Low Vision

Case Study | Q&A's | Resources

For some students with low vision or partial sight, standard written materials are too small to read and small objects are difficult to see. Other students may see objects only within a specific field of vision or may see an image with sections missing or blacked out. Text or objects may appear blurry.

Learning via a visual medium may take longer and may be more fatiguing for people who have low vision. Some people with low vision may be able to read enlarged print for a long time period, whereas others may only be able to tolerate reading for a short time and may require audiotaped materials or text-to-speech software to read web-based information.

The visual abilities of a student may vary in different situations. For example, reduced light or strong glares may affect visual abilities during different times of day or in different rooms.

Students with low vision may have problems locating large-print materials, getting around in an unfamiliar setting, finding transportation, hiring readers for library work, researching reports and short articles, or getting recorded books or materials in a timely manner.

Typical accommodations for students with low vision include

  • Large-print reading materials (e.g., books, handouts, signs, and equipment labels). Large print is defined as 16- to 18-point bold type, depending on the typeface used.
  • Front-row or preferential event seating in well-lit areas with full view of the presenter and visual aids.
  • Publications in audiotaped or electronic formats.
  • Computers with screen enlargers, optical character readers (which convert print to electronic output), or speech output.
  • The use of a reader for materials only available in small print.
  • The use of cassette recorders and/or laptop computers for note taking.
  • A closed circuit TV connected to enlarge images of printed materials.
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids or demonstrations.

Check Your Understanding

Let's consider an example. A student with low vision visited the career center and announced that he will need materials in large print and access to the online database of job listings. What should you do? Choose a response.

  1. Tell him that it takes several weeks to accommodate his needs and, therefore, he should come back next quarter?
  2. Prepare large-print versions of printed materials?
  3. Meet with the student and ask him what previous accommodations have been helpful?
  4. Provide the publications in standard print and ask the student to use a closed-circuit television in the library nearby?

Check Your Understanding Responses

  1. Tell him that it takes several weeks to accommodate his needs and, therefore, he should come back next quarter?
    No. You are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations in a timely manner for students who are requesting your services. You should find a more timely solution.
  2. Prepare large-print versions of printed materials?
    Although this may be a reasonable accommodation, the student is your best resource for determining what accommodations are appropriate. Connect with him and, perhaps, the disabled student services office to determine exactly what is needed.
  3. Meet with the student and ask him what previous accommodations have been helpful?
    Yes. You may wish to set up a meeting the student and with disabled student services office staff to facilitate open communication regarding reasonable and effective accommodations.
  4. Provide the publications in standard print and ask the student to use a closed circuit television in the library nearby?
    Although this may be a reasonable accommodation, the student is your best resource for determining what accommodations are appropriate. Connect with him and, perhaps, the disabled student services office to determine exactly what is needed.

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

Specific Student Services

Appropriate accommodations vary greatly among students with low vision and by the campus service they wish to access or in which they work. For more information consult the DO-IT publication Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer Technology.

For information related to accommodations for visitors and employees in specific service area, consult the following areas of The Conference Room: