Students with visual impairments can exhibit a range of vision function that may or may not require assistive technology, large print written text, or special accommodation in the classroom. Whatever the range of sight abnormalities, each student who has visual difficulties will need assistance.
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According to Washington University's DOIT Center, "the terms partially sighted, low vision, legally blind, and totally blind are used in the educational context to describe students with visual impairments." Students with visual impairments exhibit a range of visual acuities that could present as minor accommodations in seating arrangements in the classroom or providing visual aids of posted learning objectives on the board or overhead projector to being totally blind and needing books in Braille or other assistive technological devices to assist with subject content materials.
This university website describes visual impairment as a "functional loss of vision, rather than the eye disorder itself." A functional loss of vision could result in delayed cognitive skill development and physiological regression in development or a delayed socialization affect. For students impacted with vision functional loss, the educational implications are huge and the range of early intervention prorgrams should begin at the first sign of vision loss.
For students with visual impairments, testing for visual loss must begin as early as detection of visual problems are noticed in the classroom. For example, if a student is squinting or needing to be seated closer to the board or puts reading material directly in front of his/her face to see the print, testing can provide confirmation of a visual concern. Students may also exhibit noticeable vision problems during oral reading or when asked to complete in-class assignments. Visual problems may force students to feel limitations in their ability to fully participate in group collaborative work and classroom contributions.
Assistive technology and lesson or room modifications may be indicated in a student's IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Students with visual impairments may need help with mobility around the classroom or with enhancing both visual and hearing skills. Students with limited vision may need access to visual enhancement technology or written text materials. Those who are legally blind may need Braille technology and assistance with implementation in understanding subejct content materials. Additional accommodations may include computer-assisted software that provides auditory learning and visual enhancement of reading materials.
Providing accommodations and assistive technological access to students with visual impairments will provide educational access and equity in learning. Additional information on children with visual impairment disabilities can be found right here on Bright Hub Education in this Guide for Teaching Students With Visual Impairments. You'll find over 20 articles and resources for your use in the classroom.
Washington University DOIT Center - Disabilities, Obstacles, Internetworking, and Technology