As a teacher, your priority is to ensure that all your students have equal opportunities to access education materials and complete your course. To teach visually impaired students - whether they are blind or low vision - it is necessary to adapt their teaching strategies, allowing the use of visual aids and assistive technologies, thus creating a safe learning environment.
Method 1 of 3: Employing Differentiated Teaching Strategies
Step 1. Describe the visual materials
When teaching blind or low vision students, it is important to clearly explain all the visual materials used in the lesson. For example, if you are illustrating an issue with a picture, describe it clearly. Say something like "I have placed an image of Queen Elizabeth I in the frame to illustrate how she was portrayed at the time. She is wearing a long dress with lots of detailed embroidery that demonstrates her power and wealth."
Also get used to dictating what you are writing on the board. Thus, students who can not see the four can also follow the material and take notes
Step 2. Always go over the instructions orally
Do not hand out a printed piece of paper with instructions for a task or assignment, as visually impaired students may not be able to see the words and know what is expected of them. Instead, always give oral instructions for all activities.
Step 3. Ask students to clap their hands when they want to ask a question
It is common for classrooms to rely solely on visual cues to get the teacher's attention; for example, students tend to raise their hands when they need to ask questions or make comments in the middle of class. In these situations, students with visual impairments may not notice that someone has raised a hand. Ask everyone to adapt to the situation and beep in those cases.
For example, you can ask your students to clap twice when they want to ask a question
Step 4. Provide tactile learning opportunities
When teaching a class with blind or low vision students, try to incorporate tactile experiences whenever possible. For example, instead of talking about stones or showing pictures of different types of stones, it's a good idea to have physical examples in the classroom for students to touch and handle.
- This type of experiment can work with food, shells, material properties, etc.
- In this way, you encourage students to explore and learn without relying on vision alone.
Step 5. Call all students by name
Those who have more difficulty seeing may not necessarily know who is speaking. Because of this, always call students by name when asking someone to ask a question or answer a question. Thus, students with visual impairments will learn to identify their peers according to each one's voice.
Step 6. Allow extra time for blind or low-vision students to complete assignments
It is possible that these students may need more time, as reading in Braille or using an electronic aid usually takes longer than traditional reading.
While it's good to give students a fair amount of time to complete assignments, don't let them use vision as an excuse to delay deliveries. Set deadlines and be strict
Step 7. Treat all students the same
As much as you need to make accommodations to your professional style and classroom structure to accommodate students with special needs, they must still follow the same pattern of behavior and learning. That is, classroom rules apply to all students. No special treatment for students with visual impairments.
Step 8. Take the content into consideration
When teaching a class with blind or low vision students, it may be necessary to adapt the content and form of teaching according to the needs of those present. For example, if you teach arts, it's a good idea to invest more in tactile experiences, such as sculpture, rather than traditional drawings and paintings.
Search the internet for more resources focused on teaching specific students with blindness or low vision
Method 2 of 3: Using Assistive Aids and Technologies
Step 1. Record the lessons
The easiest and cheapest way to improve the learning environment for students who are blind or low vision is to record all subjects. This will allow them to listen to the instructions and explanations several times if necessary to understand the material.
- To make things easier, let students record lessons with free smartphone apps.
- Another option, if the school is willing to invest in teaching these students, would be to buy a microphone and an audio recorder so that you can record the classes in good quality and send the files to the students.
Step 2. Provide textbooks and materials in Braille
As soon as you discover that you have a visually impaired student in your class, request books and materials in Braille. Also use braille translation software to convert materials you create for students.
- Buying translation software is expensive. Talk to the school to see how you can fund this.
- This process is usually time-consuming, so always plan ahead.
Step 3. Enable use of smart readers and scanners
Students who are blind or have low vision can benefit greatly from the use of these electronic accessories, which convert documents into spoken voice. Thus, those who cannot see the written materials presented will still be able to access the information. The machine will read the materials aloud automatically.
- These devices can be purchased on the internet with some ease.
- You can also use text reading apps for mobile phones and mobile devices.
Step 4. Encourage the use of text magnifiers
Students with low vision can use magnifiers to enlarge the images and text in books and handouts, making all material easier to read. These devices are simple to use and vary in both price and effectiveness.
- Portable magnifiers, which magnify the image by 2.5x, are the cheapest and practical option.
- Electronic magnifiers can enlarge an image up to 15x its original size, but this is a more expensive and complicated option to use.
Step 5. Write with contrast on the board
Students with low vision need materials written on the board to have high contrast to facilitate cleaning. If the blackboard is a blackboard, give preference to white chalks; if it is a whiteboard, give preference to black markers. Always write in large letters to make it easier to read.
Avoid using color, limiting it to only large items such as titles
Method 3 of 3: Creating an Enabling Learning Environment
Step 1. Have students with reduced vision sitting at the front of the class
For all your students to have an equal opportunity to learn, it's a good idea to bring the blind and low vision closer to the board and to you. That way you allow them to hear better what you're saying.
Step 2. Take lighting and brightness into account
Students with visual impairments are often light sensitive, and seating them away from windows and other sources of reflection can be very beneficial. Control the entry of natural light into the room with curtains and blinds, and distribute artificial lighting around the room in order to maximize everyone's vision.
Step 3. Increase the space between rows of students
It is important to leave space between desks, tables, cabinets and even shelves, thus facilitating the navigation of blind students through the classroom, without them bumping into things and getting hurt.
Keep cabinet and drawer doors closed at all times. It is also important that the chairs fit snugly over the desks. If things get out of place, it can end up hurting students with reduced vision
Step 4. Maintain consistency in classroom organization
Prepare the room layout at the beginning of the school year and follow it through the rest of the year. Thus, students with visual impairments will memorize the arrangement of things and will be able to navigate the room without any problems. If you move objects around, you can end up confusing students and increasing their stress in the learning environment.
Step 5. Clearly explain where classroom materials are located
You may need to give extra instructions when explaining where the materials are to students. For example, if there is a community pencil sharpener next to the whiteboard, give students very clear instructions on how to get to the utensil from their seat.
- For example, you could say, "The sharpener is in front of your desk, two steps to the left of the board."
- Verbal instructions will considerably help students with reduced vision or blindness to navigate through space.
- If possible, meet with students' parents before the first day of school to understand their visual impairment and better define learning goals for the school year.
- Talk to the school's coordination to obtain extra resources and lesson plans that can be used with students with visual impairments.