Visual Impairments

Only a small minority of visually impaired people are actually totally blind; most are considered "legally blind". Even with correction, a legally blind person's best eye sees less at 20 feet than a normal eye sees at 200 feet. Difficulties experienced by many individuals with visual impairments may include: recurring eye strain while reading, inability to read standardized print, inability to read poor quality print or certain colors of print, and sensitivity to bright light.

Students who have been blind since birth, or shortly after, have no visual memories. Their concept of objects, space, and distance may be different from those who became blind later in life. Mobility skills of individuals may vary also, depending on the age of onset of blindness and the quality and extent of mobility training and mobility talent. Some students who are blind will use braille with competence, but many do not use it. Most students with visual impairments can acquire information through listening. Some students who are blind are competent typists, but their written communication and spelling skills sometimes reflect their natural dependency on audio transmission of information.


Visual Impairment means total or partial loss of sight. (Title 5)

Suggestions for Helping Students with Visual Impairments to Succeed in the Classroom

Treat the students with visual impairments very much like you would any other student. Use words like "see" without being self-conscious. If you are in a room alone with a blind person try to remember to explain what you are doing, such as shuffling papers. Tell him/her when someone comes in the room or when you leave the room.

It is never impolite to ask if they need or would like assistance.

When using visual aids in the class, try to be as descriptive as possible. Words like "this" or "that" can be confusing. Consider making copies of overhead materials or diagrams so that the student can later ask an assistant to describe the information in detail to understand the material better.

A student may use a dog guide. These dogs have been trained to guide people who are blind, to keep out of the way, and to be quiet. These working dogs should not be treated as pets and should not be petted while working.

When relocation of a class is necessary, a note on the chalk or door is not adequate. It would be helpful to have a sighted student wait for the visually impaired student to arrive.

Beware of stereotypes related to people with vision impairment. So called 'Talents'' are often the result of great effort and persistence. It can be frustrating after such hard work for others to refer to sensory abilities as a "sixth sense" as it does not acknowledge the tremendous efforts expended.


Alternate Media

To no one is it more critical for faculty to select and submit their textbook choices for purchase on time than it is for a student who is blind. Also, it would be helpful when you talk with publisher representatives to ask if the text you have chosen is available in an alternative format (i.e., on tape, large print, braille, CD-ROM, computer diskettes).

Tape recording of lectures


Books on tape - Enrollment with Recordings for Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) or through the Department of Rehabilitation (books may take as long as eight weeks - student will need to arrange with the DSS counselor for taped texts before the semester beings).

Because of the time necessary to have books read aloud or to review tapes, students often require extra time to complete required materials, especially when library research is involved.

Please keep in mind that last minute assignments can present a problem due to preparation and reader scheduling.


Extra time on tests.

Tests transcribed into alternate format such as Braille, large print or mp3.

Test read and/or scribed by a screen reading program such as JAWS and/or speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Use of CCTV, Zoomtext and other assistive technology

Assistive Technology

High Tech Center located in the Learning Center, Room SSC 250

Zoom Text Software is a screen magnifier that provides a large print display for all computer programs.

Braille Printer converts printed text into Braille.

JAWS is a screen reader computer access software.

Kurzweil 1000 or 3000 is a computer based reading system that converts printed material into speech.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Enlarges print

DVC Library

Computer equipped with Kurzweil 1000 and JAWS.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) available in the ADA room located near the Reference Desk.




Back to top