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Visual disabilities

A wide range of vision conditions can affect a student’s visual acuity. They may range in severity from moderate vision loss to blindness.

Vision loss can:

  • Be gradual or occur quickly.
  • Occur at birth or be acquired in later life.
  • Result from disease or trauma.

How can Student Accessibility Services (SAS) staff provide support?

Vision loss is individual. The most effective way to determine how vision loss affects an individual student is to talk with him or her about his or her personal circumstance. Individual needs will depend on:

  • Degree of vision loss.
  • Time of onset of vision loss.
  • Coping strategies and vision training.
  • Access to accessible format print material.
  • Technological skills and devices.
  • Environmental demands.

What can teaching staff do to offer assistance?

Several measures can be taken to ensure that accessibility is maintained and encouraged in classroom settings:

  • Avoid rearranging a physical environment that is familiar to the student. Consistency in the physical arrangement is important.
  • Communicate information about any print material being used in class, including textbooks, course outlines and class handouts, as well as tests and exams, as early as possible. This way the transcriptions into appropriate format such as audio, Braille or CD can be arranged ahead of time. Please note: Transcriptions of textbooks can take up to four months to obtain. Choose textbooks and print materials with e-text versions when possible. This will allow students with visual difficulties to listen to the information through the assistance of technology.
  • Minimize classroom and/or hallway distractions and noise as they can hamper communication opportunities. Clear verbal information is critical for students with a visual disability.
  • Offer assistance to students when describing class activities. Ensure they have the information they need to understand and participate.
  • Students may have difficulties or may not be able to view boards, diagrams, graphs and pictures; faculty and class members should be aware of this so they can explain all visual information in words. Discuss seating arrangements with the student at the beginning of the term for maximum communication opportunities. Be aware of the arrangements of desks, furniture, and other visual and listening obstructions in the class.
  • When giving directions to someone with a visual disability, use descriptive words and identify yourself when speaking to the person. Tell the person when you are leaving the area and ensure he or she is in contact with something solid to give him or her a reference point in the room.
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