The term “blind” usually is used to describe a person who has little or no functional vision and who might rely on auditory or tactile means of accessing information. Legal blindness is considered visual acuity of 20/200 or less. A large percentage of people who are legally blind are classified as having “low vision.” People with low vision differ greatly in what they are able to see. Some are able to see only shadows, some are able to distinguish colors, and others may possess enough visual acuity to read a blackboard or textbook with special glasses, a monocular or enlarged print.

Related Accommodations

  • Service animals
  • Alternative-format materials
  • Classroom and lab assistants
  • Assistive technology
  • Exam accommodations
  • Notetaking

Students with vision loss can easily hear lectures and discussions but have difficulty accessing class syllabi, textbooks, PowerPoint presentations, the chalkboard, transparencies, maps, videos and films, written exams, visual demonstrations and library materials.  A large part of traditional learning is visual.

Suggested instructional strategies

  • Employ the principles of universal design for learning.
  • Coordinate conversion of texts, graph, diagrams, maps and other materials with the Disability Center. Be aware that conversion of materials into alternative format requires advance planning; make sure that required materials are available in advance of the start of the semester.
  • Web based content should be designed to be accessible to those using Braille and text-to-speech software. If software and websites are inaccessible, the student may benefit from the assistance of a reader.
  • Allow preferential or front-row seating. Some students may use adaptive equipment in the classroom to assist with visual presentations.
  • Provide written and verbal descriptions to accompany diagrams, videos and other visual aids.
  • The student may benefit from information about the physical layout of the room. Consider any obstacles that may present a challenge.
  • Assist the student in locating a note taker if requested.
  • Work closely with the student to determine what accommodations will be most reasonable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make suggestions.
  • When using technical terms, spell them out and give descriptions.
  • Speak directly to the class, and remember that body language and gestures might not be seen by students with visual disabilities.
  • Be descriptive and specific when giving guidance, such as “three feet to your left” rather than “over there.”
  • Accept guide dogs in your class. Service animals are trained and well-behaved and will not cause disruptions. Provide them with special consideration when you plan laboratory exercises and field trips.

Accessibility for students with low vision

  • Seating near front of the class
  • Large-print handouts and equipment labels
  • Electronic-format materials
  • Enlargement equipment

Accessibility for students with blindness

  • Braille or electronic-formatted lecture notes, handouts and texts
  • Verbal descriptions of visual aids
  • Raised-line drawings of graphic materials
  • Braille signs and equipment labels
  • Auditory lab warning signals
  • Adaptive lab equipment
  • Computer with optical character reader, speech output, Braille screen display and printer output