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, be specific about core reading and chapters.
  • Using Panopto to orally capture lectures/seminars.
  • Standing where glare is minimised if the student is partially sighted e.g. do not stand with your back to the window.
  • Conveying verbally whatever you have written on the board or shown on overheads, particularly charts and diagrams.
  • Questions and contributions from elsewhere in the room, should identify the speaker verbally as the visually impaired student may not recognise the voice.
  • Indicate verbally when you are entering or leaving the person’s presence.
  • Open channels of communication; discuss any individual requirements for example the use of a guide dog and prepare for this in advance. 
  • Ensuring students are aware of emergency and evacuation procedures for the building.
  • 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.
Lab work

  • Provide an orientation to lab equipment or computers to minimise anxiety.
  • Consider health and safety issues such as clear walkways and mobility around the lab.
  • Identify if some equipment or activities may need to be adapted to enable participation – e.g. talking thermometers, beakers with raised markings, hand held magnifiers, electronic microscopes that can be linked to a computer screen etc.

Placements/Field work

  • Consider with the student the differences between the university environment and the new environment – what would be required – equipment, a support worker. 
  • Consider core competencies.
  • Consider health and safety.

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 studentwellbeing@derby.ac.uk ext: 3000.

Where can I find out more?

www.derby.ac.uk/student-wellbeing

www.rnib.org.uk

www.teachability.strath.ac.uk

https://www.jisc.ac.uk/search/visual%20impairments

http://www.equality.leeds.ac.uk/for-staff/good-practice-guidance/making-your-written-and-printed-information-accessible/

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