SCHOOL CAMPUS ADAPTATIONS
By: Carmen Willings
The school will need to ensure that there are special considerations for students who are blind or visually impaired. These include providing ADA signage, playground and other school campus adaptations. The following suggestions and strategies will help you adapt the school campus in order to assist the student who is blind or visually impaired.
ADA Braille Signs
ADA braille signs are not only helpful in your buildings, but are also required by federal law under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are not just helpful for the braille reader. The words are in large print, and simple pictures, the signs are uniform and do not have visual clutter making them also beneficial to students with low vision as well as students with cognitive disabilities in general. All signs with any characters or numbers written on them must have a translation in braille. Signs are required for classroom identification, restrooms and directional signage and at elevators. Room identification signs must be placed on the wall next to the latch to allow a person to read it without the safety risk of getting in the way of the door opening.
Students who are blind or visually impaired will need special considerations in the lunchroom which can be difficult to navigate. If the class eats in a lunchroom, an initial orientation (and in some cases, several opportunities) to the lunchroom may be necessary so the student with a visual impairment can learn where trays are located, where lines form, and so forth. Peers or staff members may need to give the student physical assistance or verbal directions to get to an empty seat until the student develops a routine. It is helpful to encourage cafeteria staff to remind the student, if necessary, about the day’s food selections. Encourage the highest level of independence possible for each student. Students should be encouraged to carry a tray even at first there is only an unopened milk carton on the tray. The goal is for the student to eventually become independent. Gradually add more unbreakable and non-spill items to the students' trays until the student can be completely independent. To learn more about how to promote mealtime independence, read Mealtime Independence.
Fire Drills & Emergencies and Safety
For fire drills, the student will most likely not be able to access diagrams posted near doors. The Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M) may work with the student on learning routes from the classroom and from other locations in the building, ideally in advance. However, during an emergency, the mobile student should be instructed to take hold of the nearest moving adult or student and quickly and quietly follow others. Assigning one student the job of being the student’s regular guide in emergency situations may not be a good idea because the assigned student may be absent or may panic in an emergency. It is also a good idea to consult with the school administrators regarding fire and other emergency evacuation procedures.
General Safety Tips
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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.