Visual impairments are disorders in the function of the eyes as manifested by at least one of the following:
Visual acuity of 20/70 or less after the best possible correction.
A peripheral field so constricted that it affects one's ability to function in an educational setting.
A progressive loss of vision which may affect one's ability to function in an educational setting.
Visual disabilities are so varied that it is often difficult to detect a student with a visual disability in the classroom or on the campus. The student may appear to get around without assistance, read text, and/or even take notes from the chalkboard. However, in most cases some form of assistance is needed.
A person who is "legally blind" is one whose vision, while wearing corrective lenses, does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye, or whose visual field is less than an angle of 20 degrees.
Ninety percent of individuals who are identified as legally blind have some useful vision or light perception. Total darkness is rare.
Some student use guide dogs. These dogs are trained to move at the direction of their masters and are well-disciplined to function in group settings.
Guide dogs are not to be petted or distracted when on duty.
Guide dogs are allowed by law in all college buildings, including laboratories, food services areas, classrooms, and administrative offices.
Other students may use white canes, and a few use special electronic devices to enhance mobility.
Special considerations may be needed for the student with a visual impairment when a class is moved to a new location, when a group goes on a field trip, or when the furnishings in a room are moved for a special program.
ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY AIDS
Services are located in the Resource Room in the Walsh Library (Rose Hill Campus).
GUIDING AN INDIVIDUAL WITH A VISION IMPAIRMENT
Ask if the student would like assistance, then take the student's arm and guide it to your arm. Let the student take your arm, generally above the elbow. Pulling a student who is visually impaired by the hand or arm is both unsafe and unsatisfactory.
Ensure that when giving directions to a student who has a visual disability, you are clear and accurate. Use compass points as well as left and right. Do not point and gesture.
When guiding a student, slow down when approaching steps or other obstacles, and mention why you are stopping. Let the student know if stairs are ascending or descending and guide the person's free hand to the railing. When approaching a door, mention whether it opens inward or outward and whether it has a knob or push/pull mechanism.
Place the student's hand on the back of the chair in which he/she will sit.
Books and materials on tape or computer disk.
Large print materials.
Closed circuit TV.
Scanner and speech synthesizer.
Tactile signage and maps.
Computer screen enhancement (Zoom Text).
Note-taker or Brailler.
Guide dog access.
Extended time for exams and in class assignments.
Exam on disk for use with a speech equipped computer.
Copies of overhead projections (enlarged, high contrast, bold).
Preferred seating for low vision students.
Provide a preview tour of the classroom, lab, and office before class.
Provide class materials altered to correct format (enlarged, brailled, bold, etc).
Provide tactile models, visual relief maps, replicas, etc., to convey ideas.
State aloud what you write on the chalkboard or overhead projector.
Face class when speaking.
Be flexible with assignment deadlines, especially if library research is required.
Consider alternative testing formats.
Remember that time is required to locate suitable materials, textbooks, etc., in an alternative format.
INSTRUCTING STUDENTS WITH VISUAL DISABILITIES
Strategies utilized by visually impaired and blind individuals are varied, requiring personal discussions in order to ensure the most appropriate approach in each instance. As with any disability, offers of assistance are appreciated, but no offense should be taken if the offer is not accepted. Ask, "How may I help?" as opposed to prejudging what the person may prefer.
You may be assured that students with a large amount of reading depend greatly on advanced planning to allow for enlarging or reformatting all course materials into a non-print format. Many books have been recorded by the Library of Congress; as part of the National Library Service for the Blind. They are available on loan through a nationwide network of regional libraries. Recording for the Blind/Dyslexic (RFB/D) also provides taped textbooks with plenty of notice - six to eight weeks! It can take a substantial amount of time to reformat material, especially if it is technical or in a foreign language, hence the need for advance copies of syllabi and reading lists. For students who need all materials enlarged, provide source books unbound, with copy on one side only of the pages because during the enlarging process, the wrong side can "bleed" through.
Read aloud material written on the blackboard or on overheads.
For some students, additional or specialized lighting may be required. For more information, please contact the Office of Disability Services Coordinator.
Taping lectures does not constitute plagiarism or copyright infringement as long as the tapes are for the student's private use and are not distributed without your permission.
Laptop computers with Braille or specialized software are the "note-takers" of choice for visually (and learning) disabled students.
Students may need oral exams or have them reformatted/scribed on a word
processor by someone familiar with the specialized vocabulary of the course, etc. Remember, this does not give the student an advantage if the scribe records only what the student dictates.
Phrases such as, "Do you see the point?" are an accepted part of standard English. Most visually impaired and blind persons are not offended by such language, but may be embarrassed by your attempts to avoid such common usage. Be specific when giving directions or alerting to obstacles. It is more helpful to say, "Please have a seat-there is a chair directly to your right," rather than, "Have a seat over there." Try to acknowledge students by name during discussions so the blind and visually impaired students know who is participating. Trained service animals, such as (but not limited to) guide dogs are welcome everywhere on campus and are working animals, not pets.