What is Considered Low Vision?
According to the American Academy of Opthamology, low vision occurs when "ordinary glasses, contact lenses, or intraocular lense implants cannot provide sharp sight, an individual is said to have low vision…although reduced central or reading vision is common, low vision may also result from decreased side (peripheral) vision, a reduction or loss of color vision, or the eye’s inability to properly adjust to light, contrast or glare."2
Commonly Used Low Vision Aids
There are many different low vision aids that can be used in the classroom to assist children with low vision. Magnifiers are very useful for magnifying printed materials like worksheets and books. Students may use hand-held magnifiers for viewing print. Readers convert print to spoken words and can assist in reading books or computer pages to students. Telescopic lens may sometimes be used to view television screens, films, or other media and general environment. Everything from talking clocks and watches to portable electronic notetaking devices are available for making a visually impaired student’s life more manageable.
Tips for Teachers
1. Know the student. Work closely with the vision teacher and be fully aware of the student’s condition and limitations. Talk to the student and ask questions about how he or she sees best. Some kids do well in areas with lots of light, and others get such a glare that they prefer lower light. You won’t know what works best for a particular child unless you communicate with the child, parents, and vision teacher.
2. Laptop computers with readers should be provided to visually impaired students, along with keyboarding instruction.
3. Have high expectations for visually impaired students, and communicate your encouraging words and expectations to them.
4. Speak to the student’s vision teacher if you need low vision aids or other equipment in the classroom.
5. Students should take notes for themselves using the vision aids, braille, or other preferred methods available.
6. Use tactile activities and as many hands-on experiences as possible with all students in the classroom. Be sure to stand near the visually impaired child/children when showing the class something that requires visual discernment in order to understand a concept. Make an effort to let the child see things close up in each step of the activity.
7. Encourage independence in as many situations as possible.
8. Consistently expect good behavior from all students, including those with visual impairments.
9. Be aware that some students may need extra time and or shorter assignments.
10. Keep the room arranged in a consistent manner. Students may fall over things that they aren’t used to being in a certain place. Keep all drawers shut and be sure the floor is free of anything a visually impaired student could trip over.