Visual Impairment

What is Visual Impairment?

Approximately 500,000 Americans have vision impairment to the point where they are considered "legally blind." However, there are several degrees of visual impairment.

  1. Visual acuity 20/200: the average person can see up to 200 ft away, while the legally blind person can only see at 20 ft.
  2. Low vision: vision that is limited or diminished and cannot be corrected by standard lenses.
  3. Partial Sight: A person whose vision is impaired due to an illness, trauma, or degenerative syndrome.

Only 2 % of people with visual impairments are totally blind. Most people have some scope of vision.

Blind students have the ability to gain access to information through a variety of different methods. Students can use Braille, taped texts, readers, raised line drawings, talking computer terminals and other such equipment.

Partially sighted students have similar ways to access information. They may use material with larger print, magnifying devices, and large print computer terminals. Although some students are able to take notes in class by printing large letters, others may find it more helpful to tape record lectures or notetakers.

How can the professor help?

In order to enhance the student’s learning experience and increase the accessibility of the course material, we suggest the following strategies. Please be reminded that these are only general recommendations meant to support other accommodations.


  • Have copies of the syllabus & other relevant course material ready 3 to 5 weeks in advance so documents are available for enlarging or Braille transcription.
  • Arrange to provide student with alternate formats of the material. The student will advise you as to the format.
  • Repeat aloud what is written on the board or on overheads.
  • When necessary ask another student to assist a visually impaired student with in-class assignments.
  • Keep a front row seat open for the student.
  • Be flexible with deadlines if assignments are held up by the document conversion process.
  • When in doubt, ask the student how you can best assist him or her.

It is important to remember that there is a wide range of abilities among visually impaired students. Some students may benefit where others do not from certain services. Most students however will require some adaptations for taking exams. Such accommodations may include: Braille or large-print text, a reader, a scribe, or a computer. Students may also need extended time on tests, especially if they are reading the test themselves.

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