Module: Low Vision (Page 1 of 10)


  1. Definition
  2. Manifestation
  3. Institutional Accommodations
  4. Assistive Technology Accommodations
  5. Teaching Strategies—
    What Can Faculty Do?
    1. Specific Strategies per Disability
    2. General Strategies
    3. Shaping the Environment
  6. Learning Strategies—
    What Can Students do?
  7. Resources
  8. Feedback


Low vision is a term that denotes a level of vision that is 20/70 or worse and cannot be fully corrected with conventional glasses. Low vision differs from blindness in that a person with low vision has some useful sight as opposed to no sight.


Impaired sight exhibited by:

  • Low recognition of objects from a distance (chalkboard, street signs) and/or up close (reading, using materials, writing, seeing labels).
  • Inability or low level of ability to differentiate between colors (particularly in the green-blue-violet range) on handouts, in textbooks, signs, etc.
  • Difficulty clearly seeing computer screens.
  • Slower navigation of new environments.

Institutional Accommodations

  1. Priority registration
    • Additional time allows for the conversion of text books and print materials to alternative formats.
  2. Alternative testing arrangements
    • This may include extra time, a less distracting environment, provision of a reader/scribe, and use of a computer, including adaptive software and hardware.
  3. Note taking support
  4. Adaptive lab equipment (talking thermometers, calculators, probes, timers)
  5. Inform students of electronic and community resources that provide educational and professional books in an accessible format  
  6. Provision of Resource Information
    • Inform students of electronic and community resources that offer educational and professional books in an accessible format.

Teaching Strategies—What Can Faculty do?

Specific Strategies

Be descriptive during lecture
Be sure to describe any visuals used during lecture. When referring to thoughts or ideas shown on a projector, board, chart or table use formal or descriptive words that provide auditory learning as well as visual learning. As a reminder, think in terms of lecturing to a group of students while also being broadcast on the radio to a larger audience. To experience the difference try only listening to a sports broadcast on the television compared to listening to a sports broadcast on the radio.
Explain all images, charts and diagrams in descriptive text
For more information and tips on how to do this, see Training Modules and Tutorials on this website
Provide advance notice when there is a change of venue
If there is a change in the location of a class, lab or recitation session, provide ample notice so that the student can familiarize him or herself to the new location ahead of time.
Eliminate any unnecessary changes to the layout of the classroom
If it is necessary to rearrange the classroom for specific activities, give the student advance warning so that they know what to expect.
Be thoughtful when pairing or grouping students
If students are asked to work in pairs or groups try to place students with alternative needs with those that are mature enough to respect the student and work effectively in a collaborative fashion to complete assignments.
Provide materials ahead of time
Provide students with all course materials (for labs, lectures, etc.) far enough in advance so that students have the opportunity for the Disability Service Office to convert them into an alternative format; thus, allowing the student to have equal access to all the class materials at the appropriate time.
Record lectures
Provide a recorded audio version of lectures.

General Strategies

Provide Accessible Course Materials
Ensure that all curriculum materials (syllabus, notes, presentations, assignments, etc.) are available in an accessible format that can be used and manipulated by a computer (Word, HTML, RTF, PDF, etc.). To learn how to create accessible materials, see Training Modules and Tutorials on this website.
Plan Ahead
Select textbooks and materials needed for the semester as early as possible.  Students with disabilities will need time to take class materials to the Disability Service Office for conversion to an alternative format.
Provide Structure
Provide a syllabus and class assignments with clearly delineated expectations and due dates.
Provide Guided Notes on the Web
Prior to lectures, provide students with consistent, structured notes that are in an accessible format. Since students with disabilities sometimes have more difficulty than others in processing new information (especially while simultaneously trying to take notes), having notes ahead of time will increase students’ ability to follow along during class and more effectively process course content. If it is not acceptable for all students to have lecture notes ahead of time, make alternative arrangements for students with disabilities such as emailing lecture notes to the student(s) or setting up an office mailbox where the student(s) can receive notes ahead of time.
Provide Multiple Methods of Presentation
Present information and ideas in multiple ways in order to address different learning styles.
Engage students in multiple ways of learning
Incorporate active teaching/learning methods where possible. For example, problem-based learning activities, community projects, in-class activities and discussions, etc.
Encourage Multiple Methods of Expression
Offer more than one way for students to demonstrate what they have learned in class. For example, students can be given a choice between taking a test, writing a paper, giving an oral presentation, producing a video, etc. Additionally, keep in mind that some students may have difficulty working in a group. Alternative ways of completing a group assignment may need to be considered.
Repeat or paraphrase questions and responses so that the whole class can hear.
This is especially important in large classrooms and when a microphone is used during live and taped presentations.
Highlight Key Points
Provide an overview when introducing a new topic, and highlight key points in a variety of ways throughout class lessons and in written materials. Use visual, verbal and interactive cues for added emphasis. This helps students know what to expect and what is most important, thus improving their ability to achieve the learning objectives.
Summarize Key Points
Summarizing key points at the end of each class will increase the student’s ability to process and integrate new information.
Chunk Information
Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments (“chunking”).
Provide Study Aids
Provide study questions, study guides, and opportunities for questions and answers to help students review and clarify essential course content.
Allow the use of digital recorders
Provide students the opportunity to process and review class material at their own pace, both after class and later during the semester. Review of material in this manner is especially helpful in preparation for mid-term and final exams.
Engage with Students who Self Advocate
Team up with students with disabilities (who disclose their accommodation needs) to determine a plan that is effective for all involved.

Shaping the Environment

Seating and Positioning
Encourage the student to sit near the front of the classroom, away from doors, air conditioning units, etc., so that they can easily hear the instructor.
Provide Signage
Make sure the learning environment is properly labeled for a student with low vision.

Learning Strategies—What Can the Student do?

Advocate for self
Connect with the disability service office to learn about available services and supports. Communicate with instructors about personal learning style and any individual accommodations that are being requested. Students should also be encouraged to read the ACCESS Self-Advocacy Handbook for College Students with Disabilities, available on this website.
Contact Assistive Technology (AT) Resources
Before classes begin, communicate with AT staff members to ask about borrowing video magnifiers or to discuss campus locations where you will need low vision software installed.
Identify Additional Resources
Numerous organizations provide textbooks and leisure books in electronic format once the student is a member (free or nominal fee). The Disability Service Office and Assistive Technology Office can assist students in locating relevant community resources.
Peer Support
Seek the peer support of other students with disabilities. Refer to the Disability Service Office for information about peer support groups.
Record Class Lectures:
Ask professors for permission to record class lectures.
Plan Ahead
In order to have required course materials at the start of each semester, communicate with professors about required text books for each class, purchase books early, and bring them to Disability Service Office with ample time for conversion to an alternative format.
Use Peer Support
Seek the peer support of other students with disabilities. Refer to the Disability Service Office for information about peer support groups. Also, considder forming or joining a study group with classmates who are considerate of diverse learning needs.

Resources — Low Vision

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Programs, services, and products for people who are visually impaired.
Lighthouse Guild
Vision Loss: Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask!, a large-print booklet designed for adults who have vision loss and their caregivers that answers common questions about vision conditions and the impact of vision loss.
Low Vision Gateway
The Low Vision Gateway is promoted as “your starting point to the world's resources for vision loss, vision-impairment, blindness, low vision aids and low vision rehabilitation services.”

Resources — Blindness

American Council of the Blind
An organization of blind and visually impaired people.
American Foundation for the Blind
Information, resources, and consultation in the areas of education, employment, and special products for individuals with visual impairments.
American Printing House for the Blind
Products for students with visual impairments including math textbooks, tactile graphics kit, rulers, and graph sheets
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Programs, services, and products for people who are visually impaired.
NYISE's Blindness Resource Center
Provides programs for children who are blind or visually disabled.
Provides resource information related to blindness and visual impairments.
Science Access Project
A project to enhance the ability of people with print disabilities to read, write, and manipulate information, with a focus on math equations, information normally presented in tables and graphs, and information presented in diagrams and figures.
U.S. National Federation of the Blind
Education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, literature and publications, adaptive equipment, advocacy services, job opportunities and support for blind people and their families.
Working Together: Computers and People with Sensory Impairments
Video presentation and publication featuring computer technology for people with visual and hearing impairments.

General Disability Resources

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
ADA Home Page (U.S. Department of Justice)
ERIC Digest
Overview of ADA, IDEA, and Section 504
Equal Access to Software and Information (EASI)
Workshops, publications, and resources about computer access for people with disabilities
University of Washington - Disability-Related Resources on the Internet
A comprehensive list of Web sites and discussion lists related to disability.
Faculty Room
The Faculty Room is a site for faculty and administrators at postsecondary institutions to learn about how to create classroom environments and activities that maximize the learning of all students, including those with disabilities. This page is specific to faculty rights.
PACER Center – Champions for Children with Disabilities
ADA Q& A: Section 504 & Postsecondary Education
U.S Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Three documents by the Office of Civil Rights describing the rights of wounded warriors to a postsecondary education under the new GI Bill:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),
Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
Discrimination on the Basis of Disability
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

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