Low Vision

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 see an image with sections missing. 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 rooms.

Students with low vision may face challenges in locating large-print materials, getting around in an unfamiliar setting, finding transportation, hiring readers for library work, researching for written assignments, as well as getting electronic recorded books on time.

Accommodations

Typical accommodations for students with low vision include:

  • large-print reading materials (e.g., books, handouts, signs, and equipment labels). Large print is typically 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 presenter and visual aids
  • assignments in electronic formats
  • computers with screen and text enlargers, optical character readers (which convert print to electronic format), or speech output
  • the use of readers or scribes for exams
  • recorded presentations
  • laptop computers for note taking
  • extended time for exams and assignments
  • verbal descriptions of visual aides
  • monitors connected to microscopes to enlarge images

Examples of accommodations for laboratories for students with low vision include:

  • large-print instructions
  • large-print laboratory signs and equipment labels
  • enlarged images through connecting TV monitors to microscopes
  • raised line drawings or tactile models for illustrations

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?

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.

Related Links

More Information

Explore DO-IT Publications, Knowledge Base articles, and websites on this topic at Accommodation Resources: Low Vision. To learn about specific accommodations for an academic activity, select from the list below.