By: Carmen Willings
The student who is blind or visually impaired will typically need some accommodations in order to safely and fully access the science curriculum. It is important to meet with the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments to discuss the curriculum and objectives and content that will be covered during the school year. This is important for students following the standard course of study as well as those following a modified curriculum. The students unique visual needs should be taken into consideration when determining how to make materials accessible. Science materials may include measuring devices, charts, reading materials, and equipment.
Pre-Made Tactual Graphics
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) as well as other sources, offer a variety of materials to support the science curriculum. APH materials are available to students who are eligible for federal quota funds.
Three-dimensional models are beneficial to all students when learning about science. This is particularly true for students with visual impairments. Students should be provided with models that they can touch, explore and examine. Although two dimensional tactile graphics can be beneficial and useful, it is best to start with either the real object or, when this is not possible, a three dimensional object. The ideal for students to first explore real objects, then compare those to a model.
DNA Twist is a model, available through APH, that demonstrates the structure of the DNA molecule in a way that is accessible to students who are blind and visually impaired. The DNA Twist model is made of two foam sidebars representing the sugar-phosphate “backbone” and ten rungs representing the paired bases. The paired-base rungs are made of contrasting colors and textures to convey the concept of the base-pairing rules that govern the structure of double-stranded DNA molecules. The model holds its shape when twisted.
Tactile Astronomy, a web resource from Amazing Space, is a downloadable tactile image library for microcapsule paper. It is a library of selected Hubble images that can be printed in a tactile format.
Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas
This two-volume set of thermoformed tactile graphics gives an overview of the human body. It includes the skeletal, muscular, nervous, and endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. Each tactual diagram has braille and print labels accompanied by a brief braille description.
Basic Science Tactile Graphics
This tactile graphics set from APH, consists of vacuum-formed raised-line drawings that are intended to supplement the graphics in a students adapted textbook. It depicts objects, concepts, and relationships that are covered in nearly all elementary science textbooks. The drawings use several types of lines and textures, as well as different heights. The lines and areas with the highest relief signify the most important features in a diagram.
Life Science Tactile Graphics
This product from APH includes a collection of vacuum-formed, full-color raised-line tactile graphics intended to supplement the figures and diagrams in life science textbooks. It depicts organisms, processes, concepts, and patterns which are typically covered in middle and high school life science courses.
Sense of Science: Plants
Sense of Science: Plants is a product from APH. The kit includes a set of colorful, raised-line overlays designed to be used with a lightbox, or as a stand-alone item. Overlays include bean seed cross-section, flower, leaf, tree, etc.
Sense of Science: Animals
Sense of Science: Animals is a product from APH. The kit includes a set of colorful, raised-line overlays designed to be used with a light box, or as stand-alone items. Overlays include an ant, bird, fish, life cycle of a frog, etc.
Periodic Table of the Elements Reference Chart and Booklet This Periodic Table, available from APH, is available in a durable and colorful print-braille version. The chart comes with a reference book that contains additional tables listing the elements by name, atomic number, electron configurations, etc.
Tactile Vision Graphics is a great source of a range of pre-made tactile diagrams. Science diagrams include: Layers of Skin, Spinal Column, Respiratory System, Nervous System, The Eye, Lymphatic System, Circulatory System, The Heart, The Brain, and the Digestive System. They also provide braille/tactile maps, cards, books, and math diagrams.
Azer's Interactive Periodic Table Study Set This interactive study set, available from APH, is designed to make learning about the periodic table of the elements accessible to students with visual impairments and blindness. The tangible materials can assist in the instruction and demonstration of concepts related to the arrangement of the periodic table, atomic structure, ionic and covalent bonding, and balancing of chemical equations to students who benefit from a hands-on, interactive model. Special attention was given to make the materials tactually discriminable and visually appealing to students who are blind or with low vision, yet appropriate for all students regardless of visual acuity.
Sense of Science: Astronomy
Sense of Science: Anatamy is a product of APH. The kit includes a set of colorful, raised-line overlays designed to be used with a lightbox, or as a stand-alone item. Activities include a learning objective, a list of vocabulary and needed materials, a step-by-step procedure, extended activities, visual adaptations, math and language connections, and science tidbits. Activities are complemented by visual/tactile overlays and fold-out 2-dimensional displays.
Tactile Demonstration Thermometer
The Tactile Demonstration Thermometer from APH allows students to independently read, set, and compare temperatures. A two-textured, two-colored adjustable mercury column with an easy-grip tactile indicator. It includes both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales presented in both large print and braille. Tactile degree markings every 5 and 10 degrees.The mercury column slides up and down to demonstrate temperature reading.
eTouchSciences recently developed the Novint Falcon, a haptic device that allows students to interact with 3D objects that are displayed on the computer screen. Current apps that work with this new technology allow students to feel the shapes and textures of the parts of a plant cell, experience how much things weigh on other planets, explore a volcano and feel the lava flow, and learn about surface area and volume. To the right is a YouTube video of how this device works!
In science class, students will need to be able to measure lengths, time, volumes, and weights. Some students will be successful using the existing classroom tools independently or paired with low vision devices while other students will need specialized equipment.
Liquid level indicator provides auditory feedback when the liquid nears the top.
Talking digital scales allow students to measure accurately.
Talking Digital Thermometer
The digital thermometer allows students with no useful or low vision to independently measure with accuracy. The probe is long enough to safely measure chemicals or liquids from a distance.
Video Microscope. A microvideo or CCD (charged coupled device) camera allows an image to be displayed on a TV monitor, computer screen, or electronic magnifier . This allows the student to enlarge the image to the extent needed to see it.
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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.