Less than two percent of students who received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the academic year 2020–2021 have visual impairments. 

A group of specialists determined that students who have a disability that negatively impacts academic performance and who require special education and related services are eligible to receive free public school education as mandated in 1975.

Why do students with visual impairments often struggle academically?

There are several reasons why students with visual impairments often struggle academically. 

One reason is that they may not be able to see the visual teaching aids such as boards or other materials in the classroom. This can make it difficult for them to take notes or follow along with the lesson. 

Additionally, many textbooks and other educational materials are not available in Braille or large print, making it difficult for students with visual impairments to access the information they need. 

Finally, students with visual impairments may not be able to benefit from field trips or other learning experiences where sight is key. 

These factors can make it difficult for students with visual impairments to keep up with their classmates and succeed in school.

Where do most students with visual impairments receive their education?

Many visually impaired students attend their local school districts alongside their sighted peers. They receive specialized training from a specialist who works one-on-one with each pupil. The specialist goes to various schools and works with pupils there, either in a conventional classroom setting or a separate space. They teach visually impaired students topics like Braille, assistive technology, and other strategies for finishing homework. Depending on each child’s particular needs, different amounts of time are spent with each pupil.

Meanwhile, according to The Chicago Lighthouse, most states have specialized schools for blind or visually challenged students. In the past, most blind and visually impaired children attended schools with kids suffering from different types of disabilities. 

Many residential schools for the blind offer a wide range of specialist services, including occupational and physical therapy, Braille and assistive technology education, orientation and mobility training, and many others. Some pupils from private schools might even go to the neighborhood public school to take regular coursework.

What is the role of a low vision specialist in educating students with visual impairments?

The key player on the educational team for your student with a vision impairment is the teacher of children with disabilities. This specialist can assist a student in learning about the subject matter, carrying out daily tasks, participating in the main curriculum, and taking part in extracurricular activities at school. A teacher qualified to help visually impaired students normally has experience in how vision impairment affects the growth and learning of pupils and can work to adapt the learning experience to ensure the student gets the education they need.

How can teachers enhance the language of students with severe visual impairments?

The following are the adaptive teaching strategies that educators must employ to support the learning of visually impaired students, according to ResearchGate:

1. Using audio, optical, and non-optical devices

The use of audio tools, such as audio cassettes and compact discs, is primarily to support the educational processes. The use of lenses in optical devices like eyeglasses and magnifiers increases a person’s remaining eyesight and can be beneficial.

The purpose of both optical and non-optical devices is to enhance students’ eyesight and functioning abilities by compensating with other senses. The teacher’s job is to motivate students to use visual aids and other assistive technologies to improve their vision.

2. Sound projection

The teachers must talk clearly and approach the students directly. The teachers’ voices should be pleasant, enjoyable to listen to, read loudly and clearly, give verbal explanations that make sense, and they shouldn’t use ambiguous words. 

The greatest teaching strategy is checking in with students after completing their activities to ensure they fully grasp the lesson plan.

3. Using tactile materials

Teachers must know that pupils with visual impairments lack conceptual experiences and knowledge because of their limited visual abilities. Adjustments should be made if they will learn in class with their sighted peers. Diagrams that are tactile are crucial for understanding concepts and visuals that are challenging to convey and describe verbally. Therefore, these methods should be employed both when real items are not available to aid in teaching and when figures and designs are crucial for understanding the subject. 

Using a specific mat and stylus, tactile images or diagrams can be produced on Braille paper.

4. Adapting teaching materials with written texts

Printed text can be modified by changing the font size, making the text bold, boosting contrast, adding color, modifying the space between characters, and writing a huge text on the board or other visual aids. However, the severity of the visual impairments and the student’s needs are the only factors that affect how extensive these adjustments must be. Since each student uses a distinct set of materials based on the severity of their visual impairment, it is crucial to have input from a specialized teacher.

5. Promoting verbal communication

Verbal exchanges between teachers and students are essential for engaging learners. Teachers should encourage students to ask questions about any concepts they may still be unclear about after giving verbal explanations of those concepts. Teachers should take note of their responses better to understand the needs and expectations of visually impaired children.

6. Collaborative learning

Academic accomplishment, a good attitude toward the subjects, and improved social interaction among the students have all been shown to increase when collaborative learning is encouraged among students with varied learning skills and needs in an inclusive classroom. When people collaborate, they learn about the perceptions and perspectives of others.

7. Maximum time allowance

Students with visual impairments often take longer to finish their assignments. Therefore, giving students more time to finish their work is crucial, particularly if they are required to process visual data or complete their written tasks. Compared to kids with normal vision, students with limited vision need more time to read a text. On the other hand, it takes time for blind students to read and write in Braille and to obtain knowledge from tactile sources. 

Many external exams recognize this need and provide students with vision impairments additional time when taking an exam.

What technology projects an enlarged text version for students with visual impairments?

Here are some resources that individuals can use for screen magnification and as screen readers, according to Teaching Students with Visual Impairments:

  • ​TalkButton
  • JAWS
  • Window-Eyes
  • NVDA
  • Serotek
  • Thunder
  • WebAnywhere
  • Virtual Magnifying Glass
  • Word Talk

Which age level of students with visual impairments are home-based programs most commonly used for?

Various programs cater to students with visual impairments, but home-based programs are most commonly used for infants and toddlers. These programs typically involve working one-on-one with a teacher or other professional to learn Braille, daily living skills, and appropriate social behaviors. Older students may also participate in home-based programs, but they are more likely to need specialized schools that can provide the necessary services and support.

What is the agency that assists in getting assistive technology for students with visual impairments?

The agencies that assist in getting assistive technology for students with visual impairments are  World Vision International and Christoffel-Blinden Mission. They provide funding for schools to purchase assistive technology for students with visual impairments. They also provide training for teachers on how to use the technology.