Signature & Handwriting
By: Carmen Willings
Updated October 28, 2017
All students, including those who are blind or have low vision, will need to develop a form of printing/writing and develop a legal signature. Students needs will vary depending on their vision as well as whether or not they have additional disabilities. Although the use of technology and keyboarding may need to be the student's primary form of writing, it is important for all students to develop a legal signature. It is also important for students to learn how to write short notes or learn strategies for writing legibly. As with all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum, it is important for teachers to not only address the student's current needs but to prepare the student for their future. Most students will need to develop some level of handwriting skills.
Students with Low Vision
Some students with low vision will need very little accommodations or specialized instruction to develop legible handwriting or a legal signature. Other students, on the other hand, will need a considerable amount of support. Students need to develop legible handwriting that can be read by themselves and others. As with all areas of instruction, the instruction will be most meaningful when practiced within the context of meaningful activities that are age and developmentally appropriate. Depending on the student's needs, the school's occupational therapist may be a great resource to assist in developing these skills.
Using Optical Devices
Depending on the student's level of vision, the student may need a Video Magnifier. A video magnifier can be used not only to view information at near (and distance if the magnifier has the ability to toggle between near and distance) but also to use to complete writing assignments. The video magnifier allows the student to sit upright, adjust the magnification, and adjust the contrast to meet their individual needs. Unlike handheld magnifiers, the student's can view information hands-free.
Using Non-Optical Devices
As stated in the Increasing Contrast page, bold line paper can be used to assist students in writing within a given space. As the student's writing develops and improves, you may transition to paper with lines that are not as bold or less width. According to Foundations of Low Vision (p.295), "The goal is to work toward normal line spacing because writing with normal-sized letters not only conforms to societal expectation but provides the student with a greater speed of writing."
Writing tools such as 20-20 pens or soft-lead artist pencils or pens that provide increased contrast can also be helpful for students. Providing students with task lighting is yet another option for students. Students may also benefit from a slant board to change the position of the writing surface. Slant boards that are designed specifically for persons with low vision help reduce postural fatigue by bringing the work closer to the reader’s eyes. Some students prefer using a three-ring binder of various widths as it does not draw as much attention to themselves. Consider placing a shelf liner on one side to create a non-slip surface for books. Use a clamp on the writing side if necessary to position paper so it does not slip down. View a list of these on the non-optical low vision devices page.
If a student is not able to produce print that is legible to themselves or others or if the student experiences visual fatigue during writing activities, it is important to instruct the student in keyboarding skills. Teaching keyboarding instruction skills will also minimize the need for a student to shift their gaze when copying information or taking notes. Instruction in tactual keyboarding skills (Teaching the location of keys so the student does not become dependent on hunting and pecking for the keys.) should be taught to students who are blind or visually impaired early and deliberately. Developing keyboarding skills provides students with lifelong skills.
Students with Minimal or No Vision
Students with little or no vision should be instructed on how to write letters in order to write quick notes to sighted friends and teachers as not all peers and teachers are familiar with braille. More importantly, the student should be provided with many opportunities to practice the signature including appropriate situations so they can begin to understand the importance of a signature and when it is needed.
Developing a Signature
There are several approaches that can be used to teach students how to sign their names. Students should be encouraged to create their initials, sign both their first and last name and sign their complete signature within a confined space using a signature guide.
The Mangold approach focuses on learning the strokes involved in the formation of cursive letters. After students learn the strokes, they are taught how to put those strokes together and practice one stroke and one letter at a time. As one step is learned, the next stroke or letter is added until the signature is complete. This approach recommends forming letters in the size that is appropriate and not using a larger board as the student employs muscle memory.
The Braille Cell method is the method that teaches students the formation of letters using the dot positions of the braille cell. A student is instructed to use their memory of dot locations to form letters. The letters will initially be squared off, but the student can then be encouraged to curve the letters.
Using a Signature Template is another method of teaching students to develop a signature. The template, which uses enlarged letters, can be purchased or created and used to show students the formation of the letters. Students can trace the letters to learn the formation. The student is then instructed in transferring those strokes to raised line paper. The students will need to learn to use a smaller size signature. Visit the Low/Medium Tech Devices for Tactual Learners page for a listing of devices.
Write Readable Words & Short Notes
In addition to a signature, it is important for students who are braille learners to learn to write words and short notes in print/written form. This will allow the student to write quick notes to those who are not familiar with braille.
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