Children with visual impairments often require physical and programming adaptations to be made to their educational setting. Children should be encouraged and provided with opportunities to be independent. Repetition and routines can help a child to understand their visual environment, and if changes are needed they should be made slowly to allow the child to adjust. In order for children to maximize their skills, they must feel comfortable, safe, and secure within their surroundings. Consistent arrangement of the environment can support children with a visual impairment.
- edges of steps should be highlighted with contrasting paint or plastic nosings (plastic protectors that fit on to corners of furniture)
- slanted floor surfaces should be highlighted in contrasting colours
- windows should have blinds that are effective in reducing glare
- sitting in areas of bright sunlight should be avoided
- furniture should be kept in the same place as a predictable environment is necessary
- equipment should be kept in one place for consistency and be clearly marked
- frequently used equipment should be at the child’s level
- wall displays should be uncluttered, clearly presented, and positioned at the child’s eye level
- signs indicating different rooms (e.g., “washroom”, should be positioned at the child’s eye level)
- doors and walls should be painted in different colours to provide a contrast
- door knobs and light switches should be highlighted in different colours
- equipment pieces in the playground area should be different colours
- different floor finishes should be used to identify separate areas (e.g., carpet in classrooms or tiled flooring in corridors, mats at door entrances, and exits to buildings)
- corridors should be free of obstacles (e.g., chairs, tables)
- “diffused strip lighting” is preferred
- children with visual impairments rely on auditory information for some part of their learning. Books on tape or CD, spoken output from the computer, and use of tape recorders provide a quick means of access that has the advantage of being meaningful to sighted peers.
- low vision optical and video aids enable many partially sighted, low vision, and blind children to participate in regular class activities.
- large print materials and Braille books are also available.
- provide contrast in colour between an object and its background.
- children with visual impairments need opportunities for direct experiences with materials and objects because they do not gain information from pictures. The opportunity to pat an animal, to stand in sand, or touch paint will be more valuable than only relying on verbal descriptions.
Children with visual impairments vary in their learning abilities and needs. Educational support from a professional in visual impairment is beneficial to assist in the development of appropriate programming for the child.
As the child grows older, it is important for him to have contact with adults who are visually impaired and to have the opportunity to participate in regular work experiences. Not only must education provide information access, but it must also help him develop the skills needed to make decisions and experience the results of these decisions. Educators and families should resist the temptation to provide assistance where it is not needed; only through initiative and experience will a child understand his own capabilities and develop a realistic plan for his future.