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Teacher modifications for students with visual impairments

Posted by Sarah Salmon on Saturday, 7 September 2019
Sarah Salmon
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Adapting books and classroom activities to make them accessible to all learners needn't be as complex and time-consuming as first appears.

To help create a classroom environment of success, there are three simple ways to help modify reading materials for students who suffer from visual difficulties, including:

1. Modifying the images

2. Modifying the book

3. Modifying the text

Before embarking on modifying the materials in your classroom, it's important to identify your specific goals or objectives and how these can work alongside the abilities and specific needs of your students.

girl exploring

To appropriately adapt and modify classroom materials, decide what the main focus of the book is, what concepts and identified as well as the range of vocabulary, printed text and imagery used throughout.

Modifying the images

Some simple ideas of modifying the use of imagery and pictures in your classroom text include:

  • Certain children prefer particular colours. Outlining or filling in an image in the colour they like will help encourage them to keep their gaze on the appropriate places on the page. 

  • Decrease the visual clutter on the page by simplifying the background around the image or text. By placing the focused text or image on a high contrast background like black paper, it will keep the focus on what you're trying to highlight.

  • Many children can enhance their learning and understanding through touch and texture. Tactile or textured books can bring images and pictures to life. For example, using a feather to represent a bird or a piece of cotton to represent a t-shirt helps bring the characters to life to children who cannot "see" them on the page. Objects and tactile touch heightens engagement from students as it enables them to relate to the story being told. 
children with braille

Modifying the book

Manipulating the book itself to make it more tactile and easy to hold can help increase engagement by encouraging enjoyment and exploration from students.

Making the pages thicker by printing on pieces of card or backing pages on cardboard makes it easier for students to hold and explore the pages. This along with 3D 'tactile' pieces like pasta shapes and sandpaper encourages them to continue turning the pages of specific books.

girl touching objects

Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI)

This is used to describe a visual impairment that often occurs due to brain injury. Caused by damage to the visual centres of the brain means that students suffering from CVI can often see what's in front of them but the brain is not able to interpret what is being seen.

Some typical characteristics of CVI and their effect on literacy implementation include:

  • Preference for a specific colour
    Bright red and yellow are often favourites but some children may prefer other bright colours such as blue, pink or green. Consider what colour you can use for classroom materials.

  • Need or preference for movement
    Some children with CVI need some movement to see an object. Consider incorporating a moving wheel or balloon when a child is trying to read.

  • Visual latency/ delayed response
    Children with CVI may take longer to look and register an object.
    It's important to give your students enough time to understand when presenting materials or objects.
  • Difficulty with visual complexity
    Simplicity is key for children with CVI. Creating simplicity around an object or text eliminates the noise or any other background interference that may distract from the visual task.

  • Visual field preferences
    Looking at objects in a particular direction is common for many children with CVI. Consider whether your students prefer students presented in their periphery rather than turning their heads to look.

furry book

  • Light-gazing and non-purposeful gazing
    Children with CVI will often stare at lights. Consider controlling the lighting in your classroom environment if you find students often looking out of windows or looking at things without intent.
  • A difficulty with distance viewing
    A difficulty with seeing far away objects is a common occurrence in children with CVI. Consider how close your present objects to your students.
  • Preference for familiar objects
    Due to the difficulty that children with CVI have in processing information they see with their eyes, they often prefer familiar objects that their brains have processed before. 

  • Visual blink reflex impairment
    Many children with CVI have a delayed protective blink response when an object comes close to their eyes or bridge of their noses. 

  • An absence of visually guided reach
    Often children with CVI will look away from an object and then reach for it. Consider the importance of cues, prompts and any extra time that is needed for students to respond. 

Modifying the text

Modifications to the text needn't be time-consuming or difficult. Some simple ways to help adapt the text in a classroom reading with mixed-ability children include:

1. Simplifying the text and use of vocabulary by rewriting the text

2. Using images, pictures and symbols to help support ideas and meaning. 

3. Enlarging the text on the pages

boy reading

All children, regardless of ability or disability, have the ability to learn if we identify and meet the requirements they need. Providing effective and appropriate modifications to these materials can help enhance their learning experience and opportunity for growth development.


About our Author


Sarah Salmon

Digital Marketing Executive

With a background in social media management and editorial writing for jewellery and gemological education, Sarah is the Digital Marketing Executive at Opogo.

Sarah has extensive experience in facilitating the sourcing of industry research, editing copy, writing web content and utilising social media to secure an ever-growing social audience.

Sarah is the voice of Opogo across all our social channels.


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