LECTURES & INSTRUCTION
By: Carmen Willings
The student who is blind or visually impaired will need consideration to ensure they can participate fully in the classroom instruction. Teachers will need to collaborate and communicate with the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) to ensure that the students unique visual needs are met. It can be a challenge to arrange seating in the classroom to foster friendships particularly when the student needs to be positioned in certain locations in the room to allow for lighting, proximity and access to outlets. Efforts should still be made to place the student with other students, especially if other students in the classroom are positioned in clusters, to avoid social isolation.
Hands on Experience
During demonstration lessons, the student should be permitted to handle the materials before, during and after the demonstration. Additionally, when possible, vary the method of presentation by using concrete objects and descriptive language.
Proximity to the Board
If the board is located at the front of the class, the student may need to be positioned near the front of the class. Some students, however, will need to sit further back or to the side if they have a restricted visual field. In many classes, the instruction area may change from the front, to the side, to the back of the room. There needs to be flexibility in where the student is allowed to sit. Allowing a student to move throughout the room will typically be necessary.
Lighting & Glare Considerations
The ideal situation is for light to be distributed on the visual task in equal amounts from all angles with none of it reflected back toward the face. When possible, reduce glare from windows and lights as much as possible using blinds, shades, and curtains. Also, be aware of glare caused by shiny surfaces such as laminated materials, desks and blackboards. Some student will be extremely sensitive to lights and glare and may need to wear sunglasses or a hat with a brim indoors.
For students that need higher levels of lighting to see best, it may be necessary to provide the student with task lighting. When using task lighting, light directed on the task should come from opposite the dominant hand and directed only onto the task. Other students may be sensitive to high levels of light and the lighting will need to be controlled to assist them in using their vision. Lamps with controls to vary the intensity of light (a rheostat control) can provide the additional or dimmed illumination.
Encourage Use of Prescribed Low Vision Devices
If the student has been prescribed a monocular, binocular, or electronic magnification device that can view information at a distance, for distance viewing, encourage the student to use their device. The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) can help determine the best position for optimal viewing. Keep in mind that these devices allow the student to view a small area at a time. Monocualars and binoculars are great for spotting information, but should not be used for note taking as it is difficult to locate the targeted area, look down to notes, and find the location again, especially repeatedly.
Copy of Notes
Taking notes can be difficult for students who are blind or visually impaired. Many students will need to be provided with a copy of teacher notes prior to instruction. These notes can be emailed to the student to allow them to access them on their iPad or iPhone or provide the student with a printed copy of the notes. If a student needs materials in braille, be sure to provide the TVI with the notes well in advance in order to ensure there is time to prepare the materials in braille. This is particularly helpful in math classes when a student would need to follow the step-by-step instruction.
Provide an Auditory Description of what is Written on Board
Be sure to describe what is written on the board as you are writing it to allow the student to be aware of all that is presented.
We have to do the best we can. This is our sacred human responsibility."
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
Using screen sharing apps like Join.Me is another great way for students to access information on an interactive white board (e.g. Promethean Board, SMART board). The student can either use a computer with internet access or use a device such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod with internet access and the Join.Me app. The teacher simply goes to the Join.Me website, initiates the meeting and provides the student with the numeric code. The student goes to the Join.Me site OR opens the Join.Me app and requests to join a meeting. The student enters the code and has immediate access to everything presented on the screen! Feel free to preview, download, and print these directions for using JoinMe.