Your student and their family will understand that you cannot be expected to manage your classes entirely around the needs of one individual. However these few simple steps from teachers (and support staff) can make all the difference to the way the condition impacts on their life and education.
Though primarily written for schoolteachers, much of this information is relevant in higher education establishments. Universities and colleges also have their own dedicated support staff or groups for students with disabilities.
- Take the trouble to learn a little about the condition and to understand the current level of visual impairment in your student.
- Remember that your very best source of information about how to best help is your student. Ask him or her what they need, how they work at home, what is difficult, and what works?
- Ensure that referrals are readily made if appropriate, not just to your SEN specialist but to those responsible for pastoral case, counsellors and others able to provide practical assistance.
- Ensure that your classroom and your materials are fully accessible to students with a visual impairment or who are blind. For example, use large print where appropriate, sans-serif fonts, highly contrasting colours, and clear bold diagrams. Discuss with your student the format for materials and the layout of the classroom that is most helpful for their individual needs.
- Ensure that your support staff and others know about the condition, and that they are trained and courteous in giving assistance.
- Liaise with the students parents as appropriate to ensure a consistency of approach between the home and learning environments.
- Accessibility is of course governed very explicitly by disability discrimination legislation but it is important to give genuine support, not just to be compliant for compliance’s sake.
- Provide information clearly by voice as well as in writing, for example by reading the words on your blackboard out loud.
- Allow your student to sit wherever in the classroom is best for their level of sight loss. This might be right at the back, where tunnel vision can be used most effectively, or right at the front, in order to see things close up. It will vary, so facilitate this in every lesson.
- Think about practical things like keeping floors clear and other hazards around the class.
This section continues on the next page.