Case Study – Education Studies and Visual Difficulties

Case Study A describes an Education Studies student with visual difficulties. He describes the support he received. Case Study B describes the experiences of two vision-impaired lecturers on a PGCE programme, in particular their difficulties obtaining course materials.

 

Case Study A is taken from the St Mary’s University College Belfast website: http://www.stmarys-belfast.ac.uk/admissions/wparticipation/casestudies/drnstudents.asp(information accessed and extracted June 2008)

In 2006 Declan (18) secured a place on the BEd (Hons) Secondary Education degree in Religious Studies at St. Mary’s University College Belfast.
Declan attended St. Paul’s High School in Bessbrook where he completed ‘A’ levels in Religious Studies, English and History. Declan worked hard and achieved A grades in all three subjects!

What makes Declan’s achievements more outstanding is that he experiences a hereditary sight condition and is registered blind. He has recessively inherited optic atrophy with visual acuity of 6/60 in each eye. He can read text minimum font size 14. At school he received extra time for essays as it took longer to read, write and complete tasks.

Declan describes his disability as a motivating factor in his current studies. He is determined to succeed in everything he does and this is reflected in his focus and commitment to his studies and to his hectic social life at St. Mary’s university!

Declan had always been interested in a teaching career although he had considered both bricklaying and journalism. He opted for the BEd (Hons) Secondary Education in Religious Studies [ with history as his subsidiary subject ] as he enjoyed studying both subjects at school and felt they would give him flexibility in his chosen career.

He arranged a pre entry visit to St. Mary’s so that he could familiarise himself with the environment. Declan says

“I remember hearing all about St. Mary’s close knit community, I believed it was a marketing gimmick however when I started studying at the College I knew exactly what it meant to be part of that community, socially it’s great!”

Surprisingly Declan did not apply for Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) until November 2006. Upon reflection he would encourage students with additional support needs to disclose their disability at the outset and to apply for support earlier (August/September) as the DSA assessment and application process can be time consuming.

Declan only sought support when his workload started to pile up. He approached the Student Affairs Staff at St. Mary’s, presented medical evidence from his G.P. and applied for Disabled Students Allowances.

He received the support he needed; this included a laptop, software training using Dragon Dictate voice recognition software, printer and dictaphone. He was provided with extended library loans, flexible assignment deadlines, reading lists and lecture notes (in large font) in advance of lectures. In addition he was allocated extra time, rest breaks and the use of a computer or a scribe (if preferred) during exams. Declan was reassured to know he could avail of this support.

Declan says “St. Mary’s is a great place to be and this is where I chose to be. For a long time I wanted to be a bricklayer and then changed my mind, I don’t know why! The point is, everyone is different and the decision is yours. I think if you have the potential to succeed in Higher Education, you can at least try it rather than regret your choice later in life

 


Case Study B is taken from "Making Reasonable Adjustments with Disabled Students in Higher Education Staff Development Materials: Case Studies and Exercises ",
Margaret Herrington (ed) with Dawn Simpson, June 2002:  
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/academicsupport/adjustments/Making%20Reasonable%20Adjustments.pdf (information accessed and extracted July 2008)

Presenting situation

This article considers our experiences as ‘participants’ during a PGCE programme. One of us has no sight, whilst the other has some useful vision but has considerable difficulty in reading printed matter. These experiences occurred six and three years ago respectively. Accordingly, we acknowledge that services to PGCE students with a vision-impairment may have improved during the past two years or so.

In essence, the main difficulty we experienced related to the inaccessibility of course materials. For all participants, course materials were usually provided on the day of the relevant taught classes. In most cases, this approach did not prove to be problematic. For us, however, this was to create a range of considerable difficulties, despite our attempts to inform and negotiate with the programme presenters before the start of the programme.

Course response

Initially, as agreed, some materials were provided on floppy-disc at our request. As the course progressed, the amount of materials supplied diminished until no accessible materials were supplied by the later stages of the programme. Furthermore, the period of time between the provision of materials and the class date also decreased from perhaps one working week at the beginning of the course, to the actual day of teaching mid-way through the programme. In addition, more difficulties were encountered due to the excessive use of OHP materials in class. Whilst the use of such materials is not problematic in itself, the inability of presenters to describe and explain their content was problematic.

As a consequence, we were obliged to access most of the course materials through a personal reader service. Generally, due to the ‘late’ delivery of course materials the process of reading was not completed until after the teaching of the relevant subject matter in a classroom setting. As a result, our ability to engage and participate in small and large group activities was frequently impeded. Moreover, the excessive use of OHP materials consolidated this ‘disabling’ experience. By the end of the programme both of us were frustrated at the whole learning process and disillusioned about the ‘equal opportunities’ commitment of the course presenters. Furthermore, whilst we did not feel we were a burden on the programme presenters, there were times when we believed we were regarded as being burdensome. Our collective experience has also caused us to consider seriously the accessibility and suitability of other learning opportunities.

In order to gain something constructive from this process we believe that several issues need to be addressed on all teaching programmes. These include:

  • essential course materials should be provided in the preferred format of students with disabilities;
  • the use of OHP materials should be kept to a minimum, and should be duplicated in a format accessible to students with disabilities;
  • essential materials should be provided in advance of taught session, permitting sufficient time for students to assimilate the information before taught sessions;
  • non-essential materials should be dispensed with.

Finally, as a result of recent legislation we believe that educational establishments will be placed in a situation of having to provide ‘in-house’ materials in an accessible format to staff and students with disabilities. Consequently, good practice regarding the provision of course materials should include:

  • reviewing all course materials to identify and establish their importance and relevance for teaching; 
  • enhancing the quality and presentation of written and diagrammatic materials for students with vision-impairments and other difficulties relating to accessibility of text;
  • consulting with course participants before the programme begins in order to identify and meet individual needs; 
  • supplying accessible materials at least one week in advance of taught sessions; 
  • supplying a prioritised list of essential textbooks well in advance of the course to permit students the opportunity to arrange for transcription or recording; 
  • reviewing the situation with participants regularly throughout the Programme and amending provision as required.

Case Study – Early Years (FD) and Visual Difficulties

The following case study is taken from the DART Project.  Focusing on engineering & the built environment, the aim of the DART project was to enhance the experience of disabled students, by enabling institutions, faculties, departments, and individual members of staff to assess their current level of learning and teaching provision as it affects disabled students, and by offering clear guidance on how to make such provision more accessible http://dart.lboro.ac.uk/MICHAEL_000.htm (information accessed and extracted January 2007)

 

DART Project

Student Case Study: MICHAEL
Degree Programme: Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
Year/ Level of Study: 1 year Full-time
Type of Institution:  Campus based (Urban)
Disability: Blindness
Case study methodology: Interviews with student, student’s support worker and with an academic tutor
Learning & Teaching Contexts:  Various (including lectures, class discussions, group work, placements)
Specific Issues Key Terms Physical environment, orientation, locating information, using the internet, feedback and the benefits of disclosure
 
This case study focuses on the experience of Michael, a full-time PGCE student from the Department of Education at an urban campus-based university. It was developed on the basis of an extensive interview with Michael and his support worker followed by a further discussion with one of his academic tutors. As well as detailing Michael’s experiences, the Case Study incorporates perspectives provided by his support worker and tutor.
 
Moreover, as part of the course Michael has undertaken practical teacher training at the university where he is studying his PGCE. Therefore, when considering Michaels experiences of different learning and teaching situations, Michael will give his perspective, not only as a disabled student, but also as a disabled lecturer.
 
NOTE: Michael has consented to his name being used in the Case Study. To safeguard the anonymity of his support worker and academic tutor, they will be referred to as SW and AT respectively throughout this Case Study.
 

INTRODUCTION

 
Michael is a full-time mature student, studying a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Michael was born with glaucoma and lost his sight following a corneal graft operation. By this stage of his life Michael had completed his education and was working as a qualified solicitor which he continued to do successfully, for several years after he became blind. Michael’s decision to return to education, this time as a disabled student, came when he decided he wanted a new challenge in life.
 
During the academic day, Michael receives assistance from a support worker (he has 2 who assist him on different days) to help him find his way around campus and the different learning environments e.g. classrooms, work placements etc; also to help him source material from the library and, very occasionally, to take notes in classes. Michael travels to university independently using a taxi.
 

PREVIOUS EDUCATION

 
Michael followed a conventional route through education, studying O Levels and A Levels before completing a BA in Law at university. He then went on to work as a trainee solicitor for 2 years before taking his law finals in 1974 and qualifying as a solicitor. Michael then practised as a solicitor from 1974 until the beginning of 2002. Michael lost his sight in 1985 following a corneal graft operation but continued to practice as a solicitor for the next 17 years.
 

TRANSITION TO HIGHER EDUCATION

 
After 28 years as a solicitor, Michael decided it was time for a change. Circumstances had changed in that Michael’s wife had passed away and his children were grown up, he no longer had as many financial commitments to meet, and he wanted a new challenge.  Based on enjoyment of communicating with people, discussions with friends, family and other professionals, combined with a lot of thought, Michael decided to have a go at doing a PGCE, with the view of becoming a lecturer. In preparation for this, Michael undertook a year long IT course developing skills that he considers to have been invaluable to his PGCE studies.
 
Although Michael’s disability didn’t influence his decision, the practicalities of undertaking a PGCE with his disability were an obvious consideration for him. Michael took the view that if he could get the necessary support from the local authority in terms of enabling technology, funding for a support worker and travel expenses, then he’d be able to have a go. Prior to starting his PGCE Michael had 2 major concerns: the first was geographical; how would he find his way around the university, (Michael calls it environmental impact – how he’s going to impact on the new environment and how it’s going to impact on him) where seemingly benign environments for non disabled students can be hostile for blind students; secondly, how he would cope with all the reading involved. Through a local authority grant (Disabled Students Allowance), Michael was allocated funding for a support worker to assist him whilst on campus and teacher training placements, also a voice synthesizer software package called JAWS that allows printed material to be read to him.
 

THE STUDENT’S EXPERIENCE

Learning and Teaching Experience
 
Michael has experienced several barriers whilst undertaking his PGCE. Michael was willing to be open about his disability and ask for assistance when needed, which was an important part of his institution identifying and removing barriers to his learning. Michael’s approach to the whole teaching and learning experience is best summed up in his own words:
 
“If you ask – you get! In my situation you cannot sit and wait for the world to come to you. You cannot say “I’ve got a disability, please feel sorry for me” – you can’t. So at the end of the day you’re out there. When you acquire your PGCE, when you go for a job, it’s all very nice having a disability but people will look at you and say “Can this person do the job?” It’s the same situation in college when you’re learning. You’ve got to go out there and ask for what you want and I went out and I asked people for information and asked them to help me and they did”. 
 
The following highlight some of Michael’s relevant experiences.
 
Lectures
 
Michael feels that, as a student, having the opportunity to introduce your disability to lecturers and fellow students at the start of a course is very important. At the start of his PGCE studies Michael told his lecturers and fellow students about his background and his disability. By demystifying his disability and treating it lightly, Michael put fellow students at ease straight away. Because Michael can’t see the class room or fellow students, orientating himself can be a problem e.g. talking to someone but looking in the wrong direction. Michael asks fellow students to let him know if he is doing this.
 
During lectures Michael is unable to take notes. Therefore he relies on handouts from the lecturer, which he later scans into his computer so that they can be read out to him when revising. He also sometimes gets notes from fellow students. Very occasionally, he asks his support worker to take notes.
 
In his capacity as a trainee lecturer, aided by a support worker, Michael teaches a fairly small class of students and, if not writing down lots of notes, he asks them to sit in a semi circle. He explains to the class about his disability, to put the students at ease, and asks them to tell him if he is not facing the right way when speaking to them. Michael keeps a point of focus when lecturing by keeping his hands on a desk to stop himself losing track of his position. One difficulty he faces, especially with new students, is getting to know who they are. Michael does this with vocal recognition and asks students to say their name out loud when they come into the classroom until he becomes familiar with them.
 
Generally, Michael does not use OHPs or PowerPoint presentations to accompany his lessons, preferring to give out handouts he has prepared earlier. His lessons tend to be interactive: he asks students to write on the chalk board and then read out what they’ve written. He also asks students to tell him out loud the things they are doing. Because Michael can not read notes, he has to learn his lectures as an actor would learn a script. He occasionally uses a vocal pocket memo, but generally he relies upon his memory. Michael’s loss of vision occurred later in life and so, unconsciously, he uses body language when talking – as a non disabled lecturer would – i.e. nodding and smiling when students answer questions. Again this helps to put students at ease.
 
Group Work
 
Provided Michael has been given the opportunity to introduce his disability at the start of term, group work is not a problem. At the start of his PGCE, one lecturer asked students to give a five minute talk about themselves. Michael used this opportunity to introduce his disability saying: “I can’t see, but I can walk and talk and am an ordinary person with a disability” – which helped break the ice. Therefore, when group work occurs, Michael simply tells students what he needs them to do to assist him, such as reading out instructions, which allows him to take an active part.
 
As a trainee lecturer Michael uses group work a lot and frequently divides the class into small groups of 2,3 or 4, swapping group members around, so that cliques don’t form. He believes group work promotes cooperation between students, gets students motivated and also aids cooperation with the lecturer. The support worker lets Michael know if someone in a group is not participating, which prompts Michael to go over and investigate. At the end of the group exercise, all group members have to do a presentation. In this way, Michael ensures everyone has participated. If Michael is marking the presentations, his support worker will help by telling him about students’ body language i.e. if they’re smiling or reading from notes etc.
 
Class Discussions
 
As with group work, class discussions do not present a problem for Michael. In terms of orientation, the class usually sits in a semi circle and the lecturer may begin by asking individual opinions which then become a general discussion. Michael feels very comfortable with voicing his opinion in these situations.
 
As a trainee lecturer, class discussions can be a little difficult to get started in that Michael can not see where everyone is sitting and so may ask a student for their opinion but be looking at the wrong person. Also, the more confident students will join in automatically, but with the quieter ones it is more difficult. This is why Michael believes group work is such an important teaching method as it enables ‘team spirit’ to develop between the group. In this way, as term progresses and ‘team spirit’ grows, class discussions become more animated. In these situations, although it would be easier for Michael to ask students to always sit in the same place he prefers not to impose a rigid structure on the class. Instead students sit where they want – usually in a semi circle – and Michael’s attitude is that the worst that can happen is that he uses the wrong name, but that this isn’t the end of the world.
 
Research Using the Library
 
Michael does not use the library for research, preferring to work at home instead. Here, he scans books into his PC and then plays them back – through the JAWS voice-synthesizer – while making notes. Although this takes twice as long as reading the book, it enables Michael to learn the subject matter more thoroughly. Because Michael can not browse the library shelves, he relies on tutors to advise him which texts to read as well as the course recommended reading list.
 
Carrying out research on the internet is a slow and difficult process for Michael. He has recently acquired some speech software that allows web pages to be read to him, but Michael finds this is somewhat difficult to use. Once he has finished his PGCE, Michael intends to spend some time getting more proficient with this software. Michael has been fortunate in that one of his support workers is an ex-PGCE student, and consequently has a good grasp of the subject area, allowing him to find information for Michael on the internet. Michael says that, without this help, tasks would have taken him much longer to complete. Michael feels that if tutors had given out specific website addresses, this would have been of major assistance to him. He would have been able to save them in his ‘Favourites’ list and access them as and when he wanted.
 
Work Placements
 
Michael has to undertake teaching practice as part of his PGCE course and getting used to new teaching environments can be very challenging. If Michael feels anxious in his teaching environments, he feels this will affect the standard of his teaching and may also leave the students feeling anxious. When faced with a work placement, accompanied by a support worker, Michael checks out the situation in advance so he is aware of the pitfalls of the new environment. Having a support worker present during work placement was valuable as a reasonable adjustment. This ensured that Michael had a full chance to participate in this learning experience and was less worried about working in an unfamiliar physical environment. If in future, Michael has a base class room (he always teaches in the same classroom) he would need help at first, until he became accustomed to the new environment. However, he also believes that he would ultimately be able to teach unaided in this environment.
 
Assessment / Examinations
 
In terms of assessments on his PGCE, Michael has to submit assignments rather than sit examinations. To date, he has not encountered any problems doing this. Tutors both write down comments and also either tell Michael what they have said or e-mail their comments to him. So long as comments are given to Michael in typed script, his PC with the JAWS software application is able to read them back to him. Had Michael been required to sit examinations, he does not feel that these would be problematic so long as he was provided with a PC and appropriate technology that could read out the questions to him, along with some extra time.
 
As a trainee lecturer, Michael has set students two assignments as part of his teacher training and has asked them to e-mail their work to him. Michael’s PC reads the assignments to him and he either writes comments in italic on the actual assignment or he makes notes on a pocket memo as he proceeds through each section. He then types out a comments page and e-mails it back to students. As part of the marking system, the university has a pro-forma marking sheet including tick boxes. Michael has had this adapted so that he can provide all the information required by the course moderators.
 
Meeting Deadlines
 
Meeting deadlines has not been a problem for Michael. He had one extended deadline at the beginning of his course but has otherwise handed everything else in on time. He attributes the cause of this extension as being that he had been out of education for 30 years, rather than to his disability. In respect of meeting deadlines, Michael has found it beneficial that he has been given assignments well in advance of their due date. Had significant research been needed for a piece of work, which tutors wanted completing within a week, Michael believes that the tutors would have had to make some adjustments to accommodate his disability. 
 
Impact on Learning and Academic Progress
 
Specific tasks, involving accessing information, have been amongst the most difficult for Michael because of his disability. Consequently, it has been in this area that Michael feels that he has needed the most help and that his education has potentially suffered to the greatest extent. This is possibly the only area where Michael believes that the tutors could have offered more help. If lecturers recommend reading a book for a specific subject, but don’t give page numbers, it takes Michael a long time to locate the information. If page numbers were specified, Michael’s support worker could get the book and read out the relevant pages, thus saving Michael vast quantities of time. While finding pages and accessing them is a difficult thing for Michael to do with his disability, scanning pages into his PC, and having them read back to him, is not.
 
Despite this Michael has nothing but praise for his two PGCE tutors and says they have both been “excellent”. When OHPs have been used, he has always been given copies of the material. The tutors have always made sure lecture notes have been in typed script, feedback has always been typed up properly, and when he needed extra time for an assignment there was no problem. In other words, when he has needed help, Michael has been able to ask for it. His tutors have listened and understood his needs.
 
What is of paramount importance to Michael is to be treated as an individual. In his own words: 
 
“I think disability is a personal thing. Each person has their own problems, their own hang ups and their own way of dealing with it…. You can make general adjustments for them but you’ve got to act on one premise. Whatever disability – whether they’re a wheelchair user, hard of hearing, autistic etc. – each person has their own problems and you must treat them in that respect”.
 
As a lecturer, Michael will have to rely on himself as the main class resource i.e. he won’t be able to use visual aids as much to help him, but he will provide his classes with handouts. He also feels that there will be a lot of student involvement in his lectures – in other words the students will be doing a lot of the work themselves rather than just listening to him talk. This, he believes, will help to keep the students motivated and interested. If a class shows signs of being bored and unresponsive, Michael is not afraid to stop and change things, allowing students a short break before starting again. 
 
Because Michael is studying part time, his contact with the university is in the form of tutors, the library and the disability office – all of which he says are excellent. Michael prefers working on his own and so does not mind his lack of access to the library. Meanwhile, the staff in the disability office are present as and when he needs them. Also, Michael has been greatly helped by his two support workers who he also describes as “excellent”.
 

SUPPORT WORKER’S PERSPECTIVE

 
Michael has two support workers helping him on different days whilst on campus, and he has developed a very good working relationship with both. The support worker (SW), who accompanied Michael to the interview, says Michael communicates very well with her and lets her know exactly what he needs. Because of this, she feels that it is easy for her to assist him. Moreover, SW echoes many of the points made by Michael, but also highlights some additional difficulties. For instance, SW feels that, at first, students may be too nervous to tell Michael if he is facing the wrong way when speaking to them. But because SW is there, looking at them, smiling and nodding when they answer questions and telling Michael when he is facing the wrong way, this puts students at ease and shows them that Michael indeed welcomes assistance with his orientation.
 
Group work and class discussions can be problematic in terms of the acoustics of the classrooms where SW and Michael are based. At the moment Michael is teaching in very large classrooms with relatively small numbers of students. Some of the students speak very quietly, especially when English isn’t their first language. Usually, when a student speaks, Michael knows which way to face. However, if acoustics are poor and students speak quietly, SW feels it is very difficult for Michael to know which way to face.
 
In general, SW also feels that tutors should be more understanding towards disabled students and in particular should recognise the extra time and effort it takes a disabled student to do the same activities as a non disabled student. Additionally, she concurs with Michael that tutors could give more specific instructions (e.g. page numbers for books and website addresses). Such steps would have saved Michael a lot of time and made it easier for SW to assist him.
 

ACADEMIC TUTOR’S PERSPECTIVE

 
According to Michael’s Academic Tutor (AT), Michael was very good at putting her at ease from the beginning. However, the AT is also conscious that other students, requiring support, may not have Michael’s ability to do this; therefore, considering and understanding the individual’s perspective, motivations and outlook is important. In this particular case, this was made more significant by the fact that the AT had little experience of teaching students with visual impairments. This meant that the interactions with Michael represented a learning experience for her, as well as for Michael. On reflection, the AT believes that she missed an opportunity to ask Michael how she could have helped to meet his needs more effectively, in order to improve the experiences of her future students. Consequently, AT suggests that tutors, who may find themselves in the same position, should ask the student in advance what support they may require.
 
AT gained some useful insights from working with Michael, especially concerning observation reports. Firstly, with visually impaired students, observation reports must be typed up and e-mailed; however, students also like to have feedback immediately if possible. Although AT didn’t do this at the time, on reflection, this could be achieved by bringing a laptop to the observation and typing up comments instead of hand writing them. A disc could then have been left with Michael or e-mailed to him – AT feels this would not cause any extra inconvenience and would have facilitated Michael’s independence. AT suggests that tutors should always try to think of ways they can give visually impaired students feedback electronically (rather than handwritten), in all situations where feedback is required. Moreover, AT believes that the university has a similar responsibility to ensure that all documents are provided in electronic as well as hard copy. 
 
Despite being one of Michael’s main tutors, AT met Michael after the course had commenced and, consequently, was unaware of his background. AT describes how the following scenario (in her own words) had quite an influence on her: “One day I found myself walking to the classroom with Michael. We were on a floor where there were many pictures from the same famous artist and I found myself describing the pictures to Michael as I thought he might be interested. However, as I spoke these words I suddenly realised that I did not know if Michael had once been able to see – I’d presumed so just by Michael’s ‘way of being’, but suddenly wondered if I was being unwittingly offensive. Other questions also sprang to mind: How was I going to describe the pictures? Why had I thought Michael might appreciate knowing of something that he couldn’t observe? Could Michael see a little – shades or outlines for example? I realized then, that I did not know enough about Michael and I felt embarrassed that I had mentioned the paintings at all. Despite my clumsy approach, Michael reacted politely and in a matter of fact way told me that he knew the artist and had purchased one of the paintings himself in the past. I felt very relieved at his reaction and in fact this then opened up a conversation about Michael’s disability that I found very helpful.” Therefore, AT suggests that it is helpful to have a conversation with the student as early as possible to find out a bit more about them and how their disability affects them.  
 

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

 
A number of good practice points emerge from this case study. 
 
  • On a more general level, tutors with blind or visually impaired students might wish to consider the following:
  • Do not assume that all students with visual impairments have the same study support needs.
  • Always talk to the student, rather than to the support worker in the teaching environment. Be aware that talking to the support worker may provoke any number of negative reactions in the student: for instance, it could create the potential situation where the student loses self-confidence or feels mildly insulted.
  • Make time to talk to disabled students in private to find out how the disability affects them, and what sort of support they may need
  • When speaking to prospective disabled students, make sure they are also in touch with the university disability office. The support – provision of support worker, enabling technology and help with travelling expenses – Michael received from his Local Education Authority (via the disability office) was invaluable to Michael throughout his course.
  • As a teacher of disabled students, you may wish to make yourself aware of the wider support than can be provided for your teaching through your university’s Disability Services.
  • Be aware that the enabling technology available for visually impaired students is not always easy to use. Its usage may involve a far greater time commitment by the student (e.g. Michael scans in books which are then read back to him by his voice synthesizer software package while he makes notes, in order to glean information.
 
In terms of more specific learning and teaching issues, academic tutors might consider the following actions when teaching blind / visually impaired students
 
  • Ensure that you have knowledge of the layout of the room before the lecture, and so can pre-empt any issues with room layout or any particular difficulties with acoustics
  • Provide handouts to accompany lectures as well as providing copies of all OHPs / PowerPoint presentations used
  • In Group Work, make sure a fellow group member reads out written instructions so that visually impaired students understand the task in hand
  • In Class discussions, if possible ask the class / group to sit in a semi circle position. This makes it easier for a blind / visually impaired student to participate as they may be unable to see who is speaking and rely on their hearing to orientate themselves towards the rest of the class
  • If taking the class / group out of its normal environment e.g. for field trips / work placements, allow visually impaired students to visit the new environment beforehand (preferably accompanied by a support worker) so that they can get used to the new physical features in advance
  • When asking students to carry out research, be aware of the extra time it takes blind / visually impaired students to find information. Consider giving out more specific information (e.g. useful web addresses and or page numbers for relevant chapters in books) to help with research. This could amount to a significant time saving
  • Give out assignment briefs well in advance of the final deadline, thereby allowing   students plenty of time to plan, locate information and carry out the work
  • Make sure you give assignment feedback in an accessible format (i.e. typed). Handwritten comments can not be scanned into a PC
 
In the final analysis, this case study highlights the benefits to disabled students of disclosing their disability. Michael adopted a very effective communication strategy right at the beginning of his course with fellow students and tutors. He made light of his disability, setting people at ease, and told them that he would sometimes ask them for help. This enabled Michael to overcome the difficulties he encountered and get the help he needed efficiently and effectively. In addition, for students and tutors who had never experienced working with a visually impaired colleague the insight and experience Michael gave them, in terms of increased awareness, understanding and empathy, proved most valuable.
 

Case Study – General Business and Management and Visual Difficulties

Case Study A is about a business management student with visual difficulties who describes how she studies and what difficulties she has encountered and overcome. Case Study B is about a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, who has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Although not a specific higher education setting, this case study does address issues relating to visual difficulties and management in general.

Case A

This information has been extracted from the RNIB website http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_studentinterview.hcsp (information accessed and extracted May 2008)

Danielle Dixon is currently in her second year of studying a BSc Hons in Business Management at the University of Wales, Swansea. Danielle has glaucoma and an eye condition called Peter’s Anomaly.

Studying with a sight problem

The teachers’ appreciation of my sight problem varies as it would with any group of people. All the lecturers know about it and try their best to overcome any problems I have. Teaching styles are very different across the academic staff and so the ability to alter their methods differs as well. One of my lecturers has left a slot open in her timetable so that I can go and see her and she’ll run over anything we’ve done in the lecture so I know exactly what went on. Most of my lecturers email course material to me which is brilliant so they do understand that my needs differ from most students. I have a note taker who comes into all my lectures with me and writes basic notes. She copies the overheads that I’ve not been given or any ad-hoc notes from the white boards that I can’t note down myself.

As part of my course I had to complete a module using specific computer packages which did not work with the access technology that I am using. One of the postgraduate teaching assistants had to act as a reader during the examination so that I could complete the module. This was not an ideal solution.

At the moment I have to contend with another computer program used to model business simulations. It has been turned into a group project so that anything I can’t do, my team-mates can. Students are a completely different issue from lecturers! Young people are more likely to ask questions about my sight problem and are more confident about expressing their curiosity. Most students are quite willing to help out if need be and are friendly.

Changes to university administration

I think my university has the potential to be a great institution for blind and partially sighted students. I would say however that communication between departments needs to be improved so that they are aware of the needs of any disabled students that may wish to take up a module outside of their home department. The computing facilities could be improved also. The library has a room with about six PCs that have been adapted for the use of blind and partially sighted students. I feel that if these PCs were integrated into the rest of the library then we would be able to participate in teamwork and social activities while studying and take part in all the non-academic discussions!

 

Case B

This information has been extracted from: Being in Management as a Disabled Person, The ADP Employment Series: http://www.adp.org.uk/downloads/Being%20in%20Management.pdf

Nick Clarke was a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, but has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Nick is partially sighted.

“I worked with service managers on managing change and making their services more accessible and accountable to people. I became a manager in public service because I wanted to use my skills to make things better for people. I discovered fairly soon that specialist equal opportunities jobs were not capable of bringing about change, so I went into more mainstream management.

We’re all lacking in confidence around our own impairments and asking for the things we need – we’re good at asking for things for other people, but it’s more difficult to ask for it for ourselves. In the end, I went to my employer, who now employ twelve or thirteen support workers or personal assistants (PAs) for individual employees. So it led to a lot of other people getting principal reasonable adjustments. PACT (now the Disability Service Team) provided the know-how about what I would need. I tried out things that other partially sighted people were using, and I talked to other people about different systems. I gained a lot of support through that. I feel confident in asking for what I need. I have a full time PA for the vast volume of paper work that comes in, and for dealing with meetings. My job is about understanding people, understanding change. I have a large print computer and a talking computer. I also have tape recorders and CCTV. The photocopier is one that I can use, and so is the fax machine. They consult me on the way things are laid out, and on policies like fire evacuation policies.

I have done a Certificate in Management Studies and a Diploma in Management Studies with Sheffield Business School, at Sheffield Hallam University. The Diploma of Management Studies was helpful in me getting my new job. They’re the first two years in the Masters in Business Administration.

I’ve just had to negotiate my salary for my new job. I know people who’ve sold themselves cheap as disabled people and gone for the lowest point on the salary scale. I talked to lots of people before negotiating the salary and tried to talk about myself in a positive light. I think I’ve got a decent salary. A lot of disabled people are good problem solvers because of the sort of life they’ve had to go through. We can bring different approaches to problem solving and to working with people. More women managers led to a change in management. I think more disabled managers will lead to new ways of approaching management; new ways of thinking about the cultures in which people work; the best ways of enabling people to work well. Something I have to think about in my new job is how to be taken seriously. People are not used to being managed by a disabled person, or working with someone who is using a support worker, or specialist equipment. They’re used to thinking of disabled people as people they provide a service to, particularly in public service. They’re not thinking of disabled people as creative managers who will line manage them. Sometimes I see things from a different point of view, which is positive. I pick up things that other people don’t pick up.

Mentoring, and talking to people, are good. Try to find someone in management who will spend some time with you. I was mentored at one stage by the Chief Executive in Kirklees Council, which was very positive. Try things out. Try and get some way of managing a project. Gradually build up your portfolio of experiences. Take yourself seriously. Value yourself. Read about management. Believe that you can be a manager and that you’re going to make it. Think of things you want to change, and then think of ways of doing them better.

I think a network of disabled managers would be good. It might be good to try and set up systems of mentoring or support networks. The vast majority of disabled people who are managers became disabled when they were managers and are not happy to talk about themselves as disabled people.”

Case Study – Manufacturing Management (FD) and Visual Difficulties

Nick Clarke was a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, but has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Although not a specific manufacturing management case setting, this case study does address issues relating to visual difficulties and management in general.

This information has been extracted from: Being in Management as a Disabled Person, The ADP Employment Series:http://www.adp.org.uk/downloads/Being%20in%20Management.pdf

Nick Clarke was a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, but has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Nick is partially sighted.

“I worked with service managers on managing change and making their services more accessible and accountable to people. I became a manager in public service because I wanted to use my skills to make things better for people. I discovered fairly soon that specialist equal opportunities jobs were not capable of bringing about change, so I went into more mainstream management.

We’re all lacking in confidence around our own impairments and asking for the things we need – we’re good at asking for things for other people, but it’s more difficult to ask for it for ourselves. In the end, I went to my employer, who now employ twelve or thirteen support workers or personal assistants (PAs) for individual employees. So it led to a lot of other people getting principal reasonable adjustments. PACT (now the Disability Service Team) provided the know-how about what I would need. I tried out things that other partially sighted people were using, and I talked to other people about different systems. I gained a lot of support through that. I feel confident in asking for what I need. I have a full time PA for the vast volume of paper work that comes in, and for dealing with meetings. My job is about understanding people, understanding change. I have a large print computer and a talking computer. I also have tape recorders and CCTV. The photocopier is one that I can use, and so is the fax machine. They consult me on the way things are laid out, and on policies like fire evacuation policies.

I have done a Certificate in Management Studies and a Diploma in Management Studies with Sheffield Business School, at Sheffield Hallam University. The Diploma of Management Studies was helpful in me getting my new job. They’re the first two years in the Masters in Business Administration.

I’ve just had to negotiate my salary for my new job. I know people who’ve sold themselves cheap as disabled people and gone for the lowest point on the salary scale. I talked to lots of people before negotiating the salary and tried to talk about myself in a positive light. I think I’ve got a decent salary. A lot of disabled people are good problem solvers because of the sort of life they’ve had to go through. We can bring different approaches to problem solving and to working with people. More women managers led to a change in management. I think more disabled managers will lead to new ways of approaching management; new ways of thinking about the cultures in which people work; the best ways of enabling people to work well. Something I have to think about in my new job is how to be taken seriously. People are not used to being managed by a disabled person, or working with someone who is using a support worker, or specialist equipment. They’re used to thinking of disabled people as people they provide a service to, particularly in public service. They’re not thinking of disabled people as creative managers who will line manage them. Sometimes I see things from a different point of view, which is positive. I pick up things that other people don’t pick up.

Mentoring, and talking to people, are good. Try to find someone in management who will spend some time with you. I was mentored at one stage by the Chief Executive in Kirklees Council, which was very positive. Try things out. Try and get some way of managing a project. Gradually build up your portfolio of experiences. Take yourself seriously. Value yourself. Read about management. Believe that you can be a manager and that you’re going to make it. Think of things you want to change, and then think of ways of doing them better.

 

I think a network of disabled managers would be good. It might be good to try and set up systems of mentoring or support networks. The vast majority of disabled people who are managers became disabled when they were managers and are not happy to talk about themselves as disabled people.”

Case Study – Learning Support (FD) and Visual Difficulties

Case Study of a trainee teacher with a visual impairment. Although this guide focuses on training teachers, it is recommended that information on Fitness to Teach is applicable to trainees who are studying to become Higher Level Teaching Assistants

This case study is taken from Able to Teach, the Teacher Training Agency guidance to providers of initial teacher training on disability discrimination and fitness to teach, http://www.tda.gov.uk/upload/resources/pdf/b/bf1-able-to-teach-22-04-04-1to-print.pdf;(information extracted and accessed January 2007)

A candidate applies for a place on secondary Mathematics ITT programme.  He has a good honours degree in Mathematics.  He states on his fitness questionnaire that he has a visual impairment.  He is severely short-sighted and his peripheral vision is very limited. The occupational health adviser sought advice from a specialist who had seen the candidate recently.  The specialist provided:

  • details of the diagnosis and whether the condition was stable or likely to progress, and whether or not there were any associated medical conditions or disabilities,
  • the degree of impairment, with an indication of its practical impact on day-to-day function;
  • recommendations about appropriate management, including technological aids and environmental changes;
  • recommendations for monitoring and follow up

The occupational health advisor judged that the candidate’s visual impairment was likely to interfere to some extent with his efficiency in teaching secondary mathematics, but that, with reasonable adjustments, he should be able to provide effective and efficient teaching. The occupational health adviser asked the candidate’s written consent to share medical information to the provider.

Applying Fitness Criteria

The admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser considered particularly how far the candidate would:

  • be able to deal with mathematics teaching and other associated duties;
  • be able to manage classes;
  • constitute a risk to health, safety or well being of children in his care;
  • and how far he could be enabled, by reasonable adjustment, to meet these criteria.

In this case study issues arising from aspects of Standards 3.21, 3.2.2, 3.3.3, 3.3.8, 3.3.9 and 3.3.11 were considered.

To qualify as a teacher, trainees must demonstrate that they:

  • 3.2.1 make appropriate use of a range of monitoring and assessment strategies to evaluate pupils’ progress towards planned learning objectives, and use this information to improve their own planning and teaching
  • 3.2.2 monitor and assess as they teach, giving immediate and constructive feedback to support pupils as they learn. They involve pupils in reflecting on, evaluating and
  • 3.3.3 teach clearly structured lessons or sequences of work which interest and motivate pupils and which: make learning objectives clear to pupils; employ interactive teaching methods and collaborative group work; promote active and independent learning that enables pupils to think for themselves, and to plan and manage their own learning
  • 3.3.8 organise and manage the physical teaching space, tools, materials, texts and other resources safely and effectively with the help of support staff where appropriate
  • 3.3.9 set high expectations for pupils’ behaviour and establish a clear framework for classroom discipline to anticipate and manage pupils’ behaviour constructively, and promote self-control and independence;
  • 3.3.11 can take responsibility for teaching a class or classes over a sustained and substantial period of time. They are able to teach across the age and ability range for which they are trained

Risk assessment

The admissions tutor considered what difficulties the candidate might face on the programme and whether anyone might be put at risk. She considered:

  • the safety of pupils in the classroom, for example in terms of equipment used, pupil behaviour, and safe evacuation of pupils in the event of an emergency
  • the safety of the candidate in the classroom, for example collision with people or objects.

She also considered

  • risks to pupils’ learning, for example, arising from the candidate being unable to scan the whole of the class or see the whole of the whiteboard;
  • risks to the candidate’s learning in terms of, for example, access to books.

Follow-up

The admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser then met the candidate to discuss the adjustments. The specialist suggested access to enlarged print handouts, examination papers and other documents;access to a computer with word-processing software for coursework. The candidate had ICT facilities at home funded by the DSA. As the provider already had good ICT facilities, the only adaptation that the candidate required was to raise the keyboard to eye level.

All these adjustments seemed reasonable. They then discussed concerns about adaptations that the trainee might have to make to carry out those aspects of the teaching role which it might be assumed needed good eyesight, for example managing a class, monitoring and assessing pupils’ work and aspects of health and safety

The candidate had clearly thought this through and although he realised that his capability would need to be assessed, he felt that in the classroom, as in life, most problems that might occur could be overcome. Although he could only read from the board when up close to it, he had a good memory and could usually remember what he had written, rather than having continually to walk back to the board. Alternatively, he thought a solution could be to use OHTs, or a laptop with an interactive whiteboard, so that he could be close to the text while being at a distance from the board if necessary. He thought that his difficulty in reading pupils’ work might actually be an advantage in monitoring and assessment, because he would have to ask pupils about their work and listen to their replies. This would give him much more insight into pupils’ difficulties, errors and misconceptions. He felt that he would have few problems with class management, because in his experience it took practice for pupils to creep up on someone’s blind side and startle them – clothing or coins in pockets rattle, and if they mean mischief they cannot resist giggling or whispering. The amount of dangerous equipment used by pupils in mathematics is minimal and secondary-aged pupils would use compasses and scissors in classes with fully sighted teachers with minimal supervision.

He had no difficulties in navigating a classroom and would expect to group pupils around the board, when he needed to teach the whole class Outcome: fit to teach The admissions tutor and the occupational health adviser concluded that the adjustments required were reasonable to make, and the candidate’s positive, well-thought-out approach to ways in which he would carry out his professional role gave them confidence that he had the potential to meet all the QTS Standards. They were satisfied that the fitness to teach criteria were met, and concluded therefore that the candidate was fit to teach mathematics to secondary-aged pupils.

Early Years (FD) and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email s.smith@worc.ac.uk

Click here for case studies.


Using Visual Skills for Communication

Students with visual difficulties may not be as familiar with the capabilities of visual display software (such as Powerpoint) as other students and may prefer to use other media for presentations such as oral communication. The learning environment and/or workplace setting may need to use adaptive technology, such as a screen reader, to allow all students to access visual information.

If students with visual difficulties are using screen reader software, staff need to know how to present data in a readable format, e.g. numerical tables and diagrams. TechDis offer some useful advice on this http://www.techdis.ac.uk.

Students with visual difficulties may require personal or telecommunication assistance to gain information from written documents, the internet, or from face-to-face interviews.


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

Working with Clients

Concern is sometimes expressed over students with visual difficulties and an ability to recognise any physical signs of abuse on clients. Students may be entitled to a personal assistant who can act as the students ‘eyes’ in various situations. However, the assistant’s role would be to support the student developing the skills, not to undertake the skills activities instead of the student. It is not expected that child protection workers would work alone during an assessment in any case, but despite this rhetoric of good practice, the level of staffing in this area of social work in particular, means that social workers are sometimes forced into pragmatic, rather than ideal practices. A certain degree of flexibility would be expected.

When students need to use a personal assistant to help them in the workplace, certain issues can arise concerning confidentiality, safety and sensitivity to the needs of clients. All Early Years students are expected to undergo enhanced checks with the Criminal Records Bureau and to have been assessed by the Higher Education Institution as being suitable to commence practice learning. As with other staff in an agency they are also bound by rules of confidentiality, predominantly through the Data Protection Act (1998) and the General Social Care Council (GSCC) Code of Conduct. Insofar as these requirements are designed to protect the rights of people seeking help from a welfare agency, they should also apply to others who may accompany the student in the workplace or have access to agency data. It will be the responsibility of the placement agency to say what level of scrutiny of personal assistants is required depending on the level of access to people and data, but as it is the responsibility of the Education Institution to prove the support, they will also need to undertake any necessary checks and training.

 


 

Case Studies

This case study focuses on the experience of Michael, a full-time PGCE student from the Department of Education at an urban campus-based university. It was developed on the basis of an extensive interview with Michael and his support worker followed by a further discussion with one of his academic tutors. As well as detailing Michael’s experiences, the Case Study incorporates perspectives provided by his support worker and tutor.

 

Early Years (FD) and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Learning Support (FD) and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

Click here for Case Studies

 


 

Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 


 

Case Studies

A candidate applies for a place on secondary Mathematics ITT programme. He has a good honours degree in Mathematics. He states on his fitness questionnaire that he has a visual impairment. He is severely short-sighted and his peripheral vision is very limited.  Although this guide focuses on training teachers, it is recommended that information on Fitness to Teach is applicable to trainees who are studying to become Higher Level Teaching Assistants.

Education Studies and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Case Studies


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 


Case Studies

Case Study A describes an Education Studies student with visual difficulties.  He describes the support he received. 

Case Study B describes the experiences of two vision-impaired lecturers on a PGCE programme, in particular their difficulties obtaining course materials.

Learning Support (FD) and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Education Studies and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Psychology and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

Case Studies


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines (for psychology specific tactile diagrams see 
    IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://ltsnpsy.york.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=19, accessed December 2006).
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written (for psychology specific software see 
    IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://ltsnpsy.york.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=19, accessed December 2006).
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 


 

Case Studies

 

The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=6 (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

Case A: a colour blind and partially sighted psychology student who is able to put strategies into place to access the psychology curriculum. He has, on one occasion, been made to feel embarrassed when approaching a lecturer with concerns about the size of slides, and excluded at times by the requirement for research participation.

The following case study was taken from: RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams Website, http://www.nctd.org.uk/Heproject/casestudies.asp#Psy (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

Case B: a significantly blind postgraduate student describes his experience of tactile diagrams.

Sociology and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 

History and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 

Manufacturing Management (FD) and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

Case Studies


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 


Case Studies

The Case Study concerns a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, who has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive

International Foundation Diploma and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 

General Business and Management and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Case Studies  


Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

Difficulties may occur with:

  • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
  • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
  • Taking lecture notes.
  • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
  • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

Equipment and Technological Support
  • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
  • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
  • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
  • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
  • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
  • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
  • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
Human Support
  • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
  • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
  • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
  • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
  • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

Printed Material:

  • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
  • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
  • Use print size 16 point or above.
  • Keep the layout clear and simple.
  • Avoid text on a patterned background.
  • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
  • Avoid using red and green ink.

Lectures:

  • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
  • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
  • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
  • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
  • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
  • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
  • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
  • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
  • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

Exam Arrangements:

  • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

Practical and Fieldwork:

  • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
  • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
  • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
  • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

Working with Visually Impaired people:

  • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
  • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
  • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
  • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
  • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
  • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
  • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
  • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

 


Case Studies

A business management student with visual difficulties describes how she studies and what difficulties she has encountered and overcome.

A case study about a local authority principal equal opportunities officer, who has just recently started employment with the NHS Executive. Although not a specific higher education setting, this case study does address issues relating to visual difficulties and management in general.

Psychology and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

Psychology and Students with Visual Impairments

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

 

Sociology and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


 

Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

Sociology and Students with Visual Impairments

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

History and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


 

Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

History and Students with Visual Impairments

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

General Business and Management and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


 

Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

General Business and Management and Students with Visual Impairments

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Manufacturing Management (FD) and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


 

Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

Manufacturing Management and Students with Visual Impairments

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

International Foundation Diploma and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


 

Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

International Foundation Diploma and Students with Visual Impairments

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Biosciences and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Geography and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

For further details concerning geography and students with visual impairments see Shepherd, I. D. H. (2006), Developing an Inclusive Curriculum for Visually Disabled Students. The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Guidelines, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire, http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/ivisual.pdf (accessed November 2006).

Case Study – Psychology and Visual Difficulties

Case A

 

The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=6 (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

 

Richard is a current second year psychology student who is partially sighted and colour blind. His first choice of degree would have been biology. However, as he was unable to see colour, the course would have proved difficult and so he chose psychology as a second-best option.

Richard has managed to put into place strategies to overcome some of the difficulties his impairment can create when studying psychology and accessing the appropriate materials. Nevertheless, since these strategies include printing out lecture notes and slides in advance, it is essential for him to access materials in good time. When notes and slides are made available early enough through WebCT (a virtual learning environment) he doesn’t incur any difficulties when following the actual lectures, as this gives him enough time to enlarge and subsequently print them off. As he has problems with colour contrast, at times he also has to adapt slides that contain too much colour, for example by converting them into black and white.

However, academic staff have not necessarily been as accommodating as they could be. For example, Richard recalls once being made to feel very embarrassed when he approached a psychology lecturer with concerns about slide size, asking if it was possible to enlarge them. The response given to Richard was “Well, I can see it from back here”.

The university Richard attends has a mandatory requirement that first year psychology students gain research participation credits by participating in a certain number of experiments conducted by staff or other students within the university. However, he found it very difficult to get these research credits, as he was limited in terms of the experiments he could participate in, and hence at times felt excluded.

Richard feels that it would be beneficial for him to have someone in the psychology department with whom he could discuss any problems relating to the course and its contents, but ideally someone not directly related to the teaching of the course. He felt this would help alleviate some of the problems that disabled students encounter, because at times it is very difficult to tell an individual lecturer that there is something wrong. In addition, he suggests that lectures could be taped, access being made available to any student with an impairment who might benefit from the presentation of materials in an alternative format.

Case B

 

The following case study was taken from: RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams Website, http://www.nctd.org.uk/Heproject/casestudies.asp#Psy (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

 

Psychology Graduate

• I have studied at the higher education level several times, as I have a degree in psychology, an MSc and I am currently studying for a postgraduate degree.

• I became significantly blind at the age of six and learnt to read Braille at the age of seven. At school I started to use tactile graphics when I was about nine years old. This was a special school for people with disabilities; however I received no training in tactile graphic reading skills and due to this I often still have difficulty understanding tactile graphics.

• Whilst at university I found the provision of tactile graphic was often quite sporadic, as some modules were provided for more than others, which mainly depended on how quickly lecturers responded to requests for their graphical materials. Because of this my tactile graphics were rarely available in time for lectures on the topic of the diagram.

• When providing tactile graphics for blind and partially sighted students it is very important to be selective in order to get the balance right between providing too many and too few diagrams. Rather than lecturers with little experience of tactile graphics being responsible for this, I believe that the student and other people that are knowledgeable about tactile graphics should make these decisions. For most of the modules that I studied at the undergraduate level I think about half a dozen diagrams was adequate, although I did required more diagrams for more complex modules. I have found that with tactile graphics, my understanding of the subject area is improved especially if a text description is also provided. I find I can usually relate the tactile graphics to reality quite easily but three-dimensional concepts can be very difficult

• Overall tactile graphics are very useful in higher education, especially when a text description was also provided. However I felt that I was provided with too few diagrams during my psychology course, although the quality of those I had was generally good.

 

Case Study – Biosciences and Visual Difficulties

Case study A: A science student seeks a way to participate in a course that requires him to draw maps. Case study B: An science student describes what opportunities he uses to meet and get to know other students. Case Study C: A human science student describes her support needs.

Case Study A is taken from the University of Washington DO-IT website http://www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty/Strategies/Academic/Science/science_lab_case_study.html

Case Study B is taken from the Royal National Society of the Blind website http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/PublicWebsite/public_ssfriends.hcsp

Case Study C is taken from the Oxford University website  http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/eop/disab/webguide.shtml#_Toc47255778

Case Study A 

My name is Imke and I am blind. As a first-year graduate student in atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, I was required to enroll in a quarter-long credit/no credit synoptic meteorology lab. Most of the lab time was spent plotting meteorological data on weather maps, and drawing contours in the process of learning about the development and structure of mid-latitude weather systems.

Access Issues

I needed to find a way to participate in the class and learn the necessary material without having to draw and contour weather maps.

Solution

I was unsure of the best way for me to participate in the class so I approached the instructor of the course, who happened to be my Ph.D. adviser, and asked if he had any suggestions. It appeared that he had already thought about this issue. He immediately proposed that instead of attending the weekly classes, I visit his office once a week at a time convenient to both of us, so that he could explain the relevant concepts to me. I also received the instructor’s class notes in an accessible format from the university’s disabled student services office. This arrangement worked well. I was able to gain an understanding of mid-latitude weather systems without participating in the map drawing activities that were central to the course.

Conclusion

This situation illustrates that it is not always necessary for a student who is blind to directly access the visual material of a course. In cases where it is impractical for the student to participate in a visually oriented activity, it is often possible for the student to learn the accompanying concepts in another way.

Case Study B

Mark is an Environmental Science student.

Seeking out opportunities to socialise is the best piece of advice. It sounds common sense but you can’t make friends if you aren’t in situations where there are people! I can’t use eye contact, walk up to people, or easily position myself where groups of people are in a room, so a lot of it is about waiting for people to approach me.

Although this isn’t ideal it has made me more determined to use opportunities when I do talk to people to find out about them. I have had great conversations in shopping queues, at the bus stop and when ordering meals and have even made a couple of good friends that way.

I also started up short conversations with the students who sat in front and next to me in lectures, by doing that I started being invited to things when lectures were over, and even had plenty of opportunities to turn down invites too! In the end if you can share ideas and opinions, you will make friends with people like you and they will warm to you. But don’t feel bad when you don’t hit it off with everyone you meet, not everyone is going to get on with one another – that is a fact of life and isn’t anything to do with you or having a sight problem!

Case Study C


Kate Pounds, Year Human Science, St Johns College

I am a blind student, with a very small amount of light perception. I arrived at Oxford with my new guide dog, Olga, who lives with me at St John’s. I chose to use a guide dog instead of a white stick as I find they are less alienating – at times, in fact, Olga’s universal appeal can become a liability – (people rarely stop to pat and feed white sticks!).

The College IT Officer organised the purchases and the College funded the bulk of them. During my first year I applied for disabled student’s allowance and bought more essential equipment, having visited various equipment fairs to find out what was on offer. It is important to access any and all grants that may be available to you.

My initial concerns on coming to Oxford were that people wouldn’t understand the effects of blindness. Initially, there were some misunderstandings, but this was a learning curve for both sides. One instance of this was that in my first year I was encouraged to go into accommodation specifically designed for special needs students, which had great wheelchair access, a shower big enough for a barn dance but nowhere to store the vast quantity of Braille books which I was accumulating! I also felt rather isolated there as I was away from other first year students. In my second year I shared a house with friends, which was great. I then moved back into college, and have been here for two years, in a large room with space for dog and books.

In my first year I relied on other students for reader support, and this was difficult as they had their own commitments. In my second year my tutor arranged for a part time assistant to scan and braille texts for me. This helped, but the volume of texts was so great, that I was finding I could not get material processed fast enough. In addition, I had difficulties getting reading lists far enough in advance for me to get the books into Braille. The result was that I was advised to repeat the second year, in order to catch up on reading that I had missed. Unfortunately, however, some of the courses changed, so we were back to square one!

For the most part, I organised my own support, going to my tutor if I needed additional help. For example, I organised support in the libraries and made my own arrangements with staff about taking texts out for brailling. At that time I liaised directly with college and my department.

Laboratory Work has never been a problem as we always work in pairs, and I was used to this method of working from school. The lab. technicians have always treated me just like any other student, which was really good. For lectures I use my note-taking equipment, and only receive handouts on disk from a couple of lecturers. Using E-mail is a great way to keep in touch with lecturers and tutors.

 

Case Study – Geography and Visual Difficulties

Case Study One

Source: Newland, B., Pavey, J. and Boyd, V. (2005), Accessibility in Learning Environments and Related Technologies (ALERT), HEFCE Project, University of Durham, University of Bournemouth,  (information extracted and accessed September 2006)

Student 13 is a full-time Geology student who is a confident computer user who rates her competence in using the VLE as good. She accesses the VLE daily and feels that it makes face-to-face delivery of her classes more effective. Student 13 does not believe that the amount of notes she takes in lectures has decreased because of the VLE.

Student 13 feels supported by having access to lecture notes and appreciates the use of diagrams and images online by way of illustration, as despite her disability she considers herself to be a visual learner.

 

On learning

“What I have found rewarding is that when I pick up a broadsheet paper I can look at any article, well…most articles and I know what they’re talking about. Like last year I did European and Constitutional Law so you could pick up on politics of European Law, which is obviously quite a major topic in newspapers, and I find it quite rewarding. “

On the VLE

 “Overheads which are used in lectures, some of them are very long, and obviously you can’t get it down in time in the lecture…with the VLE you can just print it off and put it in your notes afterwards. And also I’ve found that through the VLE you can go to links…it just saves you going round the library looking for it, or even if it’s just been published recently it won’t be out on paper, so you can just go automatically on the net.”

On e-tivities

“If people are stuck they can say ‘I don’t really know where I’m going with this essay question’ and then the lecturer can put input and point you in the right direction. Even though there’s only 7 messages (on the discussion board) that doesn’t mean to say that people haven’t been using it…just people haven’t been putting input into it. I think a lot of people do look at it…I don’t know why they don’t go that step further and contribute themselves.”

On disability

“Certainly in terms of mobility (the VLE) helps…obviously, you can access the discussion boards at home, rather than walking… and, you know, it saves the walk. You can go and see the tutor personally, or if you contact them before and say ‘can I talk to you on the discussion board at so and so a time, can you just be there’, it just saves you walking.”

Case Study Two

 

Source: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire ,  (information extracted and accessed September 2006)

 

The following case study is written by a member of the teaching staff in a GEES department

We have only limited experience in working with students with disabilities. Our department simply does not get applications, let alone admissions, from many such students.About 5-10% of our students have dyslexia, ranging from the quite minor (most cases) to more severe, where students have voice recognition software supplied to them from the University’s Access funds. We have the now fairly usual system of student referral for dyslexia assessment and counselling at university level. The University also has a SENDA officer who runs workshops on awareness and coping/adaptation strategies.

We follow university policy in giving students with dyslexia an extra 10 minutes per hour in examinations prior to the usual starting time. We are not allowed to check that students with dyslexia have read the questions properly (which I find bizarre) on the grounds that other students often misread questions, so checking that those with dyslexia have read questions correctly is discriminating in their favour! I would like to think that we could be more imaginative about assessing students with dyslexia, and have some form of oral assessment for them. I have been told by our QA people that this is discriminatory (I think they imply again that it favours students with dyslexia, but I have also been told that I would have to give an oral exam to all students in the presence of two other examiners, one to give a second opinion and the other to check that the first two of us did not collude!

I am currently teaching a large first year class including a student who is visually disabled. I think I was supposed to be alerted to this fact prior to the commencement of the course. As our university systems cannot give me a clss list much earlier than week 6 of the semester, my failure to be told in advance is hardly surprising! I do not use WebCT or PowerPoint, but ad lib around old-fashioned OHP slides. I have always given students paper copies of my slides. For my visually disabled student, I make up a special handout with the OHP slides one to a page and my bibliography (usually in Comic Sans 12 point) in Comic Sans 18 point for her. She says this is fine and likes my use of Comic Sans, which she agrees is easier for her to read than the default of Times New Roman.

Another institution has an Educational Support Officer in the department. His role is to look after all the SENDA issues in the department and to evaluate and adapt all courses and materials for disabled students. He told me that he does not have many students to deal with, but in one sense he is their point of contact rather than the various course unit leaders. He gets the handouts etc into big print (or whatever is needed) and seems to provide a one-stop shop service for staff and students alike.

 

Visual Impairments

Challenges and Subjects – this link takes you to challenges and subjects associated with this disability.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful vision.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

Detailed description of Visual Impairments Impacting on Learning and Teaching

Receiving Information During Lectures

Students who are reliant on taping lectures as a way of receiving information will need a translation of visual material into an auditory form. Some thought needs to be given as to the best way of conveying information from diagrams, graphs, chars and other complicated visual material.If you have a Disability Specialist in your organisation, it would be sensible to discuss this with them.

Students with a range of impairments, such as those with a visual impairment, may want to record information by taping or Brailing. Referring students to a website will be useful if the information there is designed to be visually accessible, and if the student has the appropriate equipment or software for reading it. Lecturers should be able to provide students with a disk or hard copy of lecture material, or copies of overheads. Provision of these can enable students with language and comprehension difficulties to devote more attention to listening.

Taping lectures is not always an unqualified success, unless the student develops a system for retrieving information from the tapes, perhaps by tone indexing the tapes, and keeping a record of the main ideas of the lecture (it is much easier to skim visual material rather than listen to whole tapes). Taking home tapes of lectures for transcribing at a later stage can be very time-consuming, and students who do this may benefit from advice from lecturers about whether this is likely to be a successful strategy for study.

Participating in Seminars/Tutorials

Students who have visual difficulties that affect their ability to access text may be excluded when there is some reading to do in the tutorial. They may also experience difficulties with face to face communication if they are unable to read facial expressions or body language. It can take time for students to get used to the voices of other students in their seminar and it may be helpful for speakers to say their name prior to speaking. It is helpful to provide any textual material, in an accessible format, in advance of the tutorial, even if this is not the tutor’s usual practice.

Practical Classes

There are some fairly straightforward and low-tech ways of modifying or adapting equipment or activities to allow students with various impairments to participate in practical classes. Examples include: auditory displays of visual information (such as talking thermometers), tactical displays of visual information (such as beakers with raised markings), clamps and other devices for holding items of equipment, and hand held, illuminated magnifiers. Examples of such innovations are likely to multiply as more people who develop impairments while in employment are maintained and supported in their employment.

Students with visual difficulties working in laboratories can also experience problems with textual materials as well as equipment. In these circumstances, alternative formats, verbalising text or interfacing lab equipment with computer with large print or speech output can all be useful adjustments.

Students with visual difficulties can also experience problems with laboratory layout and may require extra assistance to help them familiarise themselves with layout and location of equipment.

Work Placements, Study Abroad and Field Trips

Departments organising placements, field trips or study abroad for students with impairments will need to consider, ideally in discussion with the students, the differences between the new context and environment and the more usual, and often more structured, context of study. Sometimes, the use of equipment, arrangements or personal assistance could, with a little planning, transfer to a different context.

Some equipment or educational support may not be so easily transferable. Taping lectures may be acceptable in a way that taping interviews with clients in a setting requiring confidentiality may not be. Portability may also be a factor to be considered for field trips and study abroad. Some non-medical, personal help, such as communication support for lectures, could be regarded as obtrusive during one-to-one work involving clients. A laptop with speech synthesis linked to a data projector could allow a blind trainee tutor to do the functional equivalent of writing on a chalkboard. This latter arrangement could clearly have uses in other work contexts involving presentations.

The fact that funding may need to be found to purchase additional equipment for placements, field trips or study abroad, underlines the necessity to plan and prepare long before the placement start date.

Students with impairments are positive assets on courses, where a reminder of the diversity of human experience is important. It can be instructive to be reminded of substantial gains for all students from organising placements in such a way that students with impairments are safely included, and not to think exclusively about problems.

Assessment

For students who have impairments of various kinds, the usual assessment format may need to be modified to achieve the assessment objectives. Clarity about the latter will be very helpful in determining acceptable modifications, which will be different for different types of assessment, or for different parts of the assessment, e.g. a student may be considerably disadvantaged by part of an exam paper with a heavy concentration of text, such as multiple choice questions, but have no additional difficulty in reading and understanding brief essay titles.

Students with visual difficulties may require examination papers in formats such as Braille, tape or enlarged print. Alternative, the questions or titles of the assignment could be provided on disk, if appropriate access technology is available. Or they could be read to the student.

Some students may rely on equipment to meet the needs of the assessment, whether in a formal examination environment, or the less formal setting in which assignments are prepared for continuous assessment. A tape recorder, computer, or amanuensis or assistant, may be needed to enable a student to complete an assignment. There is a need for clarity over the role and involvement of equipment or assistant, so that arrangements are identified which ensure that the student maintains control over producing what it is that is to be assessed.

An amanuensis can be regarded as an efficient writing machine, responsive to instructions and free from the mechanical complexities of keyboards or tape-recorders. It is usually necessary for the amanuensis to be literate in the subject s/he is scribing. This is particularly true of subjects with terminology and symbols unfamiliar to most people.

Working with an amanuensis takes practice, for both parties, as decisions have to be taken about such matters as spelling, punctuation, and, especially in a timed examination setting, the speed of dictation. Negotiations may also need to take place regarding how visual material is to be conveyed to and from a student who is unable to see or produce it. Where the assessment is carried out may affect how it is carried out. Students relying, in a formal examination setting, on either speech-to-text software or an amanuensis, will obviously have to be accommodated in a room separate from other candidates.

Many departments mark anonymously. Where students produce assignments in an alternative way, departments may have to consider whether the goals of anonymous marking can be achieved in some other way. If departments regard anonymous marking as a protection against marker bias, then it may be possible to achieve this end by some other way of monitoring standards in marking.

Characteristics Impacting on Learning and Teaching

  • Provide sufficient time to discuss needs with the student before their initial teaching session.

    Large Print

    Some students may require material to be produced in large print format. A minimum of 14 point and preferably 16-18 point is recommended for this. It can be produced by photocopy enlargement or by producing larger print directly from a PC – the latter is preferable as the quality of the print is better. However, some students can find it difficult to scan large print and may find their concentration is quickly depleted.

    Note-taking/Lectures

    Some students may need to use a tape recorder to record lectures/discussions. This means the student has to rely on auditory input which requires skills of concentration and memory, and practice. Also, it is more difficult to scan material and the student therefore has to be well organised. Some students may also require the use of a note-taker. Students should be encouraged to sit in a position where they can hear/see (for those with some residual sight). Everything written on OHPs should be stated orally. Course and reading materials should be available well in advance of the session – in extra large print if required. Providing materials in advance (such as reading lists) allows students to make Braille/taped copies of the content if required.

  • Visual Impairments

    For further information on visual impairments, please see the following external links and references:

    If you would like to recommend any links to be added to this page please email s.smith@worc.ac.uk


    International Glaucoma Association http://www.glaucoma-association.com/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=176&=fromcfc&tt=arti

    National Disability Team Checklist – Admissions http://www.natdisteam.ac.uk/documents/admissionscl.doc

    RNIB http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/code/InternetHome.hcsp

    RNIB: Student Site Homepage http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/PublicWebsite/public_student.hcsp

    Geography and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

    Case Studies


    Vision and Geography

    Until relatively recently, when maps and map making began to lose their eminent place in the discipline, geography (along with its cognate disciplines), has traditionally been an intensely visual discipline. Many of the subject skills acquired by geography students, from map reading to field recording, lab work to sketching, all demand visual skills. And even the modern technologies that are increasingly used to supplement or enhance field study, particularly multimedia CAL (computer assisted learning), desktop mapping, GIS (geographical information systems) and remote sensing software all make heavy demands on the student’s visual information processing system.

    Sight plays a significant role in many aspects of classical geographical discourse, and has made a central contribution to mapping, graphics and visualisation. However, sight also makes a not insignificant contribution, albeit rather more metaphorically, to the ‘gaze’ of modern human geography.

    In terms of the craft of the modern geographer, sight is intimately related to most learning activities, including reading, writing, sketching and drawing. Few skills, whether key or specialist, can normally dispense with the faculty of sight, whether it involves calibrating a strain gauge in a geological laboratory or maintaining eye contact during inter-personal exchanges.

    Although the nature of the field experience is typically taken as synonymous with the sighted fieldworker, it is worth enquiring as to the exact nature of this relationship, and asking whether fieldwork is impossibly difficult for the visually impaired student.

    Vision, fieldwork and visual disability

    Various visual skills are deployed/required for fieldwork, including:

    • map reading
    • observation and recording
    • landscape sketching
    • judging heights and distances
    • spatial skills
    • co-ordination and balance

    However, it is important to recognise that not all field study situations are alike. Indeed, field study takes a number of forms and guises, each of them posing a different mix of problems for the visually impaired student. Here are some typical examples:

    • Local project work — e.g. as an adjunct to class or laboratory work. Typical activities include questionnaire surveys, etc. Usually involves individuals and small groups.
    • Day trip — mainly ‘look-see’ at a selection of locations within a study area.
    • Field week — extensive mix of study activities involving a medium-to-large group of students.
    • Dissertation or project work — usually involves an individual student, typically without accompanying staff.

    The mix of study activities, and thus the relative disadvantage to visually impaired students, can vary considerably between these formats. We can go further than this, and suggest that the field experience of visually impaired students varies along a number of dimensions, including:

    • the educational context of field work e.g. whether it is compulsory or optional
    • subject mix e.g. whether it is human, physical or a mixture of the two
    • skills mix e.g. whether the students are required to walk across difficult terrain or merely to stand in a street interviewing shoppers
    • nature of learning style e.g. whether the focus is on passive observation or active exploration
    • expected learning outcomes e.g. whether the learning is subject- or skills-focused
    • curricular links e.g. whether the field experience is tied to broader learning objectives built into the entire curriculum, or whether it is a stand-alone activity
    Overcoming barriers — lessons from elsewhere

    One indication of changing social attitudes is that blind people, and those with a visual impairment, participate in a wide variety of pursuits that might previously have been thought out of bounds. These include: blind sports, mountain climbing and exploration. Geographers have a lot to learn from these activities, not only in terms of the narrow practicalities of ‘how to do it’, but also in terms of the broader motivational factors involved. The participation of visually impaired students in these pursuits suggests that we should not longer ask the question ‘Can they do it?’ when considering visually impaired students undertaking fieldwork. Rather, the question should be: ‘How shall we do it?’.

    What is visual impairment?

    Visual impairment takes a number of forms, each posing a different mix of problems for field study. According to the RNIB, there are about 80 different eye conditions which can affect sight in various ways. These conditions include short- and long-sightedness, colour blindness, cataracts and glaucoma.

    It is worth noting that some eye conditions are selective (e.g. colour blindness is most common in males; glaucoma and cataracts are more frequent in older people), while others are more randomly distributed in the population. Another important thing to recognise is that people who are registered as blind or visually impaired often have significant residual sight — e.g. 70% can use text if it is clear and large enough.

    In most cases, students will know on entry to a course whether they have a specific eye condition and, if so, what effect it might have on their study. However, this is not always the case, because some eye conditions develop slowly, and may only become apparent under specific study conditions. Colour blindness, for example, may become more noticeable when a student is asked to interpret multi-coloured maps or analyse graphical images on screen in preparation for a field course, or when asked to distinguish soil horizons or vegetation patterns in the field.

    Another condition, which does not reside in the eye, is the inability to accommodate properly when using a stereoscope, with the result that the student is unable to form a three-dimensional image from pairs of overlapping aerial photographs — a commonly used field study resource.

    In the case of colour blindness, steps can be taken to replace confusing colours in printed or computer displays. It is more difficult to overcome the problem of stereoscope accommodation.

    Born versus acquired impairment/blindness

    A useful distinction can be made between the congenitally blind (those who are blind from birth) and the adventitiously blind (those who developed blindness later in life, perhaps as a result of accident, trauma, disease, or medication). Most visually impaired people lose their sight rather than being born sightless — some 85% suffer progressive sight loss.

    The difference between these two visual impairment groups can be substantial, because a student who has been blind from birth is more likely to have developed mature adaptive mechanisms, whereas someone who has recently become blind may still be learning to cope, and therefore require considerably more support and assistance while undertaking fieldwork. Another difference lies in the development of spatial concepts. Congenitally blind children, for example, may find it more difficult making sense of tactile maps than adventitiously blind children, because they have not previously acquired spatial awareness through visual interaction with their environment.

    Other differences among in the experience of visual impairment can also be educationally significant. For example, visual impairment may be congenital or adventitious, it may be the result of numerous causes (e.g. age related, triggered by disease or subsequent to an accident), and while many visual impairments occur gradually, others happen very suddenly.

    Temporary versus permanent visual impairment

    Some forms of visual impairment are permanent, while others are reversible. Although some rare forms of blindness (e.g. those caused by trauma) may reverse themselves, most blind people never regain their sight, particularly if they have been blind from birth. By contrast, some conditions (e.g. conjunctivitis) are usually temporary, and others (e.g. glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy) may be reversed by an operation. Where the eye condition is age-related, such medical procedures are especially important for senior citizens wishing to return to formal study.

    The difference between temporary and permanent condition is significant, both in terms of student expectations and staff/departmental support. Where an eye condition is temporary, a field visit may possibly be deferred, whereas a permanent condition may require a different strategy.

    It is also worth noting that in some cases the severity of the condition can fluctuate through time, which means that its impact on a student attending a fieldcourse may be partly down to chance.

    Categories of visual impairment

    The severity of most eye conditions, and therefore the degree of impairment, can vary considerably. In broad terms, the range of impact can run the entire gamut from total blindness through low vision to minor impairment. A broad distinction often made in UK disability legislation is between people who are registered as blind and those who are registered as partially sighted. These two groups may exhibit rather different study patterns and difficulties, and may require different kinds of support, especially during fieldwork. The following table summarises some of the main differences between the two kinds of visual impairment:

    Blind Partially sighted
    unlikely to be able to use print without some adaptation can see in certain conditions
    unlikely to be able to produce hand-written work may be able to cope with print but take longer to read it
    likely to have difficulty in note-taking may be able to produce handwritten work
    likely to have difficulty producing written assignments has probably been educated in mainstream schools
    likely to have particular mobility difficulties may be able to use low-vision aids in classroom settings
    likely to have to rely on listening rather than watching will probably not use braille.
    may have problems with spelling and specialist vocabulary  
    may have problems in group discussions  
    may use braille  

    (List adapted from University of Edinburgh handout on student disability.)

    Visual impairment impacts on fieldwork

    When attempting to relate visual impairment to fieldwork, the following principles are important:

    • From an educational viewpoint, what matters most is not so much the eye condition which produces the impairment, but the functional effect the impairment has on fieldwork activities, as these can vary from student to student, depending on the coping mechanisms they may have developed.
    • Most eye conditions can vary considerably in severity — it is not enough simply to know which condition a student has.
    • It is essential to talk to students to identify the potential impact of their condition on proposed fieldwork activities.
    • The impacts of a visual impairment can be positive as well as negative.

    There are a number of ways in which eye conditions can impact on fieldwork activities, some of these can be summarised as follows:

    • Ocular albinism – difficulties with scanning, tracking, depth perception, rapidly shifting visual points, reading
    • Cataracts – wide variation in visual acuity (though full visual field usually maintained), and near and far vision often adversely affected
    • Diabetic retinopathy – fluctuating visual acuity, distortion of vision, and possible impairment of visual field
    • Glaucoma – progressive loss of visual field, poor visual acuity, impaired peripheral and night vision, and difficulty in adapting between light and dark
    • Macular degeneration – loss of central vision (hence reliance on eccentric or sideways looking), difficulty in discerning fine detail and reading, and problems in colour discrimination (especially reds and greens)
    • Nystagmus – blurred vision, difficulty in scanning and tracking, and problems with depth perception
    • Optic atrophy – variable loss of vision and/or total blindness
    • Retinitis pigmentosa – night blindness, narrowed field of vision (resulting in tunnel vision)

    Staff responsible for designing fieldwork will need to determine which field activities are likely to be compromised by deficiencies in any of these visual capabilities. They should then consider adopting a suitable course of action.

    Fieldwork difficulties due to visual impairment

    There is no single universal difficulty; each visual impairment will impose its own set of demands and limitations. When undertaking fieldwork, visually impaired students may experience difficulties with a variety of tasks, including:

    • taking accurate notes in non-classroom environments
    • multi-sensory tasking — listening, observing, recording and reading
    • speed of handwriting and legibility
    • organisation of time
    • orientation, reading maps
    • slow reading speed for accurate comprehension
    • group work
    • recording data and making mathematical calculations
    On the positive side

    It is important to recognise that visually impaired students may have counter-balancing strengths in other areas. Staff as well as students should therefore do their best to discuss with the student their particular strengths, and to harness these abilities during field work. For example, groups should consider using the visually impaired student’s abilities to compensate for weaknesses in other members of a field work team.

    Other advantages include the stimulus given to staff to rethink the accessibility of the fieldwork experience to all students, not simply to those with a visual impairment. Finally, the experience of having a visually impaired student undertake a geography course and participate in fieldwork can enthuse and inspire staff and fully sighted students alike.

    Information taken from: The Geography Discipline Network (GDN). Providing Learning Support for Blind or Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities http://www.glos.ac.uk/ceal/gdn/publications/disability/index.cfm.

     


    Case Studies

    Case Study A: Source: Newland, B., Pavey, J. and Boyd, V. (2005), Accessibility in Learning Environments and Related Technologies (ALERT), HEFCE Project, University of Durham, University of Bournemouth, http://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/alert/case_studies.htm (information extracted and accessed September 2006).

    A Geology student with a visual impairment assesses her use of a VLE.

    Case Study B: Source: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/caseintro.htmnbsp;(information extracted and accessed September 2006).

    A member of teaching staff outlines their experiences of supporting a visually disabled student and students with dyslexia.

    Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


    The Impact of Visual Difficulties on Fieldwork

    In the twenty-first century, it is no longer appropriate to make ad hoc arrangements for students with disabilities. External pressures, such as the QAA Code of Practice: Students with Disabilities (QAA, 1999), and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, require that necessary steps be taken to ensure that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged during their higher education studies.

    Learning Objectives

    The selection of appropriate learning objectives for fieldwork should be based on criteria that include the assessment of their suitability for visually impaired students. This raises the question as to whether it is desirable to modify objectives to suit the needs of individuals, in the sense that all students should be challenged to experience something beyond their current experience and capabilities. It also raises the question as to whether it is possible to modify learning objectives, in the sense that it may be educationally impoverishing to remove certain activities from a field study programme to suit a particular group of students.

    An alternative way of approaching this issue is to take the view that it academically desirable to consider the needs of all students as part of every curriculum planning exercise. Thus, the prior experience and learning styles of students should be considered when designing any curriculum — whether it is to be delivered on campus or off campus. Here are some specific questions that might be asked of individual learning objectives:

    • Are there any reasons why this learning objective may not be achieved by visually impaired students?
    • Can this learning objective be redefined so as to minimise problems to visually impaired students?
    • Is there an alternative objective that can be substituted with no significant loss of learning for other students?

    These questions should be asked in relation to both existing and proposed fieldwork objectives.

    Fieldcourse Activities

    When the broad learning objectives have been established for a particular fieldcourse, the detailed study activities can be decided. Typically, these are related both to the learning objectives established for the fieldcourse, and also to the characteristics of the field study area. However, the selection of appropriate fieldwork activities also needs to be based on criteria that judge their suitability for visually impaired students. Again, both existing and prospective fieldwork activities need to be reviewed in relation to these needs.

    Normally, a single set of fieldwork activities is drawn up, and is followed by all students. However, when fieldwork involves visually impaired students, alternative approaches are necessary. Here are two examples:

    • Before a fieldcourse, draw up a list of the proposed field study activities, and rate each according to the problems they might pose for visually impaired students. In the light of information about the visually impairments affecting students in the group going on the fieldcourse, select those activities that are least problematic.
    • For each fieldwork learning objective, identify alternative but equivalent activities that place different demands on students in terms of their visual information processing demands. During the fieldcourse, allocate visually impaired students to those activities that rate low on visual information processing demands, and/or use only those activities that make low visual information processing demands.
    Selecting fieldcourse study areas

    Fieldcourse study areas are typically chosen for a variety of reasons. Among these are:

    • to introduce issues or problems that are strongly or uniquely represented by a particular area
    • to provide scope for applying investigative approaches and skills introduced in on-campus classes
    • to enable the testing of specific theories
    • to provide case study illustration of specific course themes
    • to provide exposure to a range of related themes or problems within a relatively limited journey time from a fieldcourse base.

    The challenge for staff designing fieldcourses is to add additional selection criteria for assessing the suitability of fieldcourse venues for blind or visually impaired students. Among these criteria might be:

    • Travelling difficulties — e.g. are there particular problems in getting to and from the study area?
    • Study site accessibility — e.g. how difficult is it likely to be for visually impaired students to get to specific study locations (e.g. using roads and paths) and to move around in the field (e.g. rough terrain)?
    • The range of study venues within the area suitable to blind or visually impaired students — e.g. is the bulk of the fieldwork to be undertaken in one or two locations, or are students required to move from one location to another during the fieldcourse? (In terms of learning curves, it is clearly advantageous for visually impaired students to have to cope with a limited number of locations.)

    It is important to discuss these issues with the individual students concerned. It might be appropriate to sit down with maps of the intended study locations in order to talk them through likely problems. It might be possible to reduce some of the problems by rescheduling or relocating field study activities.

    Selecting fieldcourse accommodation

    A significant number of the problems encountered by blind and visually impaired students on fieldcourses centre on the venue at which they stay. Paying attention to the needs of such students when selecting accommodation can therefore pay off handsomely. Potential accommodation (hotels, etc.) should no longer be considered simply on price, food, rooms etc., but also on the safety issues related to blind and visually impaired students.

    Here is a checklist of some of the practical issues that should be checked out at the fieldcourse accommodation:

    • Arrival and departure — ensure that someone meets the student on arrival at the fieldcourse venue.
    • Access arrangements — e.g. avoid revolving doors.
    • Location of room — e.g. ground floor, and away from busy corridors.
    • Size of room — recognising that many field study venues have rather basic accommodation (especially rather small rooms), check that the room is large enough to make moving around unproblematic, that it can accommodate a guide dog (if necessary), and that there is enough workspace to enable any additional equipment (e.g. laptop, braille typewriter) to be used effectively.
    • Shared room with buddy? — if so, ensure room allocations take this into account.
    • Communal eating arrangements — ease of access.
    • Washing and toilet facilities — are these appropriate?
    • Eating arrangements — are these safe? If self-service is in operation in the dining room, ensure visually impaired students are paired up with a buddy at mealtimes.
    • Evacuation and emergency procedures for the premises used during fieldwork — are all attendees familiar with these?

    Staff involved in running fieldcourses need to devise their own emergency or evacuation procedures for blind and visually impaired students and/or adopt those already in place at their chosen accommodation. Health and Safety Officers at the university should be consulted, as these will have been involved in making risk assessments of the campus environment. For example, Personal Egress Plans (PEPs) similar to those provided for students with mobility impairments on campus could be adapted for the field course venue. Bear in mind that emergency procedures might not involve evacuation but instead the use of refuges within a building.

    It is essential that everyone who needs to know about the formal arrangements is actually informed. This includes the blind and visually impaired students themselves, their student helpers, buddies and room mates, and academic staff leading the fieldcourse.

    It should be noted that an increasing number of hotels are making themselves visitor friendly, and include a range of facilities for visually impaired guests. Similarly, official field study centres are often well versed in the needs of visually impaired students. Where a field course is being held at or near an urban centre, or in a known tourist area, it may be possible to request a list of accommodation venues that are suitable for visually impaired students from a local information centre.

    Undertaking an audit of fieldcourse venues

    Risk assessments are an increasing feature of study activities and environments, whether they be on-campus (e.g. a physical geography or computer laboratory) or off-campus (e.g. a field study venue). The fieldcourse reconnaissance visit should always include an assessment based on the needs of visually impaired students, and this is best undertaken as a formal audit. Such audits should also be extended to the areas within which visually impaired students intend to carry out fieldwork while preparing their dissertation.

    The main features that need to be subjected to an audit are:

    • The fieldcourse accommodation — i.e. the field study base (e.g. a hotel or study centre). This is discussed in some detail in the accompanying document on Accommodation.
    • The field study venues — i.e. where the study activities actually take place in the field. Several aspects of field study venues that need to be assessed are discussed in the accompanying document on Selecting Fieldcourse Study Areas.

    Based on an understanding of these issues, it might be appropriate to use a proforma to undertake a formal audit of the fieldcourse venue and accommodation.

    Additional ideas for carrying out an audit can be obtained by visiting the site of the Fieldfare Trust http://www.fieldfare.org.uk/, which promotes access to the countryside by the disabled. The Trust is involved in the BT-sponsored Countryside for All scheme http://www.fieldfare.org.uk/btcfa.htm, which provides guidelines on those aspects of the countryside that affect disabled people’s access. For example, there are suggestions on minimum path width for blind walkers (0.9m), and the avoidance of paths that involve overhanging obstructions. The Trust also manages the BT Millennium Project, which aims to identify and record over 2000 miles of countryside suitable for access by people with a disability.

    Fieldwork assessment

    It is important that forms of assessment are addressed as part of the overall design of the fieldcourse. Blind and visually impaired students may feel disadvantaged by the field experience itself, if it is biased towards activities that favour sighted students. They may therefore feel doubly disadvantaged if the methods adopted to assess the fieldwork include those they feel are weighted against them — e.g. requiring considerable use of graphics, such as posters, sketches, computer mapping, and photography. Fieldwork can — and should — be used as an opportunity to recognise the strengths of blind and visually impaired students in other areas, including verbal presentation. Special attention should therefore be given to the kind of assessment used to judge the fruits of this work.

    Standard essays or reports are likely to be the least problematical for blind or visually impaired students to produce, as these will probably have been used in several previous assessments. If a standard report is required, some consideration ought perhaps to be given to the medium in which the blind or visually impaired student is permitted to present it. Alternatives include: word processed document; spoken report (e.g. on cassette); and entirely digital submission.

    The increasingly popular poster presentation may be a challenging form of assessment for the blind or visually impaired student, who might find it considerably more difficult to do well in this presentation medium. Consequently, a verbal presentation may be more appropriate . A Web-based presentation could be both challenging and rewarding for the blind or visually impaired student, and should not be beyond their reach. Many aids are available to assist in the creation of Web documents.

    Finally, some thought needs to be given to the somewhat contentious issue of assessment time. How much extra time, if any, should the blind or visually impaired student be given to prepare their assessed work? To a large extent, this issue is not specific to fieldwork, nor to the blind or visually impaired student, so there already be general institutional or departmental guidelines in place. However, there may be special requirements (such as follow-up work) that suggests the need for some form of extra time allowance for blind or visually impaired students. This allowance need not necessarily be the same as that granted to students with other forms of disability, because the follow-up work may not impact equally on all students.

    Action points

    • Identify institutional or departmental guidelines towards the awarding of additional time to meet special student needs related to assessment.
    • Discuss the time extension issue with all students, and perhaps indicate that any additional time allowance given for assessment preparation are no different to the time allowances made on a day-to-day basis during the fieldcourse itself.
    Preparations

    Much of the groundwork for successful fieldwork by blind and visually impaired students will take place well before the field study actually starts. Several relevant planning and preparatory activities to be considered are as follows:

    • auditing fieldcourse venues
    • fieldcourse accommodation
    • travel arrangements
    • handouts

    Planning your field study should begin by establishing the precise details of any visual impairments among the students participating in the field work, and talking through with the students their impairment in relation to specific study activities. Early discussion with students is vital, because it may be necessary to vary the overall fieldcourse strategy based on student feedback. Ideally, someone familiar with the problems should carry out a reconnaissance, preferably under the same conditions as students will be working. Part of the planning process might involve consultation with others, including operators of transport facilities and sites to be visited. Some might have specific policies with respect to access for students with mobility impairment, and some might even be able to offer help and assistance.

    Action checklist

    These are some of the key issues you should be thinking about when preparing for fieldwork that is likely to be undertaken by visually impaired students:

    • Information dissemination (by staff) – Have all staff involved in the fieldcourse disseminated relevant information to visually impaired students (e.g. at lectures and seminars, through handouts, on an intranet Web site)?
    • Information gathering (by students) — maps, articles, guides, Internet Have visually impaired students been properly briefed on the preparatory activities they need to undertake for their fieldcourse? Do they require any special resources in order to undertake these activities? For example, if the entire student group is to analyse information available in a virtual fieldcourse system, how will the visually impaired students do this?
    • Financial support – Have visually impaired students been made aware of sources of funding available to them for acquiring special equipment or other resources needed for their fieldwork?
    • Form filling – Do your visually impaired students require any assistance in filling in forms related to the fieldcourse?
    • Risk assessments – Have you undertaken a risk assessment of the entire sequence of activities involved in the fieldcourse? This should include the preparatory work in and around campus right through to the follow-up and assessment work after the fieldwork is over.
    • Developing student-led support mechanisms – One of the more effective forms of support for visually impaired students will come from their peers. Have you encouraged students to develop strong mutual support networks? It is best to do this right at the start of the degree programme, rather than leaving it to the eve of the fieldwork, as this is the best way to ensure that such support will be fully bedded in by the time the fieldwork gets under way.
    • Travel issues – Some elements of fieldcourse planning are normally left to the students themselves — e.g. travel to and from the field centre. However, for visually impaired students, some form of planning and staff intervention may be necessary. Have you decided which aspects you need to include in your fieldwork planning?

    Although this list might appear burdensome, there are usually various people to hand who can help with some or all of these issues.

    Team work

    It is imperative that all people involved in the fieldwork activities know about the visually impaired students and their particular requirements. Amongst those who need to be informed are:

    • the departmental secretary or college administrator who makes group transport arrangements for students, or who books field venue accommodation (would a ground floor room be preferable?)
    • the teaching assistant who helps to prepare handouts for the fieldwork
    • the departmental technician who prepares equipment for use in the field.
    Preparations

    Note taking skills

    Because note taking is such a fundamental study skill, training sessions should be arranged for blind and visually impaired students on taking accurate notes, both in pre-fieldwork activities and in the field itself. These sessions could be arranged jointly between subject staff and staff in the campus disability support unit. The former would be particularly knowledgeable of the constraints of note taking in the field, while the latter would be familiar with a range of support technology.

    Note taking on campus

    Blind and visually impaired students will be expected to undertake a considerable amount of note taking, whether related to fieldwork or to general study. It is therefore important at an early stage in their course that they not only practice extensive and varied forms of note taking, but that they also become comfortable with using whatever technology they feel is necessary, and in a variety of study environments. It might be useful for fieldcourse tutors to arrange some kind of simulated field environment (e.g. a busy shopping street, a tract of farmland, a stream, or a hill slope) in which the blind or visually impaired student can practice note taking before the field course gets under way.

    Note taking in the field

    In many field situations, the most effective recording device for the visually impaired or blind student is likely to be some kind of tape recorder — e.g. a Dictaphone. Alternatively, a buddy or field helper could be arranged to record notes for them. This raises the significant question as to whose facts and ideas are being transcribed. Wherever possible, it is perhaps best for the blind or visually impaired student to dictate to a sighted helper. Alternatively, the sighted helper might describe something they are observing in the field, then let the visually impaired student record the finding in their own words, assisted by interrogating the sighted helper.

    Lectures and laboratories

    An essential component of the fieldwork experience are the lectures and laboratory sessions that precede, accompany and follow the study activities in the field. Among the things you can do to make lectures more accessible to visually impaired students are:

    • Ensure that full advance notice is given and that physical access to the lecture or lab venue is easy.
    • Ensure that visual aids used in a lecture or presentation are either directly accessible (e.g. large text format) or that some alternative is made available (e.g. in digital format on a floppy disk, or on a Web site).
    • Describe the contents of any visual material (e.g. table, graph, map) displayed on screen or board.
    • Pace the presentation so that visually impaired students can keep up in terms of (say) braille or PC note-taking.

    Visually impaired students should be encouraged to:

    • Use a cassette recorder to record the lecture, which they can transcribe at their leisure later — remind staff to reserve a front-row seat if a visually impaired student requests one.
    • Use a braille typewriter or laptop computer to take notes.
    • Use a peer note-taker — i.e. a student who will share their class notes with them. (The university disability unit may be able to provide free carbon paper to student helpers to provide this service for visually impaired students in their class.)
    • Bring their guide dog into class rooms (if they have one) — allocate a suitable seat so that the dog is not in other students’ way. (This is especially important in laboratories, where the possibility of accidents may be greater.)

    For laboratory work, the following additional issues are also important:

    • Provide suitable additional task lighting for non-blind visually impaired students.
    • Ensure that appropriate safety procedures are in place, and that visually impaired students have been trained in their observance. (See your local health and safety representative for professional advice on the use of laboratories by visually impaired students.)
    Handouts

    Handouts are widely distributed to students in higher education, partly to outline the content, structure and requirements of specific courses of studies, and partly to support individual classes. For blind and visually impaired students, copies of the standard printed handouts may not be very helpful. Here is one alternative:

    • Large print – Although large-print documents are of little use to blind students, they are a valuable and relatively cheap option for students with low-vision sight, especially in view of the growing student ownership of PCs and laser printers. The best option if printing from a PC is to use a sans serif font (e.g. Arial), 18 point font size (larger font sizes reduce the number of words per line, and make reading progressively more difficult), and optionally adopting a bold type. The text should be kept as simple as possible, avoiding italics, underlining and font changes wherever possible, and there should be clear space between individual paragraphs. Alternative paper colours help students with some forms of visual impairment with their reading — find out beforehand which paper colour is best for each visually impaired student. Avoid using graphical images for backgrounds. Large print versions of existing handouts can also be made using the enlargement facilities of a photocopier, though some cutting and pasting might be needed to fit the enlarged material onto standard-sized paper.

    Where students have more serious visual impairments, consider using non-visual alternatives. These include:

    • Braille – Despite impressions to the contrary, braille is not much used by students with an acquired vision loss. Even the former Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett, finds braille too unwieldy — over two large cardboard sheets needed to contain the information from a single A4 sheet. He opts instead for information spoken into a tape recorder which he plays back at twice the normal speed.
    • Audio cassette – Because of the popularity of ‘talking books’ among the blind, staff should seek the views of any visually impaired students planning to undertake fieldwork to see if they make regular use of this technology. If so, they should liaise with the local university disability unit to explore the possibility of creating a spoken version of relevant handouts or briefing sheets. Alternatively, a sighted student might be prepared to read the contents of relevant handouts into a tape recorder for the visually impaired student.
    • Synthesised speech – Where the text of fieldwork handouts are already available in digital form (e.g. as word-processed documents), it might be possible to create a digital speech file using speech synthesis software. If the material is available as Web documents, then the student might be able to listen to the contents using a screen reader or a braille display. An increasing number of files on Web sites use the Acrobat portable document format (pdf), because this ensures that the documents have the same layout as printed versions. As a result of accessibility initiatives from Adobe, Acrobat files (pdf) can be read by visually impaired students in two ways: use a utility program to convert them into a simple text or HTML version that can be read by a screen reader program or use a JavaScript program that speaks the contents of forms in PDF documents through a synthetic voice (e.g. using the Microsoft text-to-speech engine — for details see the Assistive Technology document).

    In order to get handouts translated into alternative versions, it is essential that you plan ahead. It is a good idea to have alternative versions prepared for distribution to the blind or visually impaired students at the same time as the standard printed versions. If the visually impaired students are going to undertake the conversion themselves, then they will need to receive the original version in good time — last-minute distributions of handouts are virtually useless. Also, it is easier for the student to convert from a digital version than from a paper version.

    Graduation and Beyond

    When blind and visually impaired students graduate, some form of feedback or other contribution from them could be valuable to subsequent students with similar impairments.

    You could elicit the reflective views of blind or visually impaired graduates towards the fieldwork they undertook to help improve the design of subsequent field courses in order to benefit other visually impaired students.

    It may also be worth trying to determine whether any of the field experiences of visually impaired students, and particularly the skills they learnt and/or exercised during fieldwork, were subsequently transferred to a work context. For some students, individual skills may have been most applicable in a work context; for other students, the group-based activities might have proved to be of greatest value. By exploring the subsequent use made of field-related skills in a job context, it might be possible to make further modifications to the design and organisation of fieldwork in order to further increase their applicability when the student moves into employment. This is particularly important for visually impaired students, because fieldwork is an opportunity to practice operating autonomously in complex and/or challenging environments in order to solve defined problems. Blind or visually impaired graduates might also be persuaded to participate in future field courses, either as a guest speaker, or as a design consultant.

    This information is adapted from the Geography Discipline Network (GDN). Providing Learning Support for Students with Mobility Impairments Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities. http://www.glos.ac.uk/ceal/gdn/publications/disability/index.cfm


    Practical/Sport Coaching – Sport and Exercise and Visual Difficulties

    Health and Safety Issues

    First and foremost, it is important to remember health and safety issues as well as specific issues to do with activities/sports.

    • Ensure the student is familiar with the environment and any hazards it may have – including hazards at head height. Show the student the safest routes to and from the various areas. Unnecessary equipment must be tidied away and not left lying around in a haphazard fashion.
    • Always keep verbal contact with visually impaired individuals.
    • Ensure safety rules are given verbally, learned and followed by all members of a group.
    • In unfamiliar surroundings the individual may be completely disorientated and thus lacking in confidence. Tutors will need to do a great deal of groundwork to establish an understanding of the activity and the associated safety precautions.
    • Where necessary, provide one to one or small group support.

    In athletics in particular, as an example, the Royal Institute for the Blind (1993) have suggested the following (which can be adapted for many activities/sports):

    • Establish a central place for equipment. Keep it in the same place. Ensure the equipment is attended and not left lying around where it could present a safety hazard.
    • Ensure that general safety rules for athletics are fully understood and strictly adhered to by all.
    • Bear in mind that open spaces might disorientate an individual with visual impairment who needs to establish a point of reference.
    • Alert the individual to the location of any obstacle, such as goal posts, in open areas.
    • Clearly mark lanes and throwing areas. Make individuals aware of any raised edges, e.g. rims and gutters.
    • Remember that bright sunlight, dark days and fluctuating lighting may alter a student’s visual functioning.
    • In ball games, the use of brightly coloured balls will enhance the students’ experience.
    •  

    The following activities can be adapted for students with visual impairments:

    • Gymnastics
    • Dance
    • Team games
    • Swimming and water activities
    • Athletics and cross country
    • Outdoor education and adventure activities
    • Recreational activities
    • Knowledge based physical education
    • Health focused physical education

    For a coaching session in particular the coach or lecturer must consider and determine what participants can see, e.g. how clearly, at what lighting levels and at what times of day participants can identify shape, colour, movement and definitions between light and dark (NCF, 1997).

    Coaches must also remember to:

    • use sound – voices can indicate where the coach and participants are standing.
    • use touch – for example, to show the distance from the bowl to the jack.
    • use familiar units – for example, the clock face and standard units of measurement.
    • hands on – to support instruction through practical experience.

    This information is taken from the Staffordshire University Strand 2 project SIDE-STeP (Staffordshire Inclusive Disability Education – Sport TEaching Practice) http://crwnpro2.staffs.ac.uk/sidestep/


    The following link contains two case studies outlining students’ experiences undertaking courses in sports study with visual impairments and one student undertaking a Modern Apprenticeship in a customer services setting, which has some useful strategies for adjustments during student work placements.

    Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


    Teaching Mathematical Concepts

    One of the most difficult challenges is teaching concepts involving three-dimensional objects. 3-D problems are found in all levels of mathematics and are often difficult for students with vision to understand, especially when trying to create 3-D objects in a two-dimensional drawing. Such a drawing, even when tactually raised, makes little sense without sighted perspective. Yet, the textbooks continue to draw these 3-D raised line drawings that seem to contradict what the tutor has just taught the student. For example, a tutor may have just explained to a student that a cylinder has two bases which consist of two congruent circles and their interiors and let them examine several real cylinders. Then, when the test is administered they are given a two-dimensional drawing that would seem to indicate that a cylinder only has one base and it consists of an ellipse and its interior. Sometimes students might be better off without the picture. Whereas this may help the sighted student, it often causes confusion for the visually impaired student. In addition, the visually impaired student has to learn what the 3-D object really feels like, and then what it feels like as a sighted person would see it. In addition to solid geometry, algebra can also cause similar problems, e.g. when solving linear systems with three variables, many sighted students have difficulty visualising a 3-D graph. Most mathematicians would agree that it is impractical to use a two-dimensional graphing display to solve a system of three equations in three variables, and this is for people with vision! The study of vector calculus and the calculus of space create an even greater challenge.

    The Nemeth Code allows the visually impaired student to Braille all the necessary mathematical symbols for the highest level of mathematics, but often the Nemeth Code is not taught to the visually impaired student as they progress through their lower level mathematics classes. This creates great difficulties as they progress into Algebra and most students MUST use the Nemeth Code (or some other tactual code) to be successful in higher mathematics. Often, remediation must take place while trying to learn new concepts. For many years, translation software has been available to convert literary print to literary Braille, but converting print mathematics to Nemeth Code proved much more difficult.

    The Visual Reference in Mathematics

    The language of mathematics does rely heavily on visual reference, and the tutor of the visually impaired is challenges to be quite creative at times. Creative tutors can help their visually impaired students to learn to be creative as well. Braille students usually need to learn the print way and the Braille way; the print way to communicate with their sighted peers and teachers and the Braille way for their own understanding. Although this is often double the work, sometimes it can be double the understanding and double the creativity.

    Solving Quadratic Equations Graphically, by Factoring, and by Using the Quadratic Formula

    The ability to see the connection between a graph and its equation can be helpful to both visual and tactual learners, and this is achieved by asking students to manually graph selected quadratic functions on large print graph paper or graph boards. The x-intercepts are revealed to be the roots of the related quadratic equation. Graphing calculators can be used as an alternative and these allow the students many more opportunities to make that connection in a smaller amount of time.

    Solving Systems of Equations in Three Variables

    Even the most sighted students will have difficulty trying to visualise a three-dimensional graph. So, these suggestions may work for these students as well, as they take a more kinesthetic approach, which is a learning style many sighted individuals prefer.

    Use a corner of the classroom as that part of space where the x,y, and z axes are all positive. This simulates the first octant. Then place three Braille rulers to represent the x,y, and z axes. Ask your student to locate (1,0,0), (0,2,0), and (0,0,3) [using units of 1 inch or 1cm]. Then ask them to plot (1,2,3). If they have been using a graphic aid for mathematics (rubber graph board) or other coordinate plane to plot 2-dimensional coordinates, it may take them some time to get adjusted to the fact that they need to think of moving to the front or back along the x-axis. They move right or left along the y-axis, and now they will move up and down along the z-axis. Next, place a box in the corner and ask your student to find the coordinates of each of its vertices. Then rotate the box 45 degrees or place the box on its side. Did the coordinates of the vertices change?

    At this point you could move to a two-dimensional graph board or raised line graph paper divided into 4 quadrants and placed on a table. Then graph the first two coordinates on the graph board and have your student raise their finger up to illustrate going up the z-axis into space or down (beneath the table) to illustrate going down the z-axis. At this point, the student is really having to do a lot of visualisation, but hopefully they are starting to locate the 8 octants in their mind’s eye.

    Remind your student that just as a system of two linear equations in two variables doesn’t always have a unique solution of an ordered pair, neither does a system of three linear equations in three variables always have a unique solution that is an ordered triple. Just as the graph of ax+by=c on a coordinate plane is a line, the graph of ax+by+cz=d is a plane in coordinate space, These three planes can appear in various configurations similar to the way two lines in a coordinate place could intersect in one point, in infinitely many points (actually the same line), or in no points (parallel lines).

    This is the time to pull out three planes (actually several sets of three sturdy sheets of paper – Braille paper perhaps or cardboard). First show your student an example of the three planes intersecting at one point, so that the system has a unique ordered triple solution. (You may be able to find a cardboard box that contained a set of 8 glasses separated (by the perfect manipulative) to nestle in the 8 octants. If so, this really helps the student retain the picture in their mind). Next, have the three planes intersecting in a line, and therefore, there are infinitely many solutions to this system. (This is reminiscent of a paddle wheel). You could then show them various ways that three planes would have no points in common, and these systems would have no solutions. (Form a triangle with the three planes. Find a cardboard box arrangement for six glasses. In the classroom, use the floor, the tabletop, and the ceiling). If all three planes coincide, there are again infinitely many solutions. If two of the planes coincide and the third plane intersects them in a line, there are infinitely many solutions.

    At this point, some tutors will simply state that it is impractical to use graphing to solve a system of three equations in three variables, and have their students use linear combination or substitution to solve the system, after first reducing the system to two equations with two variables. Then the student can use the familiar techniques for 2×2 systems. Usually textbooks provide systems that can be solved relatively easily by linear combination and substitution, but even they can often be quite time-consuming. One ha to be very careful to avoid computation errors, since one mistake early on may not be detected until the final check of your answer, and many pages of work may have already been recorded. However, if the student has suitable technology, they can use matrices to solve a 3×3 system rather easily. Unfortunately, a graphing calculator with this type of sophistication (which is user-friendly) does not exist for visually impaired mathematicians, and finding the inverse of a 3×3 matrix by hand involves a great deal of computing. It is only an attractive solution, if calculators can carry the burden. None of this will still mean anything to the student unless you can relate it to real-world problems.

    Other tutors may feel that it is important to include even more manipulative activities because they offer students an excellent opportunity to bridge the gap from the concrete to the abstract. Depending on your own philosophy, the curriculum requirements, your student’s preferred learning style, visual memory (if any), and time constraints, you may or may not wish to try the following activities.

    Take a piece of print isometric dot paper and make a raised dot version or use a geoboard. Next you or the student can create a three-dimensional axis system using raised lines or rubber bands. (If using the paper, be sure that the student can still tactually discern the dots from the axis lines).

    Then have your student graph an ordered triple such as (2,5,-1). Locate 2 on the positive x-axis. Then move 5 units along in the positive direction, parallel to the y-axis. From that point, move 1 unit along in the negative direction, parallel to the z-axis. You have arrived.

    To graph a linear equation in three variables, graph 3x+2y-3Z=6. First find and graph the x-, y-, and z-intercepts. To find the x-intercept, let y=0, and z=0, and solve for x, and continue in a similar manner for the other intercepts. Connect the intercepts on each axis and a portion of a plan is formed that lies in a single octant. [Solution: The three intercepts are: (2,0,0), (0,3,0), and (0,0,-2).]

    Linear Measure, Perimeter and Area

    When teaching the topic of measurement to a visually impaired student, approach the teaching of perimeter and area by encouraging students to measure several real world items using both customary and metric Braille rulers, emphasising the concept of precision. It may also be useful to work on several problems requiring estimation and use of the most sensible unit of measure within each system. In addition, convert from one customary unit of length to another, and from one metric unit of length to another. The student should also be exposed to raised line drawings and be required to measure these as well.

    From here the student can move onto the concept of perimeter. Students can use raised line drawings and use string to trace the perimeter of the shape. The perimeter of different shapes can then be compared by using raised drawings and string with each side appropriately marked in Braille with customary and/or metric units. Having calculated the perimeter of many different figures, the student can eventually discover the formula of the perimeter (or circumference) of a circle.


    This link leads to three case studies, in the first a tutor describes her experiences of teaching mathematics to a student with a visual impairment and the second describes the experiences of a visually impaired mathematics tutor.  In the third case study. a university student and developer of a website for others affected by sight loss, talks to us about his experiences.

    Music and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


    Teaching Students Who Use Braille

    Although the end result of music is a performance to be heard, the means by which a musician conveys to the audience how the composition should be performed, or learns to perform the music of others is through the use of written symbols. The advent of recordings and computers has not lessened the need for the written score. A page of music, just like a page of any other type of literature, permits study and analysis, section by section, until the concept of the whole is gained. Also, like other forms of written material, the score allows the student to form their own interpretation of the music, rather than simply parroting someone else’s rendition from a recording. The ability to read and write music, therefore, is the cornerstone for anyone who is planning to make a serious commitment to the art. A blind student needs to have that ability just as much as their sighted peers.

    The lack of popularity Braille music has experienced in the face of more glamorous media does not detract from its importance. Like print, it is the only medium that provides a symbolic means for music to be read and studied. Compared with print, Braille music is often cumbersome and its use presents challenges unknown to the sighted musician. However, it certainly works. It is used throughout the world, and in the 160 years since its invention, no better system has been found.

    Who Can Teach Braille Music

    Braille music must be thought of as a means to an end, the end being, of course, music. It is tempting, and sometimes necessary, to isolate aspects of the system for study as one would an academic subject. However, it will have little use or meaning if music isn’t kept as a part of the activity. For this reason, the approach taken to learning Braille music must be fitted to the particular needs of an individual student – their age and interests, the method of learning, and the type of music being studied. If, for instance, a child is beginning the study of music at the same time as learning Braille music, the symbols can be introduced much as one would learn print music. The approach would be different for the musician who is learning the system after being familiar with other aspects of music. Many students, who require a means for writing music, will invent their own codes. Such a code may work for a while, but it can bring about bad habits and of course will not allow the student to read standard scores. For this reason, Braille music should be introduced as early as possible.

    The small number of tutors who know Braille music, and the unlikelihood of finding one locally has led people to come up with a variety of ways to learn what they need. Much will depend on how fluent the student is in literary Braille and their curiosity and motivation for exploring how music and music symbols relate. There is no disputing that a blind student can take regular music lessons from a traditional music tutor. A question often debated is how well that student can learn the Braille music code along with other music skills from such a music tutor who does not have a technical knowledge of Braille. This type of setting can work quite well, but again much depends on the student and their understanding of literary Braille. Certainly, the more the tutor understands, at least with regard to the reasons why Braille music is set up the way it is, the better things will be. Eventually, the student learning in this way may need the help of a Braille expert, especially with regard to writing. But in the absence of such a person, a music tutor can help make a start.

    About Braille Music

    Braille is a system of dots which can be distinguished easily by the practiced touch reader. Each letter or symbol is a pattern of up to six dots in a rectangular matrix or “cell” three dots high and two dots wide. In literary Braille, the first ten letters are composed of the upper four dots. The rest of the alphabet, punctuation, and space-saving combinations of letters, known as contractions, are made by adding the bottom dots to the first four. There are sixty-three possible symbols that can be made from the six Braille dots.

    A page of a score in Braille music looks vastly different from its counterpart in print. There are no lines and staves, no notes laid out higher or lower on the page to indicate pitch, and no stems or ligatures relating one part to another. Instead, all the information for playing a melody is contained on a single horizontal line of letters and signs. The page layout looks much like a page of poetry, with lines and indented wrapping. Usually the reasons why things are done as they are arise from the challenge of meeting a necessity, and so it is with Braille music. An understanding of why it is in the form that we have it will help, not only in working with the beginning student, but will make sense out of the challenges the student will face in more advanced work.

    Ask yourself how you would formulate a written code for music if you could look at only one line at a time? One essential difference between reading a page visually and with the fingers is that the eye can take in the layout of several lines at once while the fingers can deal with one horizontal line at a time. A clearer ideas idea of the implications is gained when imagining trying to read music if the page is covered by a piece of cardboard containing a slot just wide enough for one line to show through. A five-line staff, with notes filled in various places on it, or two staves to show both hands of piano music, would not have much meaning if only one line was visible at a time. Thus the challenge of Braille music is to provide all the information about the note – its name, octave, value, accidental, fingering and dynamics – all in one place. Consider now that the maximum number of signs that can fit on one Braille line is just forty, and it can be seen that the method for supplying all this information must be one of high economy.

    In Braille music, the note name and its rhythmic value are written as one symbol. Note names are written as letters, which use up to four dots at the top of the cell, and the rhythmic values for quarter, half, or whole notes are represented by adding one or both of the remaining dots at the bottom. (Eighth notes are simply the letters with no bottom dots included.) The octave in which the note to be played is indicated by a sign placed immediately before a group of notes in that octave. Signs for accidentals, fingering, slurs and ties, intervals, dynamics, etc., are also placed on the same line with the notes. Since there are more music symbols than the sixty-three Braille dot combinations, many music signs are made up of two Braille characters. Of course, all these signs have different meanings in English Braille, or Braille codes for mathematics and foreign languages.

    Mastering the Basics – Getting Over the Initial Hurdles

    These explanations are probably more confusing to sighted people than it is to the blind student. A good reader of literary Braille, from an early age, would accept a linear system for music as the only sensible way to show it. Practically everything else in Braille is written that way. Indeed, explaining lines and staves can quickly lose the young blind student, unless the way of making the concept make some sense is thought out thoroughly before starting. Eventually the blind student will have to understand the meaning and use of the print way of doing things if they want to communicate with other performers or to understand discussions in theory classes. Most tutors agree that initially it is best to discuss music in the blind student’s terms, such as saying “fourth octave C” rather than “C below the treble clef.” Even if the student has not yet learned anything about Braille music, this would be understood more readily.

    But the learning of Braille music, even with that view, is not exactly straightforward. At the outset there are a number of confusing elements which must be accepted and learned to be dealt with. They are not hard in themselves, but it seems that if they are the only things a student hears about Braille music, it will be enough to put them off. The obvious example, which we will discuss in detail, is that letter names for notes do not correspond with Braille letters – the note C is designated by the letter D. There are historical and logistical reasons for this, but in a case like this, it is probably best to say to the student, “I know it doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the way it is.” Once such things are worked with and practiced enough, they stop being a source of confusion and become second nature.

    Lest the amount of learning and memorisation for Braille music seems overwhelming, it bears reminding that print music also has its learning challenges. The challenges are different, but when placed along side Braille music, the two almost balance out. In print music, each note must be learned by its placement on the staff, and that placement will change depending on the octave of the note. In Braille, the note C is written the same way no matter where it falls. In print, each C will have to be learned separately – C on the treble clef, middle C, the bass clef, etc. The print reader learns to recognise these varying forms in the same way the Braille reader deals with the different letters and note values – with practice.

    Suggestions for Teaching – Keeping Motivation High

    Once tutor and student have got through these first initial surprises, progress should be easier. This is not to say that there aren’t other challenges, but by getting this far, there should be effective communication and mutual understanding of one another’s language requirements. One way to keep the communication open is to ensure there is a print version of the same Braille music instruction book that the student is reading in Braille. The camaraderie developed through teamwork usually encourages motivation, and motivation is probably the key element here. Some ideas for fostering motivation are discussed below.

    Counter resistance with early success. Blind students of any age may put up some resistance, conscious or unconscious, to learning a symbol code for music. A sighted child usually sees print music at an early enough age to accept as natural that there should be a connection between what is heard and what is on paper. A blind student may not have had this opportunity. Music seems such a fluid and liberating activity to listen to and to play. Why would anyone want what appears to be a complete departure from the world of sound, slow, cumbersome and complicated? Isolated from others who use the system, the student may not have any examples to follow, other than being told for years about the contradictions and complexities. This type of feeling may be encountered even with those who on the surface understand why a written form of music should in theory be useful for advanced study. One of the best ways to break down such barriers is to provide opportunities for success and increased self-worth as early as possible. Find ways to let the student demonstrate that Braille music can allow them to do more than they could before. For instance, as soon as the student has learned eighth notes, ask them to write down a tune for someone to play back. If the Braille cannot be read, ask the student to dictate the notes from their Braille copy. Then play it. The student will get the gratification of hearing how their writing can be conveyed to someone else. If it is played exactly as it is given, the student will discover the mistakes and have the opportunity to correct them in the least threatening way.

    If the tutor does not know Braille, it is often a good strategy to give the student the role of Braille expert. Let students explain the differences between the literary Braille they know and the music code. Providing the opportunity to articulate such things early on will help the student to articulate their needs and suggest alternate ways of working to sighted tutors and performers they will interact with later. The student will have the feeling that they are contributing something to the learning process – which they are.

    To Play, or Not to Play? If a student is to be taught a piece from Braille, it is helpful for the student to hear part or all of it played once. Some people frown on playing anything for the blind student, since it may cause the student to try to get away with memorising the music from its sound. We believe that will not happen if the piece is played just once. Hearing the result of what is studied will inspire the student to work hard towards being able to read it. Motivation to learn is most important, and the tutor should be flexible in doing whatever it takes to keep enthusiasm high.

    Maintaining a Balance. Another question that often comes up is how much the student’s musical instrument should be used during a Braille music lesson. Richard Taesch writes about the advantages of the European method of teaching music reading before the instrument and how this can be applied to Braille. He believes Braille music should be incorporated as part of a full pedagogical system of teaching music. He has found, as we have, that often when an instrument is within easy reach, the student may not be able to keep away from it long enough to concentrate on anything else. At the same time, however, there is the danger of going to the opposite extreme. We have worked with students who knew all the signs and concepts of the Braille music system but could not translate them back to actual music. The instrument must have a role, whether in the Braille music lesson or at another time. When doing an exercise, it may be best for the student to first read the exercise orally to the tutor. Then the student should be encouraged to play exercises on the piano, or sing them, if that is more comfortable. In most beginning exercises it is possible to read with one hand and play with the other. It should be borne in mind that when the student gets to the stage of reading more sophisticated music, both hands will be needed for playing the instrument and therefore the student will have to memorise the music from the Braille first. Students should be encouraged to practice reading Braille with either hand, so they can read with the left hand while practicing the right-hand part, and vice versa.

    The student also needs to develop facility in counting and other musical techniques. Such skills often are more necessary to the Braille music user than the sighted reader, since there are fewer cues to go by than in a print score. A bright student may read through a Braille music instruction book and understand most of what is in it. Even for such a student, practice exercises are important. If some seem too elementary, they can probably be skipped as long as future lessons reinforce the earlier material.

    Moving on – Other Braille Music Concepts

    Octave Marks and Rules for Their Use. Since clefs are absent in Braille, signs are used to show the octave in which notes are to be played. There is a symbol for each of the eight full octaves on the piano. Middle C is written with the sign for octave 4 before the C. In order not to have to put an octave mark before every note, there are rules to determine when they are needed. An octave mark is always placed at the beginning of a melody or musical paragraph. Whether they will be needed elsewhere depends on the interval between one note and the next. Skips of seconds and thirds are never marked, and skips of a sixth or greater always are. A fourth or fifth is not marked unless the jump takes the melody into another octave.

    Many people find this confusing, probably because they are so intimidated by the rules that they do not have the opportunity to gain skill in working with them. Once people realise that the marks exist to tell whether the melody will be going up or down, the need for using them will make sense. The following two exercises may be helpful:

    1. Knowing which octave sign is which. People tend to study the eight octave signs in order, but may not have an idea of what notes are covered by each one. An activity to try is to play a note on the piano and ask the student what octave it falls into and the Braille sign that should be used. This may be easier for a student with perfect pitch, and it should be remembered that contrary to belief, absolute tonal memory is not much more common with blind people than sighted. Even without perfect pitch, a student should be able to gain an idea of the ranges octaves fall in, and this will make their reading of music easier.
    2. Learn rules from writing. Students write down a melody with octave marks, and dictate it back to the tutor, reading where the octave marks were placed. The piece is played exactly as it was written, and any mistakes will be immediately obvious to the student giving them a greater under understanding of how the rules work.

    Accidentals and Key Signatures. Braille music has signs for sharps, flats, and naturals. The student must remember that these signs are placed before the note, not after it. It is not “C-sharp”, but “sharped C.” Beginners often make the mistake of reading the accidental as being on the previous note. The key signature is given at the beginning of a composition and is not repeated unless it changes. Therefore, a student must remember that, given a signature of two sharps, F and C are always sharped unless preceded by a natural sign.”

    Intervals. Intervals are made much more use of in Braille than normally, because they are used to show more than one note appearing in the same place in a measure. The linear nature of Braille prevents more than one note from being written on the same beat. In fact, Braille music employs special interval signs not found in print, and these provide practically the only means for writing chords. Chords cannot be written vertically. To show that the notes C, E, and G are to be played simultaneously, rather than as a sequential melody, one writes the root note C, a third interval sign, and a fifth interval sign.

    For the student, the procedure of using intervals to represent chords means that they must become comfortable with them before their peers would in a harmony class. Ear training to recognise their sound will be very helpful. Also, it might help for the student to memorise the “look” in Braille of common chords so they can be recognised quickly without the need for translating them each time.

    Smaller Values and Grouping. Many books save the teaching of sixteenth notes and smaller values for later. The reason is that, because the dot combinations for rhythms are limited, the same signs must be used again for small values. Thus the sign used for whole notes is used for sixteenths; halves for thirty-seconds, and quarters for sixty-fourths. The reader knows the difference by keeping the time signature in mind and counting notes in a measure. Obviously, if a measure has several signs that look like whole notes, they must be sixteenths. This is seldom a source of confusion, but the technique called “grouping” often is.

    Grouping divides music into beats. The first note or rest in a beat is written in its true value – sixteenth, for instance; the remainder of the notes in the beat, if they are also all sixteenths, are written as eighth notes. There are a number of explanations why grouping is used. Some say it helps people keep track of beats when there are many notes comprising them. The sign for eighth notes, without any bottom notes, is easier to read and transcribe. Grouping does not conserve any more space than not using it would, but it is a standard thing that is used, and students must become accustomed to it. If a student says something is an eighth note when it is really something of a smaller value, it is probably because they forgot about the possibility of grouping. Encourage the student who gets confused to count the number of notes in the beat.

    In-accords. Measure or part-measure in-accords provide a means of showing the keyboard player two or more note sequences to be played simultaneously with one hand. The need for in-accords arises from the same problem of not being able to write notes vertically or connect them with stems. One melody is written, and the division and in-accord signs signal where the second part begins and ends. Students often have trouble knowing which goes with what. Repeated practice and illustration should help.

    Space savers – Repeats and Doubling of Signs. If anything can be done to save the amount of space Braille music takes up and the time it takes to transcribe it. Braille music has several more types of repeat signs than in print. Identical parts of measures may be written just once with the repeat sign a certain number of times, and then perhaps the measure close. It is often confusing to keep track of the number of times a measure part, full measure, or series of measures are repeated. Another technique is “doubling of signs.” If several notes are to be slurred, for example, A slur sign is written twice after the first note and then once before the last note to be slurred.

    Conclusion

    Reading Braille music can be complicated and memorisation comes much harder when one cannot play through a piece fluently as a sighted person would. Yet it can be done. Tutors must remember to keep a balance in their expectations. There is a danger of demanding the impossible, if they are not aware what the problems are, but there is also a danger of not challenging the student enough because of an unawareness of the possibilities. Braille music is just one of the tools a blind student will need to have in their skillbase. Each student has different abilities and will be able to achieve a certain level. As a tutor, it is important to let the student try the various options and find out, in a safe environment, what works and what doesn’t. If a student is going to another school or college where they are unknown, they should be comfortable about saying “this will work” or I can’t do this exactly the way you want, but here’s a way that I could do it.”

    All this may be overwhelming, but it may seem less so if the tutor and student work as partners in a team. There are also others willing to share their experiences. It is satisfying to work together on a problem, and especially so when the result ends up as music.

    Information taken from Goldstein, D. (1994) Learning and Teaching Braille Music: Resources, Explanations, and Pointers for Student and Tutor. http://www.blindmusicstudent.org/Articles/learning_teaching.htm (accessed on 22/12/2004).


    The following case study describes the situations of a visually impaired viola player on the first year of a BMus courses at a UK conservatoire. The strategies at the end are ones that the individual institution has considered useful to the student in this particular situation.

    Nursing and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


    Preparing for a Clinical Placement

    Transport/Travel

    If a student is visually impaired, it may affect their mobility whilst on clinical placement, this can be in terms of getting to and from the placement as well as within the environment of the placement itself.

    Visually impaired students will general either need to be within walking distance of a clinical placement or be able to access it easily by public transport. If the student is not familiar with the route, it would be advisable to travel it prior to the start of the placement. Although it is the student’s responsibility to carry this out, it may be useful for the Clinical Education Co-ordinator and/or the Clinical Educator to be aware of this issue and, on initial contact with the student, to suggest this strategy of prior route familiarisation.

    Living Away from Home/College

    Some clinical placements are remote and entail the student living out. If this is the case there will need to be close liaison between the Clinical Education Co-ordinator and the placement provider to ensure that the accommodation is appropriate with regard to access. It may be useful for the student to speak to the Accommodation Officer and to visit the living space prior to the beginning of the placement to facilitate orientation and mobility.

    If the student is a guide dog user, issues such as room size and facilities for the dog to take comfort breaks will need to be considered. Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA) may be able to provide some mobility training locally and could also be contacted for advice if necessary.

    Timing of Placements

    Some partially sighted people can see quite well when light levels are good, but may experience night blindness in low levels of light or at night. If the route to a placement is complicated or involves a long walk, it may be difficult for the student to negotiate the environment during the months of the year when it gets dark early or when working night shifts. Clinical Education Co-ordinators should be aware that this may be an issue and be sympathetic in the allocation of placements. If it is unavoidable that the student has to be placed in a particular clinical setting that involves a difficult journey, this should be discussed with the individual student in advance.

    Specialist Equipment

    Depending on the student’s particular requirements, s/he may need some specialist equipment to enable full participation in the placement. Many students have their own portable equipment that they may be able to take onto placement e.g. lap top computers, Braille note-takers, portable close circuit televisions (CCTV). If this is not the case, students may need to have some equipment provided.

    It is helpful for Clinical Educators to be sympathetic to students using a Dictaphone or tape recorder during assessments in order to temporarily record their findings. The student should briefly explain to their patients why s/he is using the equipment.

    Access to Information

    Clinical placement providers should ensure that any information that students receive prior to or during the placement is available in their preferred format i.e. text, enlarged text, on tape/mini-disk, in Braille or an electronic copy. Appropriate presentation of written information for students with partial sight includes the following principles:

    • Produce all information digitally.
    • Keep layout simple and clear.
    • Keep text to a minimum.
    • Use a clear sans serif font e.g. Arial.
    • Use good contrast in documents.
    • Use matt paper.
    • Use headings and pointers to aid navigation round documents.
    Completing Patient Records and Other Documentation

    It is often assumed that visually impaired people, as a direct consequence of their impaired vision, will necessarily be unable to sign patient records and will, therefore, be in breach of their legal obligations. This is not the case. Many partially sighted people can write legibly and, indeed, can read their own handwriting as well as that of their colleagues; others can write legibly although they are unable to read what they have written or any other handwritten script. Blind people, whose sight has been lost as a result of accident or degenerative condition, retain the ability to write; those whose blindness is congenital are able to produce a mark which, for legal purposes, is recognised as their signature.

    It is axiomatic that some visually impaired people will require assistance to complete standard patient record forms and other relevant documentation such as Learning Contracts. It may, therefore, be appropriate to produce a tactile template of each form so that a visually impaired practitioner can learn its layout, complete and sign it independently. Alternatively, an electronic version of each form will afford access to all clinicians, including a user of access technology: the details will be accessible, either in enlarged text on screen or speech output.

    Most visually impaired students will require reasonable adjustments in order both to access information and to produce their own written records. This may involve a personal reader, low vision aids (e.g. a magnifier), CCTV, a computer with access technology, Braille note-taker or a combination of these. It is important to explore possibilities with individual students prior to the start of a placement.

    Information taken from: CSP Guidance: Support Disabled Physiotherapy Students on Clinical Placement The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

    Physiotherapy and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

    Case Study

     


    Preparing for a Clinical Placement

    Transport/Travel

    If a student is visually impaired, it may affect their mobility whilst on clinical placement, this can be in terms of getting to and from the placement as well as within the environment of the placement itself.

    Visually impaired students will general either need to be within walking distance of a clinical placement or be able to access it easily by public transport. If the student is not familiar with the route, it would be advisable to travel it prior to the start of the placement. Although it is the student’s responsibility to carry this out, it may be useful for the Clinical Education Co-ordinator and/or the Clinical Educator to be aware of this issue and, on initial contact with the student, to suggest this strategy of prior route familiarisation.

    Living Away from Home/College

    Some clinical placements are remote and entail the student living out. If this is the case there will need to be close liaison between the Clinical Education Co-ordinator and the placement provider to ensure that the accommodation is appropriate with regard to access. It may be useful for the student to speak to the Accommodation Officer and to visit the living space prior to the beginning of the placement to facilitate orientation and mobility.

    If the student is a guide dog user, issues such as room size and facilities for the dog to take comfort breaks will need to be considered. Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA) may be able to provide some mobility training locally and could also be contacted for advice if necessary.

    Timing of Placements

    Some partially sighted people can see quite well when light levels are good, but may experience night blindness in low levels of light or at night. If the route to a placement is complicated or involves a long walk, it may be difficult for the student to negotiate the environment during the months of the year when it gets dark early. Clinical Education Co-ordinators should be aware that this may be an issue and be sympathetic in the allocation of placements. If it is unavoidable that the student has to be placed in a particular clinical setting that involves a difficult journey, this should be discussed with the individual student in advance.

    Specialist Equipment

    Depending on the student’s particular requirements, s/he may need some specialist equipment to enable full participation in the placement. Many students have their own portable equipment that they may be able to take onto placement e.g. lap top computers, Braille note-takers, portable close circuit televisions (CCTV). If this is not the case, students may need to have some equipment provided.

    It is helpful for Clinical Educators to be sympathetic to students using a Dictaphone or tape recorder during assessments in order to temporarily record their findings. The student should briefly explain to their patients why s/he is using the equipment.

    Access to Information

    Clinical placement providers should ensure that any information that students receive prior to or during the placement is available in their preferred format i.e. text, enlarged text, on tape/mini-disk, in Braille or an electronic copy. Appropriate presentation of written information for students with partial sight includes the following principles:

    • Produce all information digitally.
    • Keep layout simple and clear.
    • Keep text to a minimum.
    • Use a clear sans serif font e.g. Arial.
    • Use good contrast in documents.
    • Use matt paper.
    • Use headings and pointers to aid navigation round documents.
    Completing Patient Records and Other Documentation

    It is often assumed that visually impaired people, as a direct consequence of their impaired vision, will necessarily be unable to sign patient records and will, therefore, be in breach of their legal obligations. This is not the case. Many partially sighted people can write legibly and, indeed, can read their own handwriting as well as that of their colleagues; others can write legibly although they are unable to read what they have written or any other handwritten script. Blind people, whose sight has been lost as a result of accident or degenerative condition, retain the ability to write; those whose blindness is congenital are able to produce a mark which, for legal purposes, is recognised as their signature.

    It is axiomatic that some visually impaired people will require assistance to complete standard patient record forms and other relevant documentation such as Learning Contracts. It may, therefore, be appropriate to produce a tactile template of each form so that a visually impaired practitioner can learn its layout, complete and sign it independently. Alternatively, an electronic version of each form will afford access to all clinicians, including a user of access technology: the details will be accessible, either in enlarged text on screen or speech output.

    Most visually impaired students will require reasonable adjustments in order both to access information and to produce their own written records. This may involve a personal reader, low vision aids (e.g. a magnifier), CCTV, a computer with access technology, Braille note-taker or a combination of these. It is important to explore possibilities with individual students prior to the start of a placement.

    Source: CSP Guidance: Support Disabled Physiotherapy Students on Clinical Placement The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

     


    Case Study

    Case study about a physiotherapy student with a visual impairment. She describes adjustments made to the assessment process and her experience of lectures

    Social Work and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

    Click here for case studies.


    Using Visual Skills for Communication

    Students with visual difficulties may not be as familiar with the capabilities of visual display software (such as Powerpoint) as other students and may prefer to use other media for presentations such as oral communication. The learning environment and/or workplace setting may need to use adaptive technology, such as a screen reader, to allow all students to access visual information.

    If students with visual difficulties are using screen reader software, staff need to know how to present data in a readable format, e.g. numerical tables and diagrams. TechDis offer some useful advice on this http://www.techdis.ac.uk.

    Students with visual difficulties may require personal or telecommunication assistance to gain information from written documents, the internet, or from face-to-face interviews.

    Working with Clients

    Concern is sometimes expressed over students with visual difficulties and an ability to recognise any physical signs of abuse on clients. Students may be entitled to a personal assistant who can act as the students ‘eyes’ in various situations. However, the assistant’s role would be to support the student developing the skills, not to undertake the skills activities instead of the student. It is not expected that child protection workers would work alone during an assessment in any case, but despite this rhetoric of good practice, the level of staffing in this area of social work in particular, means that social workers are sometimes forced into pragmatic, rather than ideal practices. A certain degree of flexibility would be expected.

    When social work students need to use a personal assistant to help them in the workplace, certain issues can arise concerning confidentiality, safety and sensitivity to the needs of clients. All social work students are expected to undergo enhanced checks with the Criminal Records Bureau and to have been assessed by the Higher Education Institution as being suitable to commence practice learning. As with other staff in an agency they are also bound by rules of confidentiality, predominantly through the Data Protection Act (1998) and the General Social Care Council (GSCC) Code of Conduct. Insofar as these requirements are designed to protect the rights of people seeking help from a welfare agency, they should also apply to others who may accompany the student in the workplace or have access to agency data. It will be the responsibility of the placement agency to say what level of scrutiny of personal assistants is required depending on the level of access to people and data, but as it is the responsibility of the Higher Education Institution to prove the support, they will also need to undertake any necessary checks and training.


    There are three case studies contained within the following link. The first describes the challenges faced by a visually impaired student searching for a work placement. The second outlines a Diploma in Rehabilitation Studies (Visual Impairment) programme at the University of Central England in Birmingham. The third introduces a blind social worker and describes her typical day-to-day work pattern.

    Veterinary Science and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


    People who know little about blindness often assume that someone described as being blind or visually impaired cannot see anything. This is true for only a very small percentage of people. Most people have some level of sight and this may be more or less stable.

    Experiences of people with visual impairments working in the veterinary profession appear to be as yet limited, with only patchy information available. However, one of the main issues usually raised when this topic is brought up in discussions with colleagues is the difference between someone whose sight deteriorates when they have nearly or already completed their veterinary studies, and someone who enters veterinary medical college already having a very low level of sight.

    The various university Offices for Disabled Students make a wide range of provision for university students who are visually impaired. Highly sophisticated and high-speed brailling machines are now available, with accompanying systems for producing audiotapes and a support network of notetakers. Raised images can now be produced in a wide range of disciplines so that students who are visually impaired are able to follow visual images as well as written text. Finally, computer software offer a wide range of solutions for those who are unable to access material visually.

    However, whilst these various services may be perfectly satisfactory for students in many disciplines, the veterinary profession involves a high level of practical activity with animals for which there is no direct substitute.

    A highly experienced vet – someone who qualified over 40 years ago – had worked for a time with someone who had tunnel vision. The individual gave up very quickly, because it was just too difficult. The vet’s comment was:

    ”With animals, you have to have eyes in the back of your head.”

    It is comments like this one which highlight the faulty nature of the technical standards imposed by some veterinary medical colleges. Those who work with young children would echo the kind of comment above – because in each profession, there are a range of unquantifiable skills which one either does or does not have but which can make all the difference between whether someone is ‘a good professional’ or ‘an outstanding professional’.

    People with some disabilities such as blindness often develop other skills which substitute for the missing sense. They are often able to sense an atmosphere or to sense other people’s moods because they rely more on audio or other sensory signals.

    In any analysis being carried out as to whether someone’s level of visual impairment is such that they either can or cannot enter veterinary medical college, it is essential to ensure that one concentrates on the relevant requirements for visual skills.

    There are a number of instances where people with severe levels of visual impairment have entered other medical professions such as dentistry and human medicine. Evidence relating to such instances is still being gathered together and will provide a useful comparison for the veterinary profession. However, there will always remain the undeniable fact that human patients differ substantially from animal patients. On many occasions, human patients are able to assist the medical professional who is examining them by communicating information verbally. An animal patient cannot do this. Even if the animal’s owner can communicate a certain amount of information, he/she cannot know exactly in all situations how the animal is reacting internally to certain symptoms. Vets must therefore be able to deduce this information for themselves and having visual skills is an important way to do this.

    Colour Blindness

    Whilst there is no suggestion that colour blindness constitutes a disability, it does affect someone’s ability to perceive colour and therefore merits some consideration for the Veterinary Science sector.

    As is undoubtedly common knowledge, most cases of colour blindness are hereditary and therefore present at birth. Females may be carriers but it is predominantly males who are affected; the condition occurs in approx 8% of males and 0.5% of females.

    Given that the veterinary profession involves contact with a wide range of solvents, it is worth mentioning that a recent UK study has shown that prolonged exposure to certain solvents can produce colour blindness. (Semple S, Dick F, Osborne A, Cherrie JW, Soutar A, Seaton A, Haites N. Impairment of colour vision in workers exposed to organic solvents. Occup Environ Med 2000;57:582-587).

    Most people who are colour blind have varieties of red or green deficiency, with blue-yellow deficiencies the second most common form. The most extreme and rare forms of the condition are achromatopsia (the person can see only in black, white and shades of grey) and monochromatism ( the person sees only shades of grey). These extreme conditions are often associated with other problems such as photosensitivity and extremely poor vision, so that not being able to distinguish colour is almost the least of the individual’s problems.

    Compared to people with normal colour vision, people who are colour blind have some difficulty in distinguishing between certain colours but the level of the deficiency is very variable.

    There is no treatment for colour blindness but most people who are colour blind learn to compensate for their defect. Certain professions do exclude people who are colour blind – for example, one cannot become a pilot – because colour vision is essential to the carrying out of the job. There are other less dramatic situations where colour blindness would pose a major problem for someone wishing to enter certain professions. Examples are jobs within the fashion world, where a sense of colour matching is crucial, and art restoration, where an appreciation of the subtleties of colour is essential if one is to be able to work with what are often priceless and irreplaceable works of art.

    Colour blindness and the veterinary profession

    Such a drastic ban on anyone who is colour blind entering the veterinary profession would be most unlikely except perhaps in the case of someone who has no perception of colour at all and with the associated difficulties described above.

    There are a number of recorded cases of both staff and students in veterinary medical colleges who are colour-blind. Some of the problems identified are:

    • viewing slides in histology and pathology
    • using a red laser pointer in lectures
    • a general lack of confidence in one’s own ability to rely on colour information

    Once in practice, there are a multitude of situations where colour contributes to the information that one can obtain. Some research in the field of human medicine highlights the problems which colour blindness may cause by preventing someone from spotting the early symptoms of certain conditions However, most people still see a colour, even if it is a different one, and so can detect changes.

    Much of the information for this page was sourced from: Tynan, Anne. (2001) At the Portal of the Profession: The Veterinary Profession and People with Disabilities – A North American Perspective. University of London: Royal Veterinary College. http://www.rvc.ac.uk/RVC_Life/PDFs/AtThePortal.PDF

    Biosciences and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

    Case Studies

    Laboratory Work

    Fieldwork 


    Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

    Difficulties may occur with:

    • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
    • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
    • Taking lecture notes.
    • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
    • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

    There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

    Equipment and Technological Support
    • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
    • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines (for psychology specific tactile diagrams see 
      IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://ltsnpsy.york.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=19, accessed December 2006).
    • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
    • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
    • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written (for psychology specific software see 
      IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://ltsnpsy.york.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=19, accessed December 2006).
    • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
    • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
    Human Support
    • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
    • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
    • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
    • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
    • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
    Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

    The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

    Printed Material:

    • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
    • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
    • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
    • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
    • Use print size 16 point or above.
    • Keep the layout clear and simple.
    • Avoid text on a patterned background.
    • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
    • Avoid using red and green ink.

    Lectures:

    • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
    • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
    • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
    • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
    • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
    • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
    • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
    • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
    • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

    Exam Arrangements:

    • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

    Practical and Fieldwork(see more information below):

    • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
    • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
    • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
    • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

    Working with Visually Impaired people:

    • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
    • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
    • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
    • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
    • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
    • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
    • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
    • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room. 

    Laboratory Work

    Laboratory experiences are essential for students in many science courses. Students with disabilities will need to have access to the physical facility, equipment, materials, safety devices and other services. Access issues for students with disabilities vary considerably depending on the subject, the physical facility, and the type of disability.

    General Suggestions

    Working closely with a lab partner or assistant can facilitate involvement in a lab activity for some students with disabilities. For example, a student who is blind could enter observation data into the computer while his partner describes the lab findings. Or, a student with limited dexterity in her hands and fingers could dictate instructions and procedures to her partner who manipulates equipment and materials and carries out the measurement process.

    Allowing extra time to set up a lab or complete the work can also provide an effective accommodation for some students with disabilities. This approach allows more time to focus on procedures and results, and eliminates the stress that may result from time constraints.

    To assure safety, provide a thorough lab orientation and provide necessary adjustments to procedures, depending on the specific disability. Have a plan established that may involve moving equipment or placing the student in a specific location in the room.

    Auditing existing facilities for accessibility and to make "reasonable adjustments":

    • Has an audit of the suitability of all floor and work surfaces, seating arrangements, equipment, switches, taps, handles, display features, lighting, etc., etc., been conducted to support "reasonable adjustments" in the context of the standards set out in the literature promoting accessibility?
    • At departmental level, how often is this evaluated and who has responsibility?
    • When considering the viability of "reasonable adjustments" is the disabled student fully involved in the discussions?

    "Reasonable adjustments" to fixed features:

    • Where fixed features are fitted, e.g., heavy equipment, fume cupboards, sinks, etc., could a range of safe standing or sitting surfaces be provided?
    • Is it possible for larger pieces of equipment to be placed on a lower workbench to promote accuracy and safety?

    "Reasonable adjustments" to other features:

    • Is it necessary to relocate door handles and shelving for disabled people with restricted reach?
    • Is it necessary to change the width of benches to allow a disabled person to have a controlled reach of electrical power points, taps and other controls?
    • Are the ‘corridors’ between benches sufficiently wide to allow someone with a physical disability or a wheelchair user along them, or do they need modifying?
    • Is it possible to provide individual adjustable workstations for disabled students to reflect their needs and the tasks being performed?
    • Is there a need to acquire specialist equipment or modify existing equipment?
    • Do special arrangements need to be made to accommodate a medical/non-medical helper (extra pair of hands), reader or interpreter, or guide dog, etc.?
    • What "reasonable adjustments" need to be made to recognise the organisational implications of student absence for disability related reasons?
    Checklist for students with visual difficulties:
    • Is there a procedure for ensuring that the visual aspects of laboratories, workshops and other practice-based environments include the following:
      • an appropriate amount of light is available for the tasks
      • special non-glare task lights are supplied as required
      • overhead lights have useful cut off diffusers
      • the available light is evenly deployed
      • there are no areas of deep contrast, pools of light and/or shadows
      • there is no glare or reflection obscuring surfaces or displays?
    • To counter glare and reflection problems, have modifications to the design of windows been considered, e.g., for the inside anti-glare filters, blinds or curtains in a matt finish and/or for the outside, light reflecting awnings?
    • Are operating buttons, taps, switches and containers of hazardous materials clearly labelled to include raised relief symbols or Braille?
    • Are floors well maintained and without unnecessary slopes or raised sections?
    • Does standard protective equipment and clothing, e.g., safety glasses, protective gloves, laboratory coats, masks, etc., need to be adapted to meet disabled user needs?
    • Are alarms and safety devises available in both auditory and visual forms, e.g., clearly audible and obviously distinguishable from other sounds and visually available as well?
    • Are vibrating pagers in use?
    Following are examples of adjustments to the equipment and teaching resources used in science labs that can be used to maximise the participation of students who have visual difficulties:
     
    • Create large-print instructions.
    • Use large-print reading materials that include laboratory signs and equipment labels.
    • Enlarge images by connecting TV monitors to microscopes.
    • Use raised line drawings or tactile models for illustrations or maps.
    • Verbally describe visual aids.
    • Include tactile drawings or graphs, three-dimensional models, and a lot of hands-on learning.
    • Use a glue gun to make raised line drawings.
    • Make a tactile syringe by cutting notches in the plunger at 5 ml. increments.
    • Make a tactile triple beam balance by filing deep notches for each gram increment. Add glue drops on either side of the balance line so that the student will know when the weights are balanced.
    • Create Braille labels with Dymo Labelers.
    • Identify increments of temperature on stove using fabric paint.
    • Use different textures such as sandpaper or yarn to identify drawers, cabinets, and equipment areas.
    • Place staples on a meter stick to label centimeters.
    • Use 3-D triangles or spheres to describe geometric shapes.
    • Use Styrofoam and toothpicks or molecular kits to exemplify atoms or molecules.
    • When measuring liquids, have glassware with specific measurements or make a tactile graduated cylinder.
    • Use talking thermometers and calculators, light probes, and tactile timers.
    • Implement auditory lab warning signals.
    • Use clear verbal descriptions of demonstrations or visual aids.

    Information taken from: South West Academic Network for Disability Support (SWANDS), Laboratories, workshops and other practice-based environments http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/assets/SWA/8.Laboratories.pdf and from University of Washington, The Alliance for Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, (AccessSTEM website), Science Labs http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/science.html (information accessed and extracted November 2007)


    Impact on Fieldwork

    When attempting to relate visual impairment to fieldwork, the following principles are important:

    • From an educational viewpoint, what matters most is not so much the eye condition which produces the impairment, but the functional effect the impairment has on fieldwork activities, as these can vary from student to student, depending on the coping mechanisms they may have developed.
    • Most eye conditions can vary considerably in severity — it is not enough simply to know which condition a student has.
    • It is essential to talk to students to identify the potential impact of their condition on proposed fieldwork activities.
    • The impacts of a visual impairment can be positive as well as negative.

    There are a number of ways in which eye conditions can impact on fieldwork activities, some of these can be summarised as follows:

    • Ocular albinism – difficulties with scanning, tracking, depth perception, rapidly shifting visual points, reading
    • Cataracts – wide variation in visual acuity (though full visual field usually maintained), and near and far vision often adversely affected
    • Diabetic retinopathy – fluctuating visual acuity, distortion of vision, and possible impairment of visual field
    • Glaucoma – progressive loss of visual field, poor visual acuity, impaired peripheral and night vision, and difficulty in adapting between light and dark
    • Macular degeneration – loss of central vision (hence reliance on eccentric or sideways looking), difficulty in discerning fine detail and reading, and problems in colour discrimination (especially reds and greens)
    • Nystagmus – blurred vision, difficulty in scanning and tracking, and problems with depth perception
    • Optic atrophy – variable loss of vision and/or total blindness
    • Retinitis pigmentosa – night blindness, narrowed field of vision (resulting in tunnel vision)

    Staff responsible for designing fieldwork will need to determine which field activities are likely to be compromised by deficiencies in any of these visual capabilities. They should then consider adopting a suitable course of action.

    Fieldwork difficulties due to visual impairment

    There is no single universal difficulty; each visual impairment will impose its own set of demands and limitations. When undertaking fieldwork, visually impaired students may experience difficulties with a variety of tasks, including:

    • taking accurate notes in non-classroom environments
    • multi-sensory tasking — listening, observing, recording and reading
    • speed of handwriting and legibility
    • organisation of time
    • orientation, reading maps
    • slow reading speed for accurate comprehension
    • group work
    • recording data and making mathematical calculations
    On the positive side

    It is important to recognise that visually impaired students may have counter-balancing strengths in other areas. Staff as well as students should therefore do their best to discuss with the student their particular strengths, and to harness these abilities during field work. For example, groups should consider using the visually impaired student’s abilities to compensate for weaknesses in other members of a field work team.

    Other advantages include the stimulus given to staff to rethink the accessibility of the fieldwork experience to all students, not simply to those with a visual impairment. Finally, the experience of having a visually impaired student participating in fieldwork can enthuse and inspire staff and fully sighted students alike.

    Information taken from: The Geography Discipline Network (GDN). Providing Learning Support for Blind or Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities http://www.glos.ac.uk/ceal/gdn/publications/disability/index.cfm.  The strategies are also relevant to biosciences fieldwork.


    Case Studies

    Case study A: A science student seeks a way to participate in a course that requires him to draw maps. 

    Case study B: An science student describes what opportunities he uses to meet and get to know other students.

    Case Study C: A human science student describes her support needs.

    Computing and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


    Students with visual difficulties may need equipment to help them access text presented on a screen in an alternative way. Computers with scanners, screen reading software, and speech output, CCTVs, screen magnifying software, computers with Braille input and output are some of the enabling technologies available to students with visual difficulties. However, much personal equipment is not transportable even where students own equipment, and students who rely on such equipment need access to it on campus if they are to make use of periods between timetables classes.

    For many courses involving the use of computers, enabling technology will also be needed in computing labs. Blind and partially sighted students who need screen reading software to access the Internet will benefit from webpage design that conforms to website accessibility guidelines.


    In these case studies three visually impaired students describe the adjustments that have helped them with the practical applications of a computer science course.

    Dance, Drama and Performance and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


    The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination which many disabled people face. The DDA will affect dance organisations of all scales and types, potentially impacting on the way they deliver services and provision of access for disabled people. 2001 saw an amendment to the act relating specifically to education (The Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA)), which requires that:

    • Disabled people must not be treated less favourably than non disabled people for reasons related to their disability without justification.
    • There is a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

    Disabled people make up between 14% and 26% of the population, depending on the definition used, and the expectations disabled people have about access and inclusion are growing all the time. It is time for all sectors, including the dance sector, to think through the issues that inclusion brings and form a coherent response. The Dance and Drama Awards scheme has done so. It is now equipping all the schools involved in the scheme with guidance on access and inclusion, providing a specifically created day long session of disability equality training for each school and developing a number of pilot action research projects designed at bridging gaps in the sector including:

    • A foundation course for disabled dancers run by CandoCo in partnership with a school.
    • A programme for musical theatre looking at new writing and new approaches being developed by Guildford School of Acting.
    • Research into a programme for learning disabled dancers.

    In some areas, the dance sector has been quick to respond to the inclusion agenda, in others it has been a real fight to even get the subject discussed. However, the increased inclusion of disabled people is now everyone’s responsibility and now, thanks to the DDA, everyone’s legal obligation. Educational providers need to take into consideration the needs of their learners, but also their audiences when putting on productions or exhibitions, reasonable steps must be taken to:

    • Provide auxiliary aids and services to enable, or make it easier for a disabled person to use a service.
    • Change policies, practices and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.
    • Provide a service through a reasonable alternative method which will overcome barriers presented by physical features.

    For example, it may be considered unreasonably difficult for a visually impaired person to read a leaflet which is in small type and a pale colour. In this case, the institution or organisation may need to reassess is house style. Other considerations for students and audiences with visual difficulties might include: providing information in large print on plain backgrounds, Braille, audio tape, computer disk, audio description on videos, a personal guide, telephone information service, spoken announcements, a torch or other form of appropriate lighting in galleries, a tactile map, tactile pictures or touch opportunities.

    In many cases all that is required is some creative thinking, new attitudes and new solutions with regard to inclusivity. Try to think of reasonable but cost effective ways of delivering the curriculum of offering the service if the physical environment makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use it.

    Institutions are legally liable for any acts of discrimination carried out by a member of staff. A useful starting point is to consider implementing the following:

    • A procedure for training and informing all teaching staff in the department about reasonable adjustments and the implications of discriminating against students.
    • A policy towards disabled students.
    • An appropriate complaints mechanism.
    • An amendment to the Equal Opportunities Policy.

    Look carefully at all the educational opportunities provided for students e.g. exhibitions, concerts, festivals, training, workshops, conferences, information, library and research facilities, venues, transport, etc. Decide a priority for areas requiring attention and how this will be achieved and devise an action plan detailing how the changes will be implemented and monitored.

    English and Visual Difficulties

    If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

    Case Study


    Visual difficulties can range from total blindness to conditions affecting partial vision such as tunnel vision, double and blurred vision and colour blindness. Some people may have trouble seeing in low light levels, have problems judging speed and distance, or experience painful irritation to the eyes caused by bright light. Only about 18% of people who have visual difficulties are classed as totally blind, and most of these people can distinguish between light and dark. Some people are born visually impaired and others may have become visually impaired as a result of illness or accident, and this will affect the way people approach and address their impairment. It is likely that a large amount of information in most programmes will be delivered visually, therefore a student with visual difficulties may be at a significant disadvantage academically.

    Difficulties may occur with:

    • Accessing course material — overheads, slides, printed material, diagrams, practical observation, on-line material etc.
    • Using the library — finding, collecting and returning books.
    • Taking lecture notes.
    • Practical laboratory work and field trips — recording observations.
    • Travelling to, from and around the campus.

    There are various examples of support that students with visual difficulties may require during their time at University, and some of these examples are as follows:

    Equipment and Technological Support
    • Large Print is defined as that which is 14 point or above in size and is one of the simplest ways of increasing accessibility for students with a visual impairment. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that 36% of blind and 75% of partially sighted people are able to read large print comfortably.
    • Braille is a system based on sequences of raised dots to represent letters and words. Moon is a similar system to Braille, but with raised shapes rather than dots. It takes a long time to become fluent in Braille, and is mainly used by those people who are visually impaired when young, rather than those who lose their sight due to old age. Although the actual numbers of Braille users is small, it is a useful medium, and can also be used by deaf blind people. Diagrams, tables and other pictorial information can be produced as a tactile diagram of raised lines.
    • Magnification software The majority of computers currently being produced have some kind of magnification software, which can be used to view any information on the screen in the required size. In Microsoft Office 2000, look under: Programs — Accessories — Accessibility — Magnifier. Windows 95 also has accessibility options whereby the resolution, colour and size of the text can be changed. Other more specialised magnification software is also available commercially.
    • CCTV Cameras can also be used to enlarge printed text where magnification software is not practicable. CCTV cameras can be used to enlarge books maps, journals etc, without the need to scan material into a computer. It is also useful for enlarging reference material that is problematic to remove from the library.
    • Specialist software Voice activated software is used by some visually impaired students which allows the student to dictate information into the computer and it to be produced in the required medium. Software can also be used that reads back what the student has written.
    • Audio tapes Lectures and seminars can be recorded onto audiotape for referral at a later date, or to be transcribed into another medium.
    • Library Resources Visually impaired students will usually be eligible for extended library loans and a photocopying allowance.
    Human Support
    • Readers transfer material from text media onto audio tape for a student with visual difficulties to listen to.
    • Note-takers Some visually impaired students may require a note-taker to attend lectures with them. This allows the student to concentrate on information presented in the lecture.
    • Amanuenses An amanuensis (scribe) may be used in exam situations. The amanuensis is usually a graduate student from a related Academic Department, with an understanding of the subject matter and the terms which may be used. The amanuensis writes only what the student speaks and does not help or advise the student on the subject matter.
    • Mobility Trainers The Student Support and Guidance Section can arrange mobility training for blind students who are long cane users. A qualified mobility trainer guides the student around the University campus and surrounding area so they become familiar with the layout. Students can also be taught routes (both walking and public transport) to the University from their accommodation, and routes to any placements that may be part of their study.
    • Non medical helpers Non medical helpers are recruited to support the student in a number of ways. For example, they may collect and return the student’s library books, undertake practical work under the student’s instruction, and generally do practical tasks that the student finds difficult because of their visual impairment.
    Teaching strategies – Good practice guidelines

    The good practice guidelines outlined below are intended to make course material and methods more accessible to students with visual difficulties. Remember that improving provision for students with visual difficulties may also benefit other students in a group, particularly those with dyslexia.

    Printed Material:

    • Handwriting is often difficult for visually impaired students to read. If you are marking work, use a black felt tip pen for maximum visibility, and write legibly.
    • Provide printed material in the student’s preferred format, for example Braille or large print.
    • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
    • Use a clear font such as arial or comic sans.
    • Use print size 16 point or above.
    • Keep the layout clear and simple.
    • Avoid text on a patterned background.
    • Printing on coloured paper may make text easier for some visually impaired students to read. Black text on a yellow background provides maximum contrast.
    • Avoid using red and green ink.

    Lectures:

    • Provide handouts in advance of the lecture.
    • Notes may be required in Braille and diagrams or tables may need to be produced in tactile form. This can take a few weeks and so material will need to be sent for Brailling well in advance of the lecture.
    • Describe any material you are writing down. Talk through any images or diagrams.
    • Visually impaired student may wish to be seated at the front of the class.
    • Use printed transparencies, rather than handwritten overheads.
    • Speak clearly – the student may have few visual cues. Spell out any new or difficult words or names.
    • Allow the student to make a recording of the lecture if they need to.
    • Provide booklists well in advance as students may have difficulty accessing the library and may read more slowly. Annotated book lists can be extremely useful to visually impaired students, for example, if only sections of a book are relevant.
    • Providing material such as booklists in electronic format rather than hard copy will allow the student to view in their preferred format.

    Exam Arrangements:

    • If a student requires alternative examination arrangements, this should be recommended by the student assessment and be put into place by the Examinations Office. Strategies that may be used include extra time, use of a reader or amanuensis, large print or Braille question paper, use of a word processor. Alternative arrangements will not give the student an unfair advantage, or put them at a disadvantage, and the arrangements must not compromise the validity or professional accreditation of the examination.

    Practical and Fieldwork:

    • Some visually impaired students may use a non medical helper to support them in practical work, for example to explain diagrams that the student cannot see.
    • Alternative provision may need to be made for practical fieldwork. A student who copes well in a lecture or seminar may be faced with difficulties when working outside or in an industrial setting. Talk through possible options with the student and Student Support and Guidance staff well in advance of the fieldtrip.
    • Have written information available for the student before the fieldtrip. A detailed timetable of the day and instructions for carrying out practical work will be particularly useful.
    • There may be safety issues — think through any potentially hazardous situations and alternative arrangements that may need to be made.

    Working with Visually Impaired people:

    • Always introduce yourself by name as the visually impaired student may not recognise your voice.
    • Tell the student when you are leaving the room.
    • Tell the student if a room they are familiar with has been rearranged.
    • Don’t leave obstructions where they may be walked into.
    • Make sure that the student is aware of any venue changes. An unfamiliar room may be difficult to find at the last minute.
    • Don’t worry about using phrases that refer to sight, e.g. ‘see you later’, as most visually impaired people would not be offended.
    • Don’t pet or feed guide dogs when they are wearing their harness – they are working animals on duty.
    • When working with a group of students that includes a visually impaired students, ask everyone to introduce themselves so the visually impaired student knows who is in the room.

     


    Case Study

    Case study about a student with glaucoma.

    Music and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

     

    Nursing and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

     

     

    Physiotherapy and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

    It is important to remember that, as for many students with disabilities, those with a visual impairment may lack confidence and this can be particularly relevant when students are preparing for clinical placement. Students may have a fear of discrimination and/or they may lack confidence because of previous negative experiences. The effect of this is likely to be reduced if staff members who are aware of student’ issues are accepting and non-judgemental. Providing encouragement and support to all students also helps to establish an atmosphere of trust and safety. A number of useful adjustments can be made within the clinical setting, to help a visually impaired student cope with their day to day work and consultation between the student, tutors and placement supervisor is essential.

     

    Social Work and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

     

    Veterinary Science and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

    Students with a wide range of disabilities or health conditions can achieve the required standards of knowledge and skills to enable them to practise as veterinary surgeons, but it needs to be recognised that each case is different and has to be viewed on its individual merits. The safety of patients, the public and other colleagues must always take priority.

    A veterinary surgeon may be able to practise with some limited visual impairments (e.g. colour blindness or monocular vision), although the extent of impairment would need to be assessed against the requirements of the RCVS competencies, and a judgement will need to be made in this context. A severe visual impairment would render the individual unable to practise as a veterinary surgeon.

     

    Computing and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Computing and Students with Visual Impairments

    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

     

    Dance, Drama and Performance and Visual Impairments

    Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


    Brief description of Visual Impairments

    The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

    The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

    Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

    Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

     

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