When a student with a visual impairment is new to a classroom, the teacher may have questions about how to create the best learning environment for that student. The first step would be to contact the local Teacher for Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI). This page provides some additional supports for the regular education classroom teacher.
Support for the Classroom Teacher
First of all, please remember that there is a team of people ready to support the classroom teacher.
- Teachers and administrators in the local school district
- Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI)
- Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS)
This team may also contact the Kansas State School for the Blind for guidance. The Field Services Department has specialists in local regional areas around the state to provide technical assistance and support. Please contact the KSSB Field Services Specialist for your region, if you have any questions.
Self-Paced Online Resource
Title: Resources for General Elementary Ed Teachers who Have a Student with a Visual Impairment in Their Elementary Classrooms
Conducted by: Dr. Tina Herzberg, University of South Carolina Upstate and Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, University of Arizona
Understand Vision Loss
- Realize each student is unique: Two students with the same eye condition do not see or perceive the environment in the same way.
- Students are capable: Vision loss can change HOW a student learns but NOT the student’s ability to learn.
- Part-to-Whole Learning: Students may need to look or tactually explore individual parts of objects, maps, diagrams, etc. and incrementally build that information step by step to create the whole object.
- Diminished Incidental Learning: Most learning relies heavily on watching other learn – incidental learning. For a student who has a visual impairment, observation alone may not provide the same complex understanding of concepts. Intentional, descriptive and manipulative rich instruction may be incorporated.
- Ask the TSVI about the student’s visual needs.
- Request information about environmental modifications (contrast, glare, lighting, etc.) needed to support the student’s ability to use course materials.
- Request a demonstration of assistive technology used to access the curriculum.
- Learn simple techniques to ensure instructional materials are accessible to the student with a visual impairment. Such as how to correctly scan or photo copy materials, provide access to print at a distance or create documents with increased print legibility, etc.
- Verbalize during instruction. Describing Clearly
- Incorporate hands-on interactive elements into your teaching.
- Article – We are Teachers – “Teaching Students who are Blind”
- Above All – Enjoy the year!
Accessibility is when a document, PDF, diagram, software, or tool can be easily used regardless of the type of browser or assistive technology the student is using.
Since what makes a document accessible is individualized, there are a few questions to ask the IEP team:
- Will the built-in universal tools, such as read aloud, highlighting or zoom meet the student’s needs? If not, assistive technology may be required.
- Is the digital classroom content compatible with the assistive technology the student is using? If not, who is responsible for converting instructional materials into accessible format?
- Not all PDF’s or documents are the same. A good question to ask is – How can I know if a document is accessible before uploading or emailing it to a student?
How can the Classroom Teacher Help?
The classroom teacher can help by observing how easily the student uses the materials. Then share the obtained information with the student’s TSVI or IEP team.
- Is it taking the student a significant amount of extra time to complete tasks?
- Does the student experience a significant amount of errors when producing work or when locating specific documents?
- Does the student easily access the math content, maps, diagrams, etc. either online or in print with few errors or trials?
- Does it appear the student is struggling to see the print or navigate the online learning opportunities efficiently?
Content Area Resources
The main focus of English Language Arts is reading and writing. It may help the classroom teacher understand what braille is. It is a code, not a language.
Braille readers use the Unified English Braille Code. A braille cell is the basic building block. The cell is 2 parallel columns with 3 dots in each column. The left column contains dots 1, 2, 3 and the right column is dots 4, 5, and 6. Combinations of dots can create a letter, number, punctuation, word, or symbol. On average 1 print page is equal to 2 1/2 braille pages. A print page number is on the top right corner and the braille page number is on the bottom right hand corner. In addition to the Unified English Braille there are codes for math and science, music, foreign language, and the International Phonetic Alphabet.
The braille math code developed for students who read braille is called Nemeth Code. This amazing code was created by Abraham Nemeth to represent mathematics from initial concepts of reading and writing numbers for computation to calculus and tactual representation of geometric figures or diagrams. As the classroom teacher you are not required to produce material in braille or create the tactile graphics. However, you may want to understand how to incorporate general manipulatives or specially designed tools used by your student. The most commonly used tools include:
- APH Talking Calculators: TI-30XS or TI-84 Demo – Video
- Number line device
- Picture Maker Kit
- Math Window
- Desmos Graphing Calculator
Social Studies is a vast subject area as it covers history, geography, archaeology, economics, law, philosophy, political science, and sociology. Many of these subjects rely heavily on graphs, charts, diagrams, and maps to support instruction. As a result, it is important to plan lessons in advance so that graphical information can be produced in a format the student who is visually impaired can access. Formats may include enlarged print, braille, and tactual representation of the graphics. Creating tactile graphics can take a significant amount of time depending on the details involved.
There are several resources to support the student in your classroom. A few of the resources available at K.I.R.C. for eligible students include:
Science is a subject that relies on investigation and discovery through hands-on experiences and observation. A student who is blind or who has a visual impairment may not use vision to see results of experiments but can bring to the table a wealth of information through their other senses. This does not imply that a person who is blind is “gifted with better senses.” Rather, the student may use those senses more frequently and build sensory skills with practice. There is a wealth of resources available to support the student in a biology, physics, or the general science classroom. A few highlights include:
Physical fitness is important for everyone in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Students who have visual impairments are just like all of the other kids who participate in P.E. Some will have a drive to compete in as many sports as possible while others may prefer to participate in more mild forms of physical activity. As a result, use a variety of methods to get your students moving and participating.
Contrary to popular belief, not all students who have a visual impairment excel at music. However, everyone needs an opportunity to explore the amazing things music can offer. Music can provide the opportunity to sing, play an instrument, or just enjoy and appreciate the sound or rhythms created by others. According to some research, music instruction can sharpen our memories, build social skills, increase patience, help with socialization, memorization, and is possibly linked to academic improvement.
Why is art valuable to our daily life? It gives each of us the opportunity to explore and express ourselves. We envision an idea, form a plan, and then create. For many of us, the art we create is not perfect but unique nonetheless. This builds confidence!
With minimal adaptations, students who have visual impairments can create their own art. It is important to set up the work space so small pieces don’t roll away. The art teacher can provide a variety of baking sheets or containers to keep everything organized.
Use materials that contain more tactual elements. Sand or scents can be added to paint. Add texture such as burlap, suede, beads, confetti, doilies, etc. Use “paint brushes” from feathers, leather, sponge or leaves, etc. Above all, have fun!
Students who are blind or who are visually impaired may also have additional disabilities. Students may require special education services in addition to the services that address their needs related to their visual impairment. If you or your team would like additional information on any of the topics below contact the KSSB Regional Field Service Specialist in your geographic area.
Digital and/or Braille Lending Libraries
Kansas Talking Books Library is a lending library of magazine and books in audio format. The books can be read using specialized equipment provided by the library or through Braille and Audio Reading Downloads (BARD). Contact your TSVI to determine if the student has access or uses the Talking Book Library.
Bookshare is a digital lending library for students who have a print disability and is commonly used by students who have a visual impairment. This free service gives students who have a visual impairment access to literature and textbooks in an accessible digital format. Contact your TSVI to determine if they have access to a Bookshare account.