4.1. Effects of Blindness--Primary and Secondary

As visual impairment imposes limitations on the children in such aspects as mobility, the range and variety of experiences and the ability to cope in different situations, visually impaired children may encounter the following learning difficulties:

Difficulties in Perception and Concept Formation

Severely visually impaired children may suffer from delay in cognitive development, especially in perception and concept formation. These children may therefore have difficulties in obtaining visual information and in forming perception about people and things and what is happening in their environment. These difficulties will prevent them from consolidating their perceptual experiences into concepts. They have to obtain information through other sensory modalities, e.g. auditory, tactile, olfactory, etc. and the information obtained may be limited and confusing.

Delay in Physical and Motor Developments

The physical and motor developments of visually impaired children may be affected by their difficulties in spatial orientation. They may have poor postures and poor hand control. They may easily bump into furniture, equipment and people.

Problems in Social and Emotional Developments

Visual impairment also has an impact on the social and emotional developments of these children. For example, they may fail to make and maintain eye contact with people. They may use inappropriate facial expressions and body language when interacting with people. They may lack self-confidence and social competence and may therefore have feelings of insecurity and anxiety. It is thus not unusual to find visually impaired children with little or no initiative in social interaction.

Difficulties in Visual Functioning

Visual defects may affect the children's visual functioning. However, visual problems cannot be generalized. For example, some children may have poor near vision, while others may have tunnel vision, patchy vision, or they may be susceptible to strong light and glare. But no matter what their problems are, their educational progress is invariably hampered by their visual defects. Generally speaking, visually impaired children may have difficulties in searching, scanning, and organizing visual information and in retrieving what has been dropped. They may be unable to read the blackboard, projected materials, print and diagrams of small sizes. As each child's problem is unique, strategies to cope with problems are highly individual.


Visually impaired children have to face more learning difficulties than ordinary children. With their limited experience, they normally have little or no learning skills. As there is little or no imitative learning through vision, their learning will also be slow and their attention span short. They may require more time to complete a task. With limited mobility, they may encounter difficulties when participating in classroom activities, games and outdoor activities. Low self-esteem and poor social skills may also lead to emotional and behaviour problems. Visually impaired children with other additional disabilities may have even greater learning difficulties than those without.


4.2. Selective Educational Placement

Each child (and family) is unique in his or her needs for accommodations and types of programs. What works well for one may fall flat for another. The best environment includes both time with sighted peers, to develop community social skills, and time with others who are visually impaired, to avoid isolation.

There are three methods used to provide educational services to students who are blind or visually impaired:

1.     Residential/state schools for the blind

2.     Resource room program in neighborhood schools specifically designed for students with visual impairments

3.     Itinerant model, where teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) travel to the students’ local schools to provide instruction.

Residential/State Schools for the Blind

Schools for the blind offer teachers who are trained to teach academic and non-academic subjects, including the visual disabilities specific expanded core curriculum and offer specialized equipment for students with visual impairments.

Resource Rooms

Some school districts cluster all of their children with visual impairments into one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. This method maximizes teaching time, as the teacher of students with visual impairments spends minimal time driving between schools. Each child will visit the resource room for blindness-specific instruction in the expanded core curriculum and will spend the majority of time in a regular classroom. Alternatively, some schools will have resource rooms for general special education services. These environments will most likely be in your neighborhood school, and the various professionals will be of the itinerant model.

Itinerant Teaching

In this model, the students with visual impairments attend neighborhood schools, and the teacher of students with visual impairments travels to them. The teachers of students with visual impaired provide the students with training in the expanded core curriculum, coach the general education teachers in providing accessible instruction, and guide the process of ordering and creating accessible textbooks and lesson materials. In many instances, there may only be a few children with visual impairments in the school district, making itinerant teaching the only option other than residential schools.

The Most Appropriate Placement

The nature and amount of teacher of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility (O&M) services is individually determined and is driven by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process.

It is during the IEP meeting when the placement options will be discussed and suggested, placement that should allow both adequate instruction and opportunities to meet others with visual impairments. Many students begin in one type of program and change placements as they progress through school and their needs for specialized instruction and support evolve.

A combination of environments will offer your child a greater variety of activities to help him or her develop appropriate social skills for use in the general community and the specialized skills needed to compensate for vision loss. The goal is to give your child the opportunity to maximize his or her personal, educational, and employment potential.



4.3. Teaching Principles

The most important principle is to monitor the children's progress regularly. Systematic planning in teaching should be emphasized. The approach should consist in understanding the learning needs of the children; planning long term and short term teaching objectives; assessing the children's baselines; providing a favourable learning environment and adequate resources; adopting appropriate teaching approaches; carrying out evaluation and keeping record of progress.

Teaching Approaches

There are a number of teaching approaches that the teacher can adopt, for example, teaching through activities, role play, unit teaching, discovery method, programmed instruction, behaviour modification, etc. The following suggestions may serve as reference for teaching visually impaired children:

Emphasis on Concrete Experience

1.      Basic Teaching Approaches

Visually impaired children cannot learn by imitation through visual experience alone. They need to do it through their other senses also, such as sense of hearing and sense of touch. Appropriate teaching aids should therefore be used to allow them to touch and learn from concrete experience. What they have learnt will thus be clearer and more accurate.

2, Use of Verbal Instructions

Instructions and explanations given by the teacher should be clear and concise. The teacher should read out clearly everything written on the blackboard. When speaking to the children, he should first address them by their names to ensure attention. To make sure that the children understand what is taught, he should ask them questions when necessary.

3. Management of Printed Materials and Diagrams

According to the visual condition of individual children, the teacher should choose appropriate teaching materials to meet their individual learning needs. Printed materials and diagrams may have to be adapted by using contrasting colours, tactile marks,  enlarged size, increased boldness, adequate spacing, etc. In producing tactile diagrams for these children, the teacher should note the following:

·        choose diagrams of appropriate sizes to suit the fingertips of totally blind or severe low vision children;

·        simplify cluttered or superimposed diagrams without compromising accuracy;

·        emphasize the most important areas, lines and points in tactile diagrams;

·        avoid cluttering too much information and coding on one page, or this will confuse the children.

4. Classroom Organization and Management

·        Attention should be given to classroom organization and management so as to provide optimum learning. The classroom should be big enough to allow the children safe mobility. The children should be provided with large desktops for their bulky textbooks and equipment so that they can have a comfortable work area. Since natural light is the best source of illumination, low vision children will benefit from sitting by the window or the Wyteboard.

·        Although better illumination often improves the perception of low vision children, direct sunlight should be avoided. Venetian blinds can be installed to address the problem. In gloomy days or other adverse illumination situations, intensive lights with background lighting of diffused fluorescent lights can be installed in the classroom especially for low vision children who use ink-print books. As far as possible, the surface of furniture or walls should best be in matt finish to avoid unnecessary glare. In order to facilitate the use of intensive lighting, audio and visual equipment, adequate electric power points should be installed safely in appropriate places.

·        The classroom should be equipped with adequate notice-boards for display of learning materials, timetables, schedules, educational posters, children's work, etc. both in print and in braille. Materials and equipment kept in a particular classroom or special room should be clearly labelled in large print or in braille to give the children easy access. Should the teacher find it necessary to move the furniture in the classroom, all children should be informed beforehand.

5. Safety Precautions in Conducting Outdoor Activities, Sports and Games

The teacher should take special safety precautions when conducting outdoor activities, sports and games. The activities should be conducted in spacious ground. Places with fixtures, objects or wall-blocks that can be of danger to the children should be avoided. Anything lying disused on the floor should be cleared so that the children will not fall over them. Children with history of dislocated lens, detached retina and 

high myopia should not be allowed to carry heavy loads or take part in vigorous activities. Children with albinism should not be asked to stand for too long uncovered under strong sunlight. They can wear tinted glasses to reduce the discomfort caused by the glaring sun. Children who require spectacles should wear plastic glasses.

Specific Teaching Strategies for Mild and Moderate Low Vision Children

(1) Training In Visual Efficiency

Children with residual vision should receive training in visual efficiency. This includes figure-ground discrimination, shape constancy, perception of letters and words, visual memory, eye-hand coordination, use of visual aids, use of lighting, etc.

(2) Favourable Visual Environment

The teacher should provide a favourable visual environment in the classroom for the children. In all learning materials provided for the children, attention has to be given to quality in terms of good contrasts and appropriate print sizes and spacing. The paper used should not be glossy. There should not be too many colours on one page or this will confuse the children.

(3) Way to Help Reading

The children should be encouraged to read with book-stands so that they do not have to bend over the table for too long. Reading with page markers and reading windows will be helpful to the children, who find it difficult to focus on a word or a line of print.  Lamps with variable light intensity and position can provide the children with suitable lighting for reading.

(4) Way to help Writing

Writing may be a great problem to many mild and moderate low vision children. Black felt pens or soft dark pencils can be used with bold-line paper for writing. The children can also be taught to type or use a computer for writing. Long sessions of desk work should also be avoided to prevent the children from visual fatigue.

(5) Way to Save Vision

The children should be asked to use close vision and intermediate vision at alternate intervals so that they can relax visually. Since these children are unable to see demonstrations and writing from the distance, they should be encouraged to make proper use of optical or technical aids in order to see clearly.

Specific Teaching Strategies for Totally Blind and Severe Low Vision Children

(1) Medium of Literacy

As visually impaired children are not able to use print as a means of communication,  Braille has to be used instead. Before the children are ready for braille reading, training in the development of tactile sensitivity of the hand is important. Training in long and short term memory to retain the impression of configuration of symbols is helpful to the development of reading readiness. English and Chinese braille should be taught as early as the children are ready to learn them.

A good braille reader usually moves his fingers lightly along the braille line without regression. High level of concentration and comprehension is required in speed reading. The teacher should discourage reading by scrubbing movement, lip movement and sub-vocalization. Braille writing is usually introduced with the Brailler. Writing with a hand frame should be introduced later when the children need to write short notes.

(2) Developing Skills in Other Modalities

Tactile Skills

Direct contact by means of touch is the only way in which totally blind and severe low vision children can learn about form and texture. Thus the way in which the hands are used for exploration is significant. The teacher should understand the importance of tactile perception in the children's development. Guided tactile manipulation and exploration with supportive language can help the children to establish concepts such as rough, smooth, hard, soft, etc.

Encouragement should be given to increase the range of investigations by using different tactile strategies such as scanning with a flat hand, manipulation with fingers and the thumb, etc. Visually impaired children need to have maximum opportunities for first-hand exploration of objects.

 Auditory Skills

For children with defective vision it is important to be able to listen critically and with concentration to auditory information. The teacher may offer programmes that encourage the children to pay attention to auditory materials and provide tape-recorded materials instead of, or in addition to, printed or braille texts. The teacher can devise listening activities to reinforce what has been learnt.


4.4. Expanded Core Curriculum-- Concept and Areas

Students with visual impairments are a heterogeneous group. Some have mild vision impairments while others are totally blind. Some have visual impairment as their only disability, while others haveadditional sensory, cognitive and/or physical challenges. Some students were sighted at one time, while others have never had vision.

Of the many ways that impaired vision affects learning, the three that have the most impact on education are:

Need for experiential learning. Even before sighted babies learn to crawl, they watch and visually organize their world. They begin to categorize objects in their environment as large or small, same or different, rough or smooth. They attempt to find a way to come into contact with objects out of arms’ reach. When a child has a vision impairment, he or she often depends on the intervention of parents, teachers, and others to experience objects that are not within reach. A system for organizing

Development of alternative skills. Most areas of the public school curriculum have been developed with sighted students in mind. Modifications and accommodations, such as instruction in reading and writing through Braille, using optical devices with standard print, using auditory materials for learning, and reading tactual graphics, can be made so that students who are blind or visually impaired have access to the general curriculum.

Learning to access information that is acquired casually and incidentally by sighted learners. In addition to the general education that all students receive, students with visual impairments, starting at birth, need an expanded core curriculum (ECC) to meet needs directly related to their vision disability (NASDSE, 1999). These expanded curriculum areas include instruction in such areas as social interaction skills, orientation and mobility (O&M) skills, and independent living skills.

The Expanded Core Curriculum (Ecc)

For children who are blind or visually impaired, evaluations to document the present level of academic achievement and functional performance for the development of the IEP are required by IDEA 2004. The term ECC is used to define concepts and skills that are typically learned incidentally by sighted students and that must be sequentially presented to the student who is blind or has low vision. An ECC may include:

·        needs that result from the visual impairment to enable the student “to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and

·        other educational needs that result from the child’s disability.

The presence of a visual impairment requires that these skills be thoroughly evaluated and systematically taught to students by teachers with specialized expertise. Without specialized instruction, children with vision loss may not be aware of the activities of their peers or acquire other critical information about their surroundings.

As the IEP is being developed, the following knowledge and skills related to the ECC should be considered:

Compensatory Skills are needed to access the general curriculum. Access to literacy through Braille and/or print, handwriting skills and auditory skills is required by the regulations implementing IDEA 2004.

Sensory Efficiency, Including Visual, Tactual And Auditory Skills: Students who are blind and students with low vision need systematic instruction to learn efficient use of their senses. Instruction in visual efficiency must be individually designed and may include using visual gaze to make choices, tracking car movements when crossing the street, responding to visual cues in the environment, and/or using optical devices such as magnifiers and telescopes.

Orientation And Mobility: Safe and efficient travel throughout the environment is a critical component in the education of students with visual impairments. O&M evaluation and instruction should begin in infancy with basic spatial concepts and purposeful and exploratory movement. Instruction should then progress through more independent, age appropriate motor and travel skills in increasingly complex environments.

Skills In Using Assistive Technology: Technology permits students with visual impairments to access the general curriculum, to increase literacy options, and to enhance communication. There are a variety of high- and lowtech assistive technology tools designed specifically for students with visual impairments that require specialized instruction.

Social Skills: A visual impairment can socially isolate a student, impede typical social interactions, or limit social skill development. A student with a visual impairment who is not able to see facial expressions and subtle body language to participate in conversations and activities may experience awkward and confusing interactions.

Independent Living Skills: Home living, self-determination, vocational goals, community access skills, and appropriate interpersonal/social skills are critical for successful transition from school to independent living and employment.

Recreation And Leisure Skill:. Students with visual impairments need to be taught recreation and leisure activities that they can enjoy as children and throughout their lives.

Career Education: Students with visual impairments need to be taught about the variety of types of work and career options that are available since they cannot casually observe people in different job roles.

Self-Determination: Self-determination includes personal decision-making, self-advocacy, and assertiveness based on an understanding of one’s abilities and related needs. These skills lead to competence, as opposed components of positive self-esteem. Specialized instruction in developing self-determination skills can help students participate meaningfully in their educational and transition planning and make positive adult lifestyle, job, and other life choices upon graduation.

4.5. Commonly Used Low Cost and Advanced Assistive Devices

Assistive devices for the visually impaired can be divided into the following six categories:

1.     Educational Devices

2.     Mobility Devices

3.     Vocational Devices

4.     Daily Living Devices

5.     Low Vision Devices

6.     Psychological Tests for Vocational Assessment and Training

Educational Devices

The educational devices can be further classified into the following broad eight categories:

·        Braille Duplicators and Writers: ‘Indutherm’ is an indigenous semi-automatic Braille duplicating machine. It is useful for taking out multiple copies of the Braille matter on the Indutherm (or Braillon) sheets from the master generally prepared on the Braille paper. This machine operates on the principle of vacuum and high temperature.

·        Writing Devices:

i.                    Interline Braille Frame: is used for writing standard character interline Braille. The frame comprises a wooden board, a metal guide, a reversible paper clamp and a stylus. The clamp fits at the top of the board and has a small swivel stud for locking and holding Braille paper. When one side of the paper has been Brailled, the clamp with the paper still held, is turned over as 200 201 a unit. The binding margin is made automatically.

ii.                 Taylor Postcard Frame: It is used for writing small character Braille on one side of the paper. The corner pins are arranged in such a way that the Braille can be read without removing the paper from the frame; when the top section is lifted, the paper remains attached to it.

iii.               Pocket Braille Frame: The four-line pocket Braille frame produces small character Braille on one side of the Braille paper. This is specially used for making small and occasional notes.

iv.               Stylii: These are produced with handles of various shapes to suit individual needs. The points of all stylii are made of stainless steel and the handles are of polished hardwood or synthetic material.

v.                 Braille Kit: is a rexine coated or a decorative wood box 36 Cms. by 28.5 Cms. with a weight of 3085 Gms.

·        Braille Paper: The standard size of Braille paper is 22"X28" and weight 8.6 kg. per gross.

·        Talking Books and Tape Recorders: The material recorded on cassettes has emerged to be the most popular mode of imparting education to visually impaired persons. As Braille books are very heavy and many newly blind persons are not able to learn Braille easily, talking books are emerging to be the most viable alternative. The blind people can use Digital Tapeless Recorder alone without someone’s help. It has a special voice prompt for the blind which includes a voice guide, easy research mode, volume adjustment and option for use of earphone.

·        Reading Machines: A portable optical scanner that reads type-set or type-written text and turns it into speech.

Mobility Devices

·        Symbol Canes: Made of sections of light metal tubing, generally aluminum or its alloys, joined through the center by means of an elastic cord. The canes fold up conveniently for carrying in the pocket or handbag. When required for use, the top section is held and others automatically fall into position.

·        Guide Canes: A stronger version of the symbol cane and intended to be more of a mobility aid but not a means of support. The four sections, covered with ribbed plastic sleeving, are joined through the center by means of an elastic cord enclosed in nylon sleeving. It is fitted with an elastic loop handle and a standard nylon tip.

·        Long Canes: A wooden or aluminum stick of 85 to 90 centimeters.

·        Electronic Travel Devices: An ETA is described as a device that sends out signals to sense the environment within a certain range or distance, processes the information received and furnishes the person with relevant information about the environment. Most of these devices are based on integrated circuits and emit sound or tactile signals.

·        Mobility Show Card: A plastic show card to help visually impaired persons to cross busy roads and to hail a taxi.

·        Mini Beeper: A battery operated, hand-held electronic gadget having application in mobility, recreation, sports and obstacle location.