Visually Impaired (VI)
Visual difficulties range from relatively minor and remedial conditions to total blindness. Some children are born blind; others lose their sight partially or completely as a result of accidents or illness.
Pupils who are blind or have minimal sight require tactile methods of learning (e.g. Braille). These pupils will have an acuity score of<3/60 (World Health Organisation definition of blindness).
These pupils have vision which is adequate for all school tasks but require adaptations to teaching methods and differentiated materials (e.g. larger font).These pupils will have an acuity score of<6/18 to >3/60 (World Health Organisation definition of partial blindness)
- Clumsiness and poor hand-eye coordination.
- Movement of head rather than eyes when reading.
- Unusually short or long working distance.
- Sitting awkwardly or in a bent or twisted position.
- Complaints of dizziness, headaches or general eye discomfort.
- Fear of heights.
- Reluctance to join in physical activities.
- Not answering questions or commands, unless addressed by name.
- Closing or covering one eye.
- Poor attention or concentration span, especially when observing demonstrations or activities across the room.
- Inability to read and copy from the board.
- Errors in reading and writing - confusions, reversals, omissions.
- Problems reading back own writing.
- Consistent loss of place when reading.
- Difficulty searching for information on a page.
- Written work does not reflect oral ability.
All tasks involving reading and writing may take longer for a pupil with VI and fatigue may reduce working efficiency.
- Pupils with a VI should be encouraged to make use of any residual vision – allow them to adopt a position that most efficiently uses their residual vision.
- Some pupils with a VI may need to hold text close to the eyes.
- Viewing text from an angle may also benefit some pupils.
- Many pupils with a VI are helped by using some form of magnification and should be encouraged to do so.
- Good lighting is essential - either an even light throughout the room or individual task lighting.
- Avoid glare: position the pupil away from direct sunlight.
- Care must be taken not to over-enlarge printed resources as this may add to the pupil’s difficulties.
- Diagrams may be confusing; redrawing in a simplified form may be more beneficial.
- Provide individual notes, diagrams and equipment.
- Seat the pupil with a VI near to the teacher to provide individual attention.
- Read aloud what is written on the board and describe diagrams.
- Clean boards regularly to maintain maximum contrast.
- Address the pupil by name rather than pointing.
- At all times, give verbal descriptions of activities going on in the room.
- Modified print resources must be provided at the same time as the rest of the class receive theirs.
Text Formatting Strategies
- Type size: The size of the type (known as point size) significantly affects its legibility and is one of the most important features to bear in mind. A minimum of 12 type should be used for all publications. However, RNIB recommends the use of 14 point to reach more people with sight problems.
- Typeface: Avoid italic, simulated handwriting and ornate typefaces as these can be difficult to read.
- Type style: Avoid capital letters as they are generally harder to read. A word or two in capitals is fine but avoid the use of capitals for continuous text.
- Type weigh: People with sight problems often prefer bold or semi-bold weights to normal ones. Avoid light type weights.
- Leading: The space between one line of type and the next (known as leading) is important. As a general rule, the space should be 1.5 to 2 times the space between words on a line.
- Contrast: The contrast between the background and the type is also extremely important. The better the contrast, the more legible it is. Contrast will be affected by the size and weight of the type. Provide clearly lined, good quality paper.
- Numbers: If you print documents with numbers in them, choose a typeface in which the numbers are clear. Readers with sight problems can easily misread 3, 5, 8 and 0.
- Line length: Ideally, line length should be between 60-70 letters per line. Lines that are too long or too short tire the eyes. The same applies to sentence and paragraph lengths, which should also be neither too long nor too short.
- Word spacing and alignment: Keep to the same amount of space between each word. Do not condense or stretch lines of type. RNIB recommends aligning text to the left margin as it is easy to find the start and finish of each line and keeps the spaces even between words. It is best to avoid justified text as people can mistake large gaps between words for the end of the line.
- Columns: Make sure the space between columns clearly separates them. If space is limited, use a vertical rule.