Understanding and addressing the needs of students with visual impairments poses a unique challenge for faculty. Indeed, there is often confusion as to what it means for a person to have a visual impairment. Most people know that 20/20 vision is considered normal vision. Comparatively, a person with a visual impairment has vision not better than 20/70, with correction, in the better eye. A person who is considered legally blind has vision no better than 20/200, with correction, in the better eye. This means (s)he can see at 20 feet what a person with normal vision can see at 200 feet.
A person is also considered legally blind if his or her central vision is no larger than 12 degrees. To further complicate matters, some individuals experience vision difficulties that fluctuate, depending on other health issues. For example, a person with multiple sclerosis (MS) can have excellent vision at the beginning of the semester, and then experience an episode with MS that impacts vision to the extent that the student requires low vision aides.
People can lose their vision at birth, through genetic causes, or through illness or injuries. Each person experiences vision loss uniquely and may have differing needs. Most individuals with vision impairments are not totally blind. Some students have sufficient residual vision to be able to function independently in the classroom, with minimal accommodations. Others are only able to make out large shapes or detect light. Some students experience tunnel vision, which can mean that the student has 20/20 vision, but only able to see within a very small and limited area. The student is usually best equipped to explain his/her special needs and how to best accommodate those needs.
The Office of Disability Services is available to assist both the student and faculty in addressing the needs of students who have visual impairments. Each student should contact the ODS to schedule an appointment with the coordinator. The student must provide documentation of disability to this office, where confidential files are maintained. The ODS generates an individualized Accommodations Checklist that lists the specific accommodations that the student may use. Students are advised to schedule an appointment with each instructor to discuss their needs and accommodations.
Additionally, services for the student and faculty are provided through the Assistive Technology (AT) Lab. The Assistive Technology Lab houses specialized equipment for providing access to classes and labs, such as specialized software that enables the computer screen to become "audible" for the student who has a visual impairment. The AT Lab also converts standard print into alternative formats, such as large print and electronic text. Closed circuit televisions are also available, allowing students to view anything under magnification and to control the level of magnification and the contrast. Numerous magnification devices are available for students to check out for the semester. Software is available to enable the student to navigate the computer screen in large print.
Office of Disability Services
Eileen Cross, Coordinator
Building A, Room 130
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm