Support for the classroom teacher

Next year a classroom teacher is told they will have a student who is blind or who has a visual impairment entering their classroom. After hearing this news, teachers are often flooded with questions. Classroom teachers work hard to provide quality instruction to ensure their students make progress in the curriculum and develop a love of learning. However, that same classroom teacher may wonder – how or if they can accomplish that same results for a student who has a visual impairment. The answer is yes – and thank you for caring about each student in your charge.

First please remember – there is a team of people ready to support the classroom teacher.

  • The Teachers and Administrators in the Local School District
  • Teacher of Students who have 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. To 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

Advertisement for Online Course for General Ed Teachers with a VI Student – Docxopens WORD file

Advertisement for Online Course for General Ed Teachers with a VI Student -pdf

Jenny Eichner

Jenny Eichner wearing a white shirt with a large floppy neckline.

KSSB Online Braille Music

Braille Music is a code similar to the Unified English Braille Code, in that it has its own set of standards and guidelines to represent music in braille. It is rare for students who read braille to have braille music instruction during their school day. This missed opportunity can put students at a disadvantage as they move through their music studies and are expected to read music by “sight.” To address this need, Jenny Eichner, a music therapist at KSSB, developed a live online Braille Music course using the zoom program. At this time – it is the only live online course in the United States. 

Courses in Computer Skills using AT 

  • Computer and Assistive Technology: The focus of this course is to increase the student’s ability to use assistive technology within the context of programs they use on a regular basis.
  • Introduction to Podcasting:  At KSSB, there is a small group of students who have been creating podcasts since March of 2020. Listen to these podcasts at Discover Podcasting.  If you have a student who would like to eventually participate in a podcasting group, this introductory course is the pre-requisite. This course covers the why, how, etiquette, research and questioning techniques. 

Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor wearing a maroon shirt and a blue jacket.

To learn more about the online offerings go to the KSSB ONLINE page

TSVI/COMS Personnel Prep

Due to shortages nationwide, finding a service provider for students who have visual impairments can be challenging. A lack of awareness that this certification area is an option and limited colleges or universities offering training programs are a couple of reasons for this shortage. To address this need KSDE and Title Services, provide funding to offset the costs individuals encounter when pursuing a certification as a TSVI/COMS. KSSB provides mentoring for students pursuing coursework and administers the overall program. To learn more about obtaining a certification as a TSVI/COM visit the TASN website. 

Kylie Kilmer

Kylie Kilmer wearing a maroon shirt.

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.

General Suggestions

  1. Ask the TSVI about the student’s visual needs.
  2. Request information about environmental modifications (contrast, glare, lighting, etc.) needed to support the student’s ability to use course materials.
  3. Request a demonstration of assistive technology used to access the curriculum.
  4. 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.
  5. Verbalize during instruction. Describing Clearly
  6.  Incorporate hands-on interactive elements into your teaching.
  7. Article – We are Teachers – “Teaching Students who are Blind”
  8. Above All – Enjoy the year!

Understand Accessibility

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. Not all pdf’s or documents are the same. A good question to ask is – How to  know if a document is accessible before uploading or emailing it to a student?

How the Classroom Teacher Can Help?

The classroom teacher can help by observing how easily the student uses the materials. Then share the information obtained with the students 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

Communication Arts

The main focus of Communication 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 classroom teacher may want to understand where the print and braille page numbers are located on a braille page. The print page number is on the top right corner and the braille page number is the on the bottom right hand corner. It is interesting to note that in addition to the Unified English Braille there are codes for math and science, music, foreign language and the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Digital and/or Braille Lending Libraries

Kansas Talking Book 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, 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.


The braille math code developed for students who reads 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:

Resource: Teaching Mathematics for a student who has a visual impairment

Social Studies

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 enlarge 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” but that the student may use those senses more frequently. As a result – builds 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 and Health

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 PE – 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.

Music Education

Contrary to popular believe not ALL students who have a visual impairment excel at music but everyone needs an opportunity to explore music can offer. Music can provide us the opportunity to sing, play an instrument or just enjoy and appreciate the sound or rhythms created by others.  According to some research there are to the study of music. It is suggested that music instruction can sharpen our memory, build social skills, increase patience, < help with socialization, memorization, and is possibly inked to academic improvement.

Art Education

Why is art valuable to our daily life? It gives each of us the opportunity to explore and express ourselves. We envision and idea, form a plan and then create.  For many of us – the art we create is not perfect but unique non the less. 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 tactile elements. Sand or scents 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.

Special Education

Students who are blind or who are visually impaired may also have additional disabilities. When providing services the students will require special education services that also 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.


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