Teaching the Visually Impaired
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When providing classroom instruction to students with visual impairments, there are a number of common accommodations that are made. The most common of these is the notion that content must be made tactile; because students with visual impairments cannot see charts, graphs, or diagrams either in a textbook or written on the board, this content must be made into a format that they can feel. Other common forms of assistive technology and teaching methods in the classroom for the visually impaired include:
- Audio textbooks/Digital book readers
- Portable note takers
- Scan/Read Systems
- Screen magnification
- Video Magnifiers
The most basic way this is done is through the use of Braille. Using the Braille alphabet, entire textbooks can be translated and students with visual impairments can be given the same information as non-impaired students. Teachers can provide worksheets and handouts to aides in advance so that customized work for the specific classroom can also be translated into Braille using special computer software and a specific printer. Additional aides might work to make critical diagrams and charts into tactile representations; creating a tactile representation of something like the process of mitosis, or cell division, can include pipe cleaners, sandpaper, and other tactile elements that can represent the various components of the model that students might otherwise see.
Students with visual impairments often use assistive technology in the classroom environment; when they have to take a test, for example, they would commonly read a Braille copy of the exam and type their answers using a computer with a specialized keyboard. Such assistive technologies have made instruction for students with visual impairments significantly easier and improved the classroom experience overall.
Teaching Visually Impaired Students in A Regular Classroom
According to EDUCATION FOR STUDENTS WITH BLINDNESS OR VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS teachers can help visually impaired students function in a regular education classroom is by providing the student with preferential classroom seating. A child with visual impairment should sit in the front of the room closest to the board and area in which the teacher will do a majority of the instruction. A visually impaired student should be seated away from bright lights, glares, and windows. It is also important for the teacher to keep space between furniture in the classroom so it is easy for the child to walk around. Teachers who have visually impaired children in their classrooms should try to keep the furniture in the same place all year long so the student becomes familiar with the layout of the room and can move around easily.
During lessons teachers should write on white boards with dark colors to create a contrast that is easier to read. Teachers might want to consider finding audio versions of textbooks and literature that the child can listen to if books are not available in Braille. Directions should be given orally and clarified when needed. Teachers might also consider giving the visually impaired child a magnifying devise that can be used to see assignments and reading material.
Overall, it is very important for teachers of a visually impaired child to create a routine and then stick to the routine. It is also important that the teacher is familiar with the child’s individual needs and his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP).