Working with a Blind Student

Do you have a student in your class who is blind or visually impaired? The following techniques may help you work together more effectively.

The student will be provided a tape recorder and may also have a scribe, notetaker or reader assigned to assist in the classroom and/or lab. These are reasonable accommodations for the blind and visually impaired student(s). You are not expected to change your teaching style or give special treatment to the blind student. The following information is provided to familiarize you with having a blind/visually impaired student and in the classroom. Each class and situation is unique. Please feel free to call one of us if we need to be creative in providing accommodations.

How do I work with a blind student?

Blind students require auditory cues in order to respond to questions asked in class. Please verbalize names when calling on students so the blind student has an opportunity to respond to questions asked in class.

The scribe or reader’s sole responsibility is to voice for the student what is written on the board, or written on handouts. Instructors should refrain from asking the scribe or readers to function as a teacher’s aide, to participate in class activities, or to perform other tasks. Doing so may interfere with the quality of communication provided, compromise the role of the reader or scribe and prevent full communication access for students who are blind.

Blind or visually impaired students will usually require seating at the front of the classroom, near to and facing the instructor, to make optimum use of auditory cues. Some types of blindness will allow a student to see shadows, shapes or perhaps even “pieces” of written material. Each student with a visually impaired diagnosis will be different in what they can actually see.

What strategies can I use for communication?

  • Speak to the class, not facing the board.
  • Use dark markers on the White Board.
  • When you have written on the board, read out loud what you have written. If it is a graph or chart, describe it verbally.
  • If you use an over head projector, please read it out loud and describe what you are showing the students.
  • Provide hand outs, Powerpoints, the syllabus and any written materials in advance so the student can have them transcribed into Braille. An excellent alternative is to send all written materials to the student via e-mail so he/she can download them to a voice program, or print them in Braille.

Blind students must have their books special ordered from the Adaptive Technology Center in Ventura, CA where the community colleges receive many of their books in Braille. Another company, RFB&D, produces books on CD’s. The Alternate Media Center on campus, in the LRC, also puts books into Braille format or on MP3’s or as E-text. Brailling materials is very time consuming, especially if there are diagrams, graphs, numbers, or foreign language. Math requires a different code than Braille. It may take 2 or 3 months for us to get a math book or foreign language book in Braille or Nemeth code (math form of Braille). If a student were to order a text book in Braille on-line it might cost as much as $30,000 (thirty thousand dollars).

Be aware that the student may need a notetaker for your class. Some students may be able to take their own notes on a laptop or using a Brailler. Not all blind students are proficient in Braille. The student may request shared notes from a student volunteer enrolled in the same class. When the student sharing the notes e-mails the notes to the student, the student is able to use adaptive technology to hear them or download them and print in Braille.

Viewing slides or visual aids is a problem for blind students. Try to provide descriptions of slides before class, either via e-mail to the student, or in writing that can be translated to Braille or can be read out loud by a reader.

Make sure your web sites and assignments requiring website review are all accessible with assistive technology so the blind student can read the website through JAWS or another screen reader. Make sure all of your technology requirements, curriculum using software, spread sheets, accounting and math software, are accessible and can be handled by a screen reader.