Blindness

Case Studies | Q&A's | Resources

Students who have no sight cannot access standard printed materials. Students who have been blind since birth may also have difficulty understanding verbal descriptions of visual materials and concepts. Consider the description "This diagram of ancestral lineage looks like a tree." To someone has never seen a tree, it may not be readily apparent that the structure discussed has several lines of ancestry that can be traced back to one central family. Students who lost their vision later in life may find it easier to understand such verbal descriptions. Additionally, directions and demonstrations based on color differences may be difficult to follow for students with blindness. During demonstrations, clear, concise narration of the basic points being represented in visual aids is important. This technique benefits other students as well. In some cases, the assistance of a sighted person is required in order for the student to gain access to visual content.

Ready access to the content of printed materials on computer disk or website can allow a blind student, who has access to technology to read text aloud and/or produce it in Braille. Some materials may need to be transferred to audiotape or embossed on Braille. Since it may take weeks or even months to procure materials in Braille or on audiotape, it is essential that campus service staff select and prepare their materials well before the materials are needed. The campus disabled student services staff typically coordinate Braille and audiotape production in collaboration with office staff and the student. They may also be able to locate or create tactile models and raised-line drawings of graphic images.

Computers with optical character readers, speech output, Braille screen displays, and Braille printers allow students who are blind to access electronic resources. The disabled student services office and/or computing services staff on your campus can be consulted when addressing computer access issues. For further information in this area, consult the publication and video presentation Working Together: Computers and People with Sensory Impairments.

Web pages used in your campus services office should be designed so that they are accessible to those using Braille and speech output systems. Your webmaster should be knowledgeable about accessible design of web pages. Consult the publication and video presentation World Wide Access: Accessible Web Design.

Check Your Understanding

Let's consider an example. How could a student who is blind access a campus map to understand the campus layout? Choose a response.

  1. A sighted person could describe the map to her.
  2. She could use a map created in Braille.
  3. A sign language interpreter could translate the content for her.
  4. She could use a raised-line drawing.

Check Your Understanding Responses

  1. A sighted person could describe the map to her.
    Having a sighted person describe the size and layout of the buildings and other landmarks on the map is an option. Office staff might do this, or the student can contact the disabled student services office on campus for assistance.
  2. She could use a map created in Braille.
    Braille output systems cannot create drawings. However, if the content of the map was described in text format electronically, for example, in an email message or on the World Wide Web, the text could be printed in Braille so that the student would be able to access the information directly.
  3. A sign language interpreter could translate the content for her.
    Sign language interpreters translate content for individuals who are deaf. However, if this student is deaf and blind, a sign language interpreter could describe the information tactilely (by using hand signs within the student's hands).
  4. She could use a raised-line drawing.
    A raised line drawing, where the content of the graphic is presented in a form that can be felt, is an option for providing access to a map for a student who is blind. The labels might be presented on the map in Braille. Typically, the disabled student services office on campus coordinates the creation of raised line drawings.

For frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices, consult the searchable Knowledge Base in The Conference Room.

Specific Student Services

For a student who is blind, access issues vary according to the specific campus service used or for which they work. Consult the following areas of The Conference Room for further information: