Lesson 05: Vision
Lesson 04 | Lesson 05 | Lesson 06
Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course
SUBJECT: Accommodations 5: VISUAL
The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of the issues
and strategies related specifically to accommodations for students
with VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS.
By reflecting on YOUR own course while reading the CONTENT, you will
be guided to consider possible modifications to your course
SPECIFICALLY related to VISUAL impairments. By sharing and discussing
course modifications with other participants, you will develop an
awareness of additional strategies and applications of the issues
related to accommodations for students with VISUAL impairments.
Questions to REFLECT upon while reading the CONTENT
What challenges might students with VISUAL impairments face in your
course(s)? What accommodations might they require?
We are now concentrating on accommodations for students with specific
disabilities or impairments. This lesson presents issues and
suggestions for accommodations for students with VISUAL impairments.
VISUAL impairments can be classified into two types: LOW VISION and
BLINDNESS. LOW VISION refers to students who have some usable vision,
but cannot read standard-size text, have field deficits (for example,
cannot see peripherally or centrally but can see well in other
ranges), or other visual impairments. BLINDNESS refers to the
disability of students who cannot read printed text, even when
What are some examples of ways low vision may affect the ability to
learn? For some students with low vision, or partial sight, standard
written materials are too small read and small objects are difficult
to see. Other students may see objects only within a specific field of
vision, or 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, while others may
only be able to tolerate reading for a short time and require readers
or audiotaped material.
Visual abilities may also VARY in DIFFERENT SITUATIONS. For example,
reduced light or strong glares may affect visual abilities during
different times of day or in different classrooms.
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, as well as getting recorded textbooks on time.
GENERAL CLASSROOM 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 classroom seating in well-lit areas with
full view of the instructor and visual aids.
* Class assignments in audiotaped or electronic formats.
* Computers with screen enlargers, optical character readers (which
convert print to speech output), or speech output.
* The use of a reader or scribe for exams or class assignments.
* The use of cassette recorders and laptop computers for note taking.
* Extended time for exams and assignments if requested.
* A TV monitor connected to microscopes to enlarge images.
Examples of ACCOMMODATIONS for LABORATORY or strong VISUAL
INSTRUCTIONAL CONTENT for students with LOW VISION include:
* Large print instructions.
* Large print reading materials that include laboratory signs and
* Enlarge images by connecting TV monitors to microscopes.
* Raised-line drawings or tactile models for illustrations or maps.
* Verbal description of visual aides and graphics.
What are some examples of ways in which blindness may affect the
ability to learn?
Students who have no sight may have difficulty referring to WRITTEN
MATERIALS. Students who have had NO VISION SINCE BIRTH may have
DIFFICULTY understanding VERBAL DESCRIPTIONS of visual materials and
Consider this example: "This diagram of ancestral lineage looks like a
tree." If one has NEVER SEEN a tree, it may not be readily apparent
that the structure of note has several lines of ancestry that can be
traced back to one central family. HOWEVER, students who lost their
vision later in life may find it easier to understand such verbal
Additionally, DEMONSTRATIONS based on COLOR DIFFERENCES may be MORE
DIFFICULT for students with blindness to participate in and understand
THAN demonstrations that emphasize changes in SHAPE, TEMPERATURE, or
TEXTURE. In some cases, the assistance of a sighted person is required
in order for the student who is blind to gain access to the content of
Ready access to PRINTED MATERIALS in ELECTRONIC FORMAT can allow a
blind student, who has the APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY, to use computers to
read text aloud and/or produce it in Braille.
Some materials may need to be TRANSFERRED to AUDIOTAPE. Since it may
take weeks or even months to procure course materials in Braille or on
audiotape, it is essential that INSTRUCTORS SELECT and PREPARE their
materials well BEFORE the materials are needed. The campus disabled
student services office typically coordinates BRAILLE and AUDIOTAPE
During LECTURE and DEMONSTRATION, clear concise NARRATION of the basic
points being represented in visual aids is helpful. This technique
benefits other students as well.
Other examples of accommodations for blind students include TACTILE
MODELS and RAISED-LINE DRAWINGS of graphic materials. Staff in the
disabled student services office can help create these materials.
ADAPTIVE LAB EQUIPMENT such as talking thermometers, calculators,
light probes, and tactile timers can maximize access to labs for
students who are blind. In addition, COMPUTERS with optical character
readers (OCR), speech output, Braille screen displays, and Braille
printers allow students who are blind to participate in computer
exercises and on-line research.
In addition, WEB PAGES used in your course should be designed so that
they are accessible to those using Braille and speech output systems;
graphics cannot be interpreted unless text alternatives are provided.
For example, a speech synthesizer will simply say "image map" at the
place where an image map would be displayed. Tables displayed as
images are also problematic. The disabled student services office
and/or computing services staff on your campus can be consulted when
addressing COMPUTER ACCESS ISSUES.
VISUAL impairments can be classified as LOW VISION (having some usable
vision, having field deficits, or having other visual impairments) and
BLINDNESS (being unable to read printed text, even when enlarged).
Typical accommodations for LOW VISION include preferential seating,
audiotaped class sessions and assignments available in electronic
format, verbal descriptions of visual aids, large print handouts and
signage, and adaptive computer software to enlarge screen characters
Typical accommodations for BLINDNESS include: audiotaped, Brailled or
electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts, signs, and texts, verbal
descriptions of visual aids, raised-line drawings and tactile models
of graphic materials, adaptive lab equipment, and adaptive computer
software with OCR, speech output, Braille screen display and printer
The STUDENT is your best resource for determining what accommodations
are appropriate. Flexibility and effective communication between YOU,
the STUDENT, and the DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES STAFF are key in
The disabled student services office on your campus can be consulted
to coordinate production of materials using BRAILLE, AUDIOTAPE,
TACTILE MODELS, and RAISED-LINE DRAWINGS of graphic materials. In
addressing COMPUTER ACCESS ISSUES, disabled student services office
can also help coordinate with computing services staff.
Become aware of and take advantage of the resources on your campus.
QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION
While reading the CONTENT, you considered ways in which YOUR COURSE
does and does not accommodate a student with a VISUAL impairment.
Send an email message to the group, answering the following question:
How could a student who is blind ACCESS A MAP of the United States
used in your class?
Your email SUBJECT line should read: Accommodations 5: VISUAL.
You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case
studies, or access additional resources related to low vision at:
And to blindness at:
(c) 2001 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email
for educational, non-commercial purposes provided the source is
acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at: 1-206-685-3648, or