Students with Visual Impairments
The two basic categories of visual impairments are total and partial blindness. Only 10% of the visually-impaired population is totally blind. The remainder of this population may be able to discern light, colors, or shapes to one degree or another. Some may be able to read by seeing clearly through one small area, but may have trouble getting around. Others may be able to see a whole area but have difficulty reading. Some students have diseases which cause their acuity to fluctuate. Visually-impaired persons are sometimes also mobility-impaired because of their visual disabilities.
ISSUES TO CONSIDER:
The major challenge facing visually-impaired students in college centers around the overwhelming mass of printed materials with which they are confronted (textbooks, class outlines, class schedules and tests). By the time these students reach college, unless recently impaired, they have probably developed their own personal method for dealing with the volume of visual materials. Students may use readers, braille books, and computer equipment which gives them access and/or tape-recorded lectures. In addition, some students may be able to use large print books, electronic visual aids or other magnifying devices for reading and/or a large font for writing papers. They may also be able to take their own notes in class by printing with a felt pen.
Students may use electronic devices to record notes in braille.
Often students may need the assistance of a note taker to record notes in addition to their own devices. Many students may prefer to tape-record class lectures to alleviate additional time needed to transcribe written notes provided by a notetaker. This is all a matter of preference.
Other common difficulties visually-impaired students experience differ only in degree. Once in a while, an instructor may question if the student is truly visually-impaired because many do not use white canes or dogs for mobility. It may be difficult to believe that the student needs to use adaptive methods when utilizing printed materials. These students are usually unable to utilize standard printed material like textbooks, classroom handouts, references, and tests. This is also true for information written on the blackboard, seen on the overhead projector, or other audio-visual materials.
■ Textbooks are available in electronic or audio format. Books should be ordered at least two weeks (depending upon the publisher) prior to the term. Student may contact you early for textbook ordering information. Students may receive assistance from DS for this service.
■ Visual aids during lectures can be adapted by using clear descriptions of the visual material presented. This would include verbalizing what is written on the board.
■ Student may request copies of Powerpoints or other projected materials.
■ Due to the time needed to schedule an accessibility reader or writer, "pop quizzes" in class create tremendous difficulty. The students must have prior notice of a quiz or test, or the instructor needs to make prior arrangements.
■ For those students who use enlarged print, there is a copy machine available for enlarging class work, or if the material has been word-processed, it can be printed at whatever font size is appropriate.
■ If any room changes occur, be sure to give verbal notice. Visually-impaired students might well miss a notice written on a blackboard or syllabus.
■ Preferential seating is important for the visually-impaired student. When visual cues are not available, the student must receive all auditory cues possible. Please arrange seating the first day of class.
■ Give the student plenty of advance notice in the event that research papers are to be assigned as someone may have to aid in the literature search, both in finding and in reading materials.
Oral testing guidelines:
▸ Allow the students and test reader to work in a room where they will not disturb or be disturbed by others. This is often done in ESB testing rooms. It is the student's responsibility to make the arrangements for this service through DS.
▸ When reading the test, repeat test items as many times as needed for comprehension. Long questions and answers on multiple choice tests may be particularly confusing and the repetition may help reduce confusion.
■ Orient the person to the room by explaining where things are located and guiding the person around the room.
■ Inform the student when classroom furniture has been rearranged.
■ Keep doors fully opened or fully closed.
■ If a visually-impaired person seems to need assistance, identify yourself and offer your services.
■ If you are walking with a visually-impaired person, let her/him take your arm just above the elbow and walk in a relaxed manner. The person can usually follow the motions of your body. Warn the person when you are approaching a step or other obstacle.
■ When giving directions, use descriptive words such as 'straight ahead' or 'forward'. Be specific in directions and avoid vague terms such as 'over there'.
■ When interacting with visually-impaired people, use verbal identification when you arrive or leave an area.
■ Guide dogs are working animals and it can be hazardous if the guide dog is distracted. Check for the owner's preference before petting the dog.
■ Do not hesitate to use words like "see" or "look" when speaking with a visually-impaired person. Also, make sure you identify yourself by name, maintain a normal voice volume, speak directly to the person, and maintain eye contact.
If you have tried these suggestions or need another solution, be sure to contact DS in the Counseling Center, Ext. 7760 or 7765.
● Apollo Electronic Visual Aid (closed-circuit book magnifier)
● Word processor with voice synthesizer
● Large display word processors
● Tape recorders for taping lectures and dictation for writing assignments
● Access to "Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic".
● Screen magnification programs.
● Screen reader software
● A four track recorder for listening to audio texts.
● Talking Calculator, pedometer, or other gauges
● Large readout calculator.
● Kurzweil scanner for reading documents with voice synthesizer.