Teaching Visually Impaired Students

The major challenge for visually impaired students in the science education environment is the widely-used visual material. Such materials include textbooks, class outlines, class schedules, chalkboard writings as well as films, videotapes, computers, laser disks and television. Unique and individual strategies based on a student's particular visual impairment and his or her skill of communication are required to help such students overcome their visual limitation.

There are numerous things a teacher can do to make a visually-impaired student feel better in class. A teacher can speak to the class upon entering and leaving the room or site and also call the visually impaired student by name to attract his or her attention. Such students should be seated away from glaring lights and preferably in the front of the class. A teacher should use descriptive words such as straight, forward or left, in relation to the student's body orientation and avoid vague terms with unusual information, including here or this.

Pertinent visual occurrences of the learning activities should be described in detail. The student should also be familiarized with the classroom, laboratory, equipment, supplies, materials and field sites. A teacher should give verbal notice of room changes, special meetings or assignments. Written information can also be read for a student with a visual impairment when appropriate, while appropriate text books in students' preferred medium can be ordered.

When there is a student with a visual impairment in class, a teacher should routinely check the instructional environment to make sure it is adequate and ready for use. The teacher should always identify himself or herself and others who are present when communicating with a visually impaired student. A teacher should use an auditory or tactile signal where a visual signal is normally used. However, it is not necessary to speak loudly to visually impaired people.

There are various strategies for teaching visually impaired students. However, their usefulness varies according to the degree of impairment and the student's background and training. A visually impaired student will most likely need assistance in all aspects of science programs.

Teachers need to provide a verbal description of every visual material they use. Handouts should be available in large print, audiotape, computer disk and Braille formats. New or technical words should be verbally spelled out, which would be helpful not only for the student with vision impairment but also for the other students.

A teacher should label all colored objects used for identification in a lesson, experiment or other direction with a Braille label or code them tacitly in another way for most students with vision impairments. Visual occurrences, visual media and directions including all pertinent aspects that involve sight should be described in detail. A sighted narrator or descriptive video should be used to describe aspects of videos or laser disks.

Teachers should supplement drawings or graphics with tactile 3D models, raised line drawings or thermoforms when needed. Whenever possible, actual objects for three dimensional representations should be used, while instructions should be modified for auditory/tactile presentations.

In laboratory classes, a teacher should consider alternate activities and exercises that can be utilized with less difficulty for visually impaired students, but have the same or similar learning objectives. Materials, supplies and equipment should be kept in the same places, while students with vision impairment should be given more time for laboratory activities. Visually impaired students can also be paired with sighted students, who can describe the activities and outcomes as they are observed.

Volunteer readers or writers can assist visually impaired students with text, materials and library readings. Students with vision impairments can also use a range of Braille devices when reading. During field experiences, a sighted guide can be used for impaired students. Objects seen in science centers, museums and field activities should be described in detail.

A teacher should review and discuss with the student the steps that are involved in a research activity. They should together devise accommodations for the student, of steps that may be difficult for his or her specific functional limitations. Appropriate lab and field strategies in accordance with the nature of the research should be used.

Teachers should make arrangements for tactile examination if touch is not normally permitted. Examinations should be presented in a form that is unbiased to visually impaired students. A teacher should ask the student for the approach he or she finds to be most accessible. Students with visual impairments should also be allowed more time during a test.

Teaching Visually Impaired Students: Selected full-text books and articles

Instruction in Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum Linked to Transition Outcomes for Students with Visual Impairments
Wolffe, Karen; Kelly, Stacy M.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 105, No. 6, June 2011
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Teachers' Perspectives on the Use of the Moon Code to Develop Literacy in Children with Visual Impairments and Additional Disabilities
McCall, Steve; McLinden, Mike.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 101, No. 10, October 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Applying a Response-to-Intervention Model to Literacy Instruction for Students Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision
Kamei-Hannan, Cheryl; Holbrook, M. Cay; Ricci, Leila A.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 106, No. 2, February 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Evaluating Training and Implementation of the Individualized Meaning-Centered Approach to Teaching Braille Literacy
Durando, Julie A.; Wormsley, Diane P.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 103, No. 3, March 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Commonsense Methods for Children with Special Educational Needs: Strategies for the Regular Classroom
Peter Westwood.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2003 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Students with Impaired Vision" begins on p. 42
Academic Achievement and Personality in University Students Who Are Visually Impaired
Klinkosz, Waldemar; Sekowski, Andrzej; Brambring, Michael.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 100, No. 11, November 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Sex Education Instruction for Students Who Are Visually Impaired: Recommendations to Guide Practitioners
Kapperman, Gaylen; Kelly, Stacy M.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 107, No. 3, May-June 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes toward Classmates with Disabilities
Arthur Shapiro.
Routledge Falmer, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "About Blindness" begins on p. 280
Applications of Electronic Technology to Rural Gifted Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Belcastro, Frank P.
Information Technology and Disabilities, Vol. 11, No. 1, August 2005
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Role and Training of Paraprofessionals Who Work with Students Who Are Visually Impaired
McKenzie, Amy R.; Lewis, Sandra.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 102, No. 8, August 2008
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Finding the Opportunity to Teach Music to Students Who Are Visually Impaired
Wheeler, Jennifer.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 104, No. 1, January 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Children with Visual Impairments: Social Interaction, Language and Learning
Alec Webster; João Roe.
Routledge, 1998
Using Repeated Reading to Improve Reading Speed and Comprehension in Students with Visual Impairments
Savaiano, Mackenzie E.; Hatton, Deborah D.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 107, No. 2, March-April 2013
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Survey of the Current Status of Visually Impaired Students in Secondary Mathematics
Smith, Derrick.
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Vol. 106, No. 7, July 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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