone users who love to read but have vision impairments. the Audible app allows for a plethora of books to be read to its users. The app includes attributes such as a sleep timer, bookmarking, and play/pause buttons. Teachers and parents may find this app helpful when dealing with students/ children with visual impairments.


Blindness Statistics. (2015, September 1). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from https://nfb.org/blindness-statistics

Smith, D. D., & Tyler, N. C. (2014). Introduction to Contemporary Special Education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA: Pearson Education.

Zebehazy, K. T. (2014). Functional literacy for students with visual impairments and significant cognitive disabilities: The perspective of teachers of students with visual impairments. Research & Practice for Persons With Severe Disabilities, 39(4), 259-273. doi:10.1177/1540796914566712