Adapting Your Teaching for Blind Students
Blind students: as with all disabled students, direct conversation with the student is likely to yield the most specific and accurate information about what s/he needs to succeed. Make sure this happens early in the term. In addition, please consider the following:
1. Classroom Tips
- Teaching Methods: In general, keep in mind that every teaching method you use must stand on its own without being seen. In practice, this means repeating out loud what you write on the board or overhead.
- Illustrating Content: In a similar vein, make sure you verbally describe images or objects you use to illustrate your content. K College also owns two 3D printers that may be used to assist blind and visually impaired students if customized objects are required. These might include small models of sculptures, embossed maps, charts or diagrams, etc. Including the tactile experience can be of great benefit to blind and visually impaired students.
- Written Materials: Written materials you distribute and all required course readings must be in clean PDF format for blind students to fully access them. Some popular textbooks are available in audiobook form.
- Descriptive Video Services (DVS): To assist with making films accessible, consult DVS, which describes key visual elements in a program that a viewer who is blind or visually impaired would ordinarily miss. One can gain access to a limited range of films via Amazon or through the website of WGBH Boston. For films in foreign languages used in class, faculty must determine the benefit of the majority of the class hearing the performances of the original actors in the foreign language versus giving the visually impaired student access to English-language dialogue via dubbing. Visit the Media Access Group at WGBH for more information on DVS.
- Recordings: Making a recording of your class periods can be of tremendous help to both blind and deaf students. Consider allowing recordings to be made when requested.
- SMART Board technology: SMART Board technology (white boards that capture and digitize what is written on them, among other features) can be of great assistance to blind students. Notes written on these boards can be saved on the spot as PDF files, then shared with students for conversion into Braille or audio formats.
- Grading: Grading papers, exams and homework for blind students is best done in typed format using either email or MS-Word using the “track changes” function.
- Alternative Descriptions on Moodle: For blind students it will be especially important when using Moodle to fill out the alternative description section, so that screen reading technology can communicate the content of the image to the student.
2. General advice for working with blind students
- Introduce yourself and others with you each time you speak to a blind student; address the student by name
- Do not raise your voice
- It’s okay to use verbs like “look,” or “see;” blind people use these words as well, often in a metaphorical way
- While walking with a blind student, you may allow them to hold your arm above the elbow as you move at a normal pace and speed
- Don’t pet or distract a guide dog
Information adapted from Allegheny College’s page on Students who are Blind or have a Visual Impairment.
Always verify that a student has registered her/his disability with Student Development before putting accommodations in place. If you have not received an official accommodations letter, contact the Dean of Students Office at 269.337.7209.