Disability Services Center

Suggested Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments

  • Students who have no sight cannot access standard printed materials.
  •  Students who have had no vision since birth may have difficulty understanding verbal descriptions of visual materials and abstract concepts.
  • Individuals who are "legally blind" may have some functional vision, making accommodations similar to those for students with low vision appropriate.

Consider the description, "This diagram of ancestral lineage looks like a tree."

  • If one has never seen a tree, it may not be readily apparent that the structure of note has several lines of ancestry which can be traced back to one central family.
  • However, students who lost their vision later in life may find it easier to understand such verbal descriptions.
  • Demonstrations based on color differences may be more difficult for students with blindness to participate in and understand than demonstrations which emphasize changes in shape, temperature, or texture.


Access to Print Materials

Ready access to text based materials on computer disk, via email, or on websites can allow a student with a visual impairment, who has the appropriate technology, to use computers to read text aloud and/or produce it in Braille.

Print materials not readily accessible may need to be transferred to a digital format. Since it may take weeks or even months to procure course materials in digital or Braille format it is essential that instructors select and prepare course materials well before they are needed as required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 section 133. DSC coordinates the production of digital materials and Braille in collaboration with instructors and the student.

Other examples of accommodations for students with visual impairments include:

  • Tactile models and raised-line drawings of graphic materials. The DSC staff can help locate or create these materials.
  • Adaptive lab equipment such as talking thermometers, calculators, light probes, and tactile timers for access to labs.
  • Computers with optical character readers, speech output, Braille screen displays, and Braille printers to participate in computer exercises and on-line research.
  • Assistance of a sighted person to assist in labs, describe visuals not accessible, etc.

Computing Services staff or the DSC staff can be consulted when addressing computer access issues.


Instructor Support

  • It is essential that the instructor identifies the specific learning objective when an accommodation is needed. This clarifies the academic accommodation required.
  • During lectures or demonstrations involving visual aids, clear, concise narration or description of the basic points being represented is important. This technique benefits other students as well.
  • Web pages used in the course should be designed so that they are accessible to those using Braille and speech output systems. (Webaim is a web accessibility evaluation tool)
  • For a student with a visual impairment access issues vary according to specific academic requirements and activities.


Information adapted from DO-IT ©2011, University of Washington