Visual Impairment in the Classroom

For a child to be classified as "Visually Impaired", there must be a medically verified visual impairment accompanied by limitation in sight. Furthermore, this impairment must interfere with acquiring information or interaction with the environment to the extent that special education and related services are needed.

Examples of Visual Impairment include, but are not limited to:

- Glaucoma. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. It is a group of diseases of the eye, causing progressive damage to the optic nerve by build-up pressure in the eyeball.

- Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). RP occurs when the retina in both eyes slowly deteriorate, causing problems with night vision and peripheral vision. RP often leads to legal blindness.

- Cataract. A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens caused by an infection, hereditary, severe malnutrition, or trauma.

- Albanism. Albanism is impaired vision due to an inherited deficiency of the pigmentation in the eye.

If a child meets the criteria to be classified, then a referral is made to the Committee on Special Education (CSE). For some children, "Visually Impaired" is the appropriate classification. This means that the child is in need of mainly related services. If the child has sub-average intelligence, a learning disability, or some other limitation, then he might be classified as "Other Health Impaired", "Mentally Retarded", etc. As part of the referral process, a thorough evaluation has to be conducted. Classification is largely dependent on the outcome of the evaluation.

As the CSE develops the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to address the needs of the child, the following should be considered for the classroom setting:

- place the child so his desk is not receiving direct sunlight

- have the child wear sunglasses for outdoor activities

- enlarge worksheets if needed

- experience with different colors of paper to see if the child can read ink on a particular color better than on white paper

- provide a magnifying glass

- verbally read instructions

- during reading time, have a peer read to the child

- when writing on the white board, use large basic lettering with bold color markers (not markers that are running out)

- allow a peer to read aloud the directions

- enlarge rubrics, charts, graphs, etc.

- provide large print textbooks

- provide a ruler for the child to use as he reads to help him stay on the right line

- use bright color balls in physical education classes

- give the child the option of using the computer for short answers and essays

- make sure teacher worksheets, handouts, tests, etc. contain dark ink (free of faded ink, scribbles, misc. marks)

- assign a partner to escort the child during fire drills

In addition to these considerations, the CSE will need to determine the need for test modifications, Occupational Therapy, Adaptive Physical Education, Physical Therapy, etc.

With the proper support, a student with a visual impairment, should have a positive school experience and achieve his or her goals. Most visually impaired students will be able to obtain a regular high school diploma and continue with higher education.

More Information On Visual Impairment

  1. Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted
  2. Enablers for visually impaired young adults with learning difficulties
  3. Kenneth Jernigan: 'power to the blind'
  4. Louis Database
  5. Talking Software
  6. Video Description by Narrative Television Network
  7. The Voice