Teaching Visually-impaired Students

I am writing to ask for suggestions to teach visually-impaired students science. How do you suggest to teach such students? — M., Iowa


First, you need to get to know the student as an individual learner. Start by asking the student how you can support them in your class. Then, discover and contact the supports for that child—teaching assistants, case workers, parents, resource teachers—and get information on what works and what doesn’t; which vision and reading technologies are in place and what will you need in your classroom; what services can assist you; and if you can access textbooks in braille or large print versions.

Only a fraction of legally blind people have 100% impairment, so you need to understand what level or kind of impairment each child has. For instance, a person with retinitis pigmentosa may have lost peripheral vision but retain a small central area of vision. To get an idea of what that would be like, you could spread petroleum jelly on a pair of goggles, leaving a small central area clear (or visa versa) and then try out your activities, handouts, and visuals. You should quickly realize this student would need additional time to scan across readings, visuals, and work areas.

Scan your room for mobility hazards. Pair the student with a buddy who can perform tasks that might be dangerous like using Bunsen burners. Physical objects may be an excellent tactile experience and observational exercise for the student. For dissections, allow them to perform cuts (scissors or scalpels) to their degree of ability and have them handle and touch specimens as the dissection progresses.

Hope this helps!

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2 Responses to Teaching Visually-impaired Students

  1. nicole lutes says:

    My name is Nicole and I am an elementary education student at Wartburg College. I am also receiving an endorsement in special education. I think partner work while still allowing the student to share the work and participate is a great accommodation for students with visual impairments. I am curious as to how you would set up your science classroom to be easily accessible for a student with such impairments.
    Nicole Lutes
    Preservice teacher
    Wartburg College

  2. Victoria Miceli says:

    My name is Victoria Miceli and I am an Elementary Education student at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Getting to know a student as a learner is one. Of the most helpful pieces of advice. As a blind pre-service teacher, I can attest to the power of that single step. Many times, when you get to know to person, getting to know that differing ability is a lot easier. I came to college with very little science background but my science professor did a wonderful job working to get to know me and my learning style so that he could do a better job adapting instruction to meet my needs.
    Many students will differing abilities are capable of doing a lot of the same tasks as their peers. They may use alternative techniques to do so. When I utilize a Bunsen burner, I strategically place it in a location I know is safe and familiar. Then, I put all my other lab materials on a ridged cookie sheet. This helps me keep all the materials away from the burner. I also always familiarize myself with the area spacially, before turning the burner on as a safety precaution. I think as educators, we must be mindful not to set low expectations for students with differing abilities. We should challenge ourselves to give these students the same experiences as their peers.

    Victoria Miceli

    Wartburg College
    Class of 2020
    Elementary Education and Religion Majors
    Reading Endorsement
    National Science Teaching Association Chapter Secretary
    Wartburg College Ambassador

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