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Visual Disabilities
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Accommodations | Service Animals | Accessible Materials

Visual impairments include disorders in the sense of vision that affect the central vision acuity, the field of vision, color perception, or binocular visual function to the degree that it impedes the educational process and necessitates procurement of supportive services or programs.

The American Medical Association defines legal blindness as visual acuity not exceeding 20/200 in the better eye with correction, or a limit in the field of vision that is less than a 20-degree angle (tunnel vision). This term includes people with extremely limited vision, as well as those with none at all.

Accommodations may include:

bullet reading lists or syllabi in advance to permit time for transferring into alternate format
bullet textbooks ordered in the preferred medium of the student
bullet seating in the front of class without glare from windows
bullet tape-recording of lectures and class discussions
bullet note-taking devices such as pocket Braille computers
bullet handouts in the medium that the student prefers
bullet clear black print on white or pale yellow paper for students with visual impairments
bullet testing accommodations: taped tests, reading of tests, scribe, extended time, separate place, enlarged print, computer word processing software with speech access
bullet materials presented on the board or on transparencies read out loud
lab assistance
bullet advance notice of class schedule changes

Students with no light perception or no functional vision may rely on a white cane, a service animal or a sighted guide for mobility purposes. Service animals should not be petted or addressed unless permission is granted by their owner. When serving as a sighted guide, let the student take your arm just above the elbow.

It is helpful to identify yourself first when speaking with a student with blindness or low vision. A lower noise level in the classroom is important for hearing. Students may require a reader for assignments and exams and may use a notetaker or a note-taking device in class to take notes.

Passageways through doors and aisles should be kept clear. When furniture is moved, students should be advised of the new arrangement. Any changes in class locations should be given to students in advance, or a non-disabled student should be assigned to wait at the door and guide the visually impaired student to the new location.

Accessible Materials

Types of accessible format of printed material for students with blindness/visual impairments include:

bullet audio tape

Many textbooks can be ordered on cassette tape from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (1-800-221-4792), or through the Books on Tape Consortium, a network of universities. Readers also are available through DSS to audio tape handouts, exams and books that have not already been recorded.

bullet large print

Standard-sized materials can be enlarged on a copier using 11" by 17" paper.

bullet computer disk (e-text)

Materials are converted to electronic text which can then be read by computer.

bullet Braille

Print material may be converted to Braille in the Computer Access Lab.

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