Physical Disabilities

PART 4 - Physical Disabilities

Low Vision


A student with low vision is one who is able to use impaired vision as a means for acquiring information. The condition may affect sharpness of vision or reduce the ability to see distances, or the person may have reduced central or peripheral vision. Depending on these factors, students with low vision vary greatly in their ability to use vision. If the condition fluctuates, an individual may have varying degrees of visual ability from day to day. Some do not appear as if they are substantially limited in their vision, although they may have difficulty in tasks like reading. It is always best to ask students what their specific needs are.

Some students with low vision read with materials close to their eyes, and others use personal readers, large-print books, large-print materials printed by computer, and audiotapes. They may also use their own personal magnifiers in order to see better. They may or may not use white canes. They may wish to sit in the front of the class or in another designated location that optimizes the effectiveness of their vision. Boards, overheads, and other visual presentations are difficult to see for many students with visual impairments.


Classroom Strategies

  • Select course materials and order textbooks early so a student has time to procure them in large print, in electronic text, or on tape.
  • Reserve seating in the front of the class or other requested location.
  • Use large print—usually 18 to 24 point—on all class handouts, syllabi, lab signs, and equipment labels if requested.
  • Ensure that the student has an adequate note-taker, or provide copies of overheads and lecture notes.
  • Describe all visual material and any notes written on a board or overhead.
  • Make time allowances for students who use speech output or screen enlarged programs for extensive writing assignments.
  • Provide an exam or quiz early to the DSS test proctor if students prefer taking large-print exams in class. Lead-time is necessary to convert the exam to large print and return it prior to the test date. (See Test Accommodation Services)
  • Cooperate with students who work out of class on exams and quizzes if they use an electronic print enlarger, audiotape, large-print materials, a reader, or a scribe.
  • Understand the extra time required for exams and quizzes. Twice the time allowance is not unusual when using a reader or scribe or when working on specialized computer equipment.
  • Schedule a quiz so the student does not miss classroom activities if it takes only part of the class period.
  • Give an alternative assignment in place of an unscheduled quiz. It’s possible to place an unscheduled quiz, if deemed essential, in a confidential envelope and have the student take it to the test proctor for later administration. For assistance with such arrangements, contact the student’s DSS Counselor or LD Specialist.
  • Use e-mail to disseminate written materials if a student with low vision can access this information with screen reader software.
  • Concentrate on the content of written work rather than its appearance. If the writing is large or appears messy, this may be the result of the vision impairment.


Problem Practices

The psychology lecture hall was packed the first day.  After people were seated, the teacher passed a chart for permanent seating. During the break, Evie approached the teacher and said she had a vision problem and needed to sit in the middle of the front row. The instructor felt inconvenienced after having completed the seating chart. He identified a third-row seat fairly close to the middle that appeared to be empty and suggested this seat. Evie agreed without enthusiasm, and a week later she came back reporting that this seat wasn't good enough. The teacher felt that he should not have to displace a student who had already chosen a seat. He told Evie to talk to the front row students herself and find someone willing to switch. After all, he thought she should have arrived early and claimed the seat she wanted, rather than impose on him and the other students later.

Sometimes it is difficult for a student to know what to expect. Evie may not have known it would be so difficult to find an appropriate seat, and the instructor's reactions complicated things further. Evie has a right to an appropriate seat, and the instructor should appreciate the legitimacy of this need and assist her in reserving one.


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Last Updated: 6/14/17