Blind or Visual Impairments

Visual impairments include disorders in the sense of vision that affect the central vision acuity, the field of vision, color perception, or binocular visual function. The American Medical Association defined legal blindness as visual acuity not exceeding 20/200 in the better eye with correction, or a limit in the field of vision that is less than a 20 degree angle (tunnel vision). Legal blindness may be caused by tumors, infections, injuries, retrolental fibroplasis, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, vascular impairments, or myopia. Visual disabilities vary widely. Some students may use a guide dog, others a white cane, while others may not require any mobility assistance.

Accommodations may include:

  • reading lists or syllabi in advance to permit time for transferring into alternate format
  • textbooks ordered in the preferred medium of the student
  • seating in the front of the class without glare from windows
  • tape recording of lectures and class discussions
  • note taking devices such as pocket braille computers
  • handouts in the medium that the student prefers
  • clear black print on white or pale yellow paper for students with visual impairments
  • testing accommodations - taped tests, reading of tests, scribe, extended time, separate place, enlarged print, computer word processing software with speech access
  • read out loud those materials presented on the board or on transparencies
  • lab assistance
  • advance notice of class schedule changes

Types of alternate formatting of printed material for students with blindness/visual impairments include:

  • e-text or audio tape - most textbooks can be ordered on disc or tape from Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (800) 221-4792. DSS does scan textbooks for qualified students.
  • large print - standard sized materials can be enlarged on a copier using 11"x17" paper.
  • computer disk - convert the text of materials to ASCII format.
  • Braille - adaptive equipment will be necessary to provide alternate format in braille; however, braille is probably the least requested alternate format for students with blindness.

If you want to know more about blindness:

Students with no light perception or no functional vision may rely on a white cane, a guide dog, or a sighted guide for mobility purposes. Guide dogs should not be petted. When serving as a sighted guide, let the student take your arm just above the elbow.

A lower noise level in the classroom is important for hearing. Students may require a reader for assignments and exams, and may use a note taking device in class to take notes.

Passageways through the door and aisles should be kept clear. When furniture is moved, students should be advised of the new arrangement. Any changes in class locations should be given to students in advance or a nondisabled student assigned to wait at the door and guide the student with blindness to the new location.

It is helpful to identify yourself first when speaking with a student with blindness.

If you want to know more about visual impairments:

Approximately 80% of all legally blind individuals have some usable vision. Students with visual impairments benefit from seating at the front of the class. Lighting is very important and should be discussed with the professor. Glare may be especially troublesome. Poor quality print or copies and written materials on colored paper may reduce legibility for the student.

Students with visual impairments may use individually prescribed low vision aids such as magnifying glasses or monoculars, large print books, enlarged screen reading programs for computers, and/or felt tip markers for note taking in class.

The instructor should use a black felt tip marker when making remarks on written assignments or grading on exams to assist students with visual impairments to read the information.

Page last modified March 11, 2011