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Vision Impairments

Approximately 500,000 Americans have vision impairments to the extent that they are considered "legally blind." There are three degrees of vision loss:

Visual Acuity of 20/200

The legally blind person can see at 20 feet what the average-sighted person can see at 200.

Low Vision

Limited or diminished vision that cannot be corrected with standard lenses.

Partial Sight

The field of vision is impaired because of an illness, a degenerative syndrome, or trauma. Only two percent of the people with vision impairments are totally blind; most blind people have some amount of usable vision.

Instructional Strategies for Faculty

The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.

  • Have copies of the syllabus and reading assignments ready three to five weeks prior to the beginning of classes, so documents are available for taping or Braille transcription.
  • Provide vision-impaired students with materials in alternate formats at the same time the materials are given to the rest of the class. The student must advise as to the format: large print, Braille, electronic, or tape.
  • When using an overhead projector with transparencies, use a larger font size (at least 18 point). Provide additional time for students with visual disabilities to copy the material on the transparencies, or provide them with printed copies.
  • Repeat aloud what is written on the board and in handouts, and/or presented on overheads.
  • Pace the presentation of material: if referring to a textbook or handout, allow time for students to find the information.
  • Flexibility goes a long ways: allowing students to tape-record lectures, or use laptops with specially designed software can make a huge difference to them.
  • When lecturing, avoid making statements that cannot be understood by people with visual impairments (e.g. “This diagram sums up what I am saying about statistics”).
  • When appropriate, ask for a sighted volunteer to team up with a student who is visually impaired for in-class assignments.
  • Keep a front row seat open for a student with vision impairment. A corner seat is especially convenient for a student with a guide dog (if applicable).
  • Make arrangements early for field trips and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility).
  • Be flexible with deadlines if assignments are held up by the alternate media process.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her in a one-on-one conversation or e-mail at an appropriate time (not in the middle of a lecture slide etc.).
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).