Visual impairments - Understanding disabilities, impairments and specific learning difficulties - University of Derby

Visual impairments

Students who are diagnosed with a visual impairment will experience varying degrees of sight loss; considerations need to be made regarding teaching methods/strategies as learning is often delivered in a very visual way.

It is important for lecturers/tutors to consider individual requirements and reasonable adjustments that can be made. These may relate to:

  • Teaching strategies
  • Human support
  • Use of specialist equipment
  • Alternate methods of assessment

Each individual experiencing a visual impairment will have differing requirements you will, however, need to consider access to:

  • Printed texts such as hand-outs, instructions for practical activities, lecture notes, reading lists and exam papers.
  • Other visual resources for example diagrams, photographs and how these are presented, whether on paper, a white board, PowerPoint presentations
  • Projected materials, for example, videos
  • Electronic materials, such as, emails, internet sites and visual learning environments

Some ideas to overcome barriers to learning may include:

  • Ensuring materials are available in new formats in advance to allow students preparation time.
  • Providing reading lists in advance to enable students the opportunity to obtain an audio tape transcription
  • Open channels of communication; discuss any individual requirements for example the use of a guide dog and prepare for this in advance.
  • It might also be a good idea to discuss where the student needs to sit during teaching sessions and/or any additional seats for a support assistant. These requirements will need to be considered and met in all locations used.

Lecturers and tutors will need to take into consideration all aspects of the course and how these may need to be adapted or discussed with the individual. This includes placements, field trips, lab work etc.

We appreciate that self-consciously changing habits and mannerisms can be extremely difficult, we would, therefore advise lecturers to meet with their students to, not only discuss the student’s needs but also how the student can support their lecturer in ensuring their teaching is accessible. It would be a good idea to open the channels of communication so both student and lecturer feel comfortable to discuss when things aren’t working and how this can be amended.

For further information or if you have any questions or concerns please contact the Student Wellbeing team via or ext: 3000.

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