School and classroom environmental adaptations can help the student who is blind or visually impaired move safely and efficiently through their environment. A student's need for adaptations to the environment depends on their visual impairment and any additional disabilities. It is important to understand each student’s visual diagnosis and the implications with regard to functional vision to make the appropriate adaptations in order to maximize the student's use of vision.
By: Carmen Willings
Updated November 4, 2017
Considerations will need to be made when adapting labels and signs throughout the classroom in order to make them accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired. When labeling materials in the room, it is important to use a labeling system that is accessible to all the students. This may mean that labels need to be in a variety of formats: print, braille, pictures, and even objects. This will help students locate materials as well as put them away correctly. Incorporating print and/or braille for non-readers and pre-readers will also help promote literacy.
The following labeling suggestions will help create an organized and accessible room that will encourage independence and promote emergent literacy.
1. If the classroom is broken into learning stations or center, using a clear and consistent system for labeling these learning stations will help the students connect the name of the station in visual and tactual formats of written language. Refer to the sections on visual clutter when choosing a font type and background.
2. Signs should be placed at the eye level of the students. Learning area signs can be placed on the end of a cabinet by the entrance to an area, on a table or on a shelf. Be sure to place signs in strategic locations for the student’s observation and exploration. Creating signs for the various centers can be a fun beginning of the year activity for the students as they learn what is available in each area.
3. Clearly label materials within the learning areas in a way that makes sense to the students. This will expose the student to print/Braille literacy in a natural way. The following pictures were taken in the inclusive preschool classroom in which I taught as an example.
4. Label important landmarks such as locker/cubby or a coat hook. When assigning a student a locker/cubby it is helpful to chose one that can be easily located. Typically this will be one that is at the end of a row.
5. If all the students in the class can access information visually, you could instead take a picture of the items in the bin. Use a large font size with uniform, bold, well spaced letters. If you use this method, be sure to take a picture on a solid background in high contrast (black or white depending on the color of the materials). In the picture on the right, you can see that I labeled the bins in print/braille and also glued an object from the bin on the front.
6. Label with objects if the student does not have functional vision or is at a pre-symbolic level. Encourage literacy by pairing the objects with print or braille labels. Label the objects in both formats if you are unsure of whether the student will read in print or braille. The manipulative bins on the left were labeled by glueing (using a hot glue gun) one or more objects from the bins on the outside of the bin. This helped the students quickly scan (visually or tactually) the bins to determine where materials belonged.
A braille labeler can be used to make quick labels in the classroom. It is paired with print enabling non-braille readers to create labels. The down side is that it only produces uncontracted braille. None the less, it's always great in a pinch!
Braillable Labels & Sheets
These clear braillable and self-adhesive labels, available from APH, allow you to create labels of various sizes. Labels are available in various sizes or full sheets. Don't have access to APH funds? Try using Contact paper or clear adhesive laminating sheets that are thick enough to maintain form when brailled.
Feel 'n Peel Stickers II These stickers, available from APH, are printed and embossed with numbers, reward statements, stars, point symbols and color names that can be used as part of a labeling system.
Magne Tachers Magnetic Labels
These magnetic labels, available from APH, can be used to create reusable large print or braille labels that can be attached to canned goods or other magnetic surfaces. Similarly, Flexible Magnet Data Card Holders allow the user to change the label as frequently as needed!
Sherlock Talking Label Identifier
This hand-held digital voice recorder with each recorded message keyed to an adhesive label or plastic disk tag is available from APH. Labels or tags can be attached to books, documents, CD's or any other item that needs to be identified. The Reizen talking label identifier is another device that allows the user to program and read buttons.
Word Association Print/Braille Labels
These self-adhesive print/braille labels of common words, available from APH, will help create a literacy rich environment for both print and braille learners. If you don't have access to APH funds, use clear adhesive laminating sheets and create your own braille labels.
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On My Way File Folder Cards
Print and use these cards to represent locations the student may visit that are related to the current thematic unit. Use these with the On My Way File Folder Game outlined in the TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC p. 27.
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