Teaching Students with Disabilities (II) – Visual Impairments

What would you do if you had a student with a disability in your workshop? Example – a student with a visual impairment? You may not be able to recognize students with visual impairments, and a student does not have to identify his or her disability. Though they can hear lectures and discussions, students with visual disabilities are often frustrated by class syllabi, textbooks, chalkboard diagrams, overhead projections, films, maps, videos, printed exams, Scantron answer sheets, laboratory demonstrations, and Internet websites designed to be navigated by clicking on images.

Students with visual disabilities vary considerably. Some have no vision, others are able to see large shapes, and still others can read standard print if magnified. Depending on their disabilities, they use a variety of accommodations, equipment, and compensatory strategies. For example, many students with visual disabilities need extra time for exams and projects, and many use readers or amanuenses for exams.

Following are some suggestions on instructing students with visual disabilities:

  • Students with visual disabilities may need preferential seating. Your student should be seated near the front of the class to hear clearly what is being presented and to see as much as possible.
  • When using a PowerPoint slides as part of you workshop, use a large print-size: at least 18 points. Provide additional time for students with visual disabilities to copy the material, or provide them with printed copies.
  • Whenever possible, modify the presentation of material to make it accessible.
  • Allow the student to audiotape lectures or use a note-taker.
  • Pace the presentation of material; if referring to a handout, allow time for students with visual disabilities to find the information.
  • When lecturing, avoid making statements that cannot be understood by people without sight: for example, “This diagram sums up what I am saying about statistics.” (Don’t worry about using words and phrases that refer to sight: for example, “See you later!” Such expressions are commonly used, and most people with visual disabilities don’t find them offensive.)
  • Read aloud everything that you write on the board. Verbally describe objects and processes whenever possible.
  • In making comparisons and analogies, use familiar objects that don’t depend on prior visual knowledge. Foods and objects found around the house are good choices.

This list above may not be fully comprehensive, but these points can inform and can help guide you in preparing for an inclusive and accessible workshop.

Next month’s blog will see a continuation of this series on teaching students with disabilities.

Thank you,

The Library Instruction Committee

 

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