The purpose of this paper is to discuss the impact of learning for students who are vision impaired, with particular focus on challenges to teachers, interventions and classroom accommodations. The term vision impairment is defined in terms of what constitutes vision impairment. The paper focuses on students with vision impairment in terms of the impact on learning, challenges to teachers, interventions and classroom accommodations.
The term vision impairment is the umbrella term for a limitation of one or more functions of the eye (or visual system), in terms of visual acuity (sharpness or clarity), visual fields (range of sight) and colour (Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, 2012). The eye works on light rays passing through the cornea, aqueous humor, to the pupil, on to the lens via the vitreous humor and then to the retina, which connects to the optic nerve that carries signal back to the brain (Halahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2009, p. 63), thus any failure in any stage in the function of the eye leads to vision impairment (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, 2012). Visual acuity is “the ability to see fine details, usually measured with the Snellen chart” (Halahan, et al., 2009, p. 64). The Snellen chart measures “the distance normally sighted person can discriminate letters; does not predict how accurately child will be able to read print” (Halahan, et al., 2009, p. 64). Thus on an educational point of view a teacher can perform a functional vision assessment to determine a students “use of vision in everyday situations” (Halahan, et al., 2009, p. 64) .
Normal vision is 6/6 vision (Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, 2012). Vision impairments are classified as blindness or low vision by the medical profession (Halahan, et al., 2009, p. 60). Legally a person is considered legally blind if they “have total vision loss (no light perception)” and in circumstances in which vision substitution skills are relied upon (Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, 2012). In Australia, legal blindness means “that someone with vision impairment, even with glasses or contact lenses, can see an object at 6 metres that someone without vision impairment could see from 60 metres. This is called 6/60 vision” (Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, 2012). Vision impairment in children is primarily cortical visual impairment (CVI) (dysfunction in the visual cortex); retinitis pigmentosa (hereditary degeneration of the retina); tunnel vision (peripheral vision); night blindness (unable to see in low light); retinopathy of prematurity [ROP] (more blood vessels in the eye); strabismus (cross eyes) and nystagmus (rapid involuntary eye movement) (Halahan, et al., 2009, p. 67).
Children who are visually impaired can and do learn provided that there is no other underlying problem, as the ability to understand and use language is not impaired (Rosel, Caballer, Jara, & Oliver, 2009). According to Halahan, et al. (2009) there children with vision impairments are equally intelligent as sighted children (p. 68). Conceptual abilities of visually impaired students although is harder to assess as visually impaired students rely on touch (sensory learning) to conceptualise than do sighted students who “pick up a lot of visual information incidentally” (Halahan, et al., 2009, p. 68). Children with vision impairments require the same subjects and academic skills as sighted students, but in adapted ways and learn skills such as orientation and mobility (O&M); use of assistive technologies; use what residual vision effectively and efficiently and read and write in Braille (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, 2012).
Teachers face many challenges when teaching students who are visually impaired, both accommodating and modification of classroom. Motivating students who are visually impaired requires…