Students Who Are Blind or Have Visual Impairments
Notetaking is the single support service most frequently used by students with disabilities. Notetaking provides students access to course content in a way no other service can duplicate. Students who are blind or have visual impairments experience difficulty with writing notes, especially if there is board work involved. By using a notetaker, the student is able to obtain a copy of class notes.
- Most notetakers are student peers, usually classmates, who provide a carbon copy or photocopy of notes to the student with the disability.
- The student with the disability, Office of Disability Services (ODS), or the professor may recruit the notetaker. This process is confidential, and the student with the disability should only be identified to the person agreeing to provide notes.
- The notetaker may receive training from ODS.
- More than one notetaker may be required, in order to ensure that the student gets class notes in the event of the designated note taker's absence.
- Occasionally, it is not possible to obtain a volunteer notetaker. If the professor and student with the disability were unable to locate a volunteer notetaker, ODS should be contacted immediately so that a notetaker can be hired.
- A paid notetaker may be full or part-time staff. Often, the paid notetaker is a student worker who previously took the class, did well, and possesses good notetaking skills.
- Paid notetakers often "clean up" notes after class and may convert the notes to an alternate format if needed.
- Paid notetakers may also function as a reader/scribe for students who are blind or have a visual impairment. This is most likely to occur in a class that focuses heavily on in-class reading/writing and/or is highly visual in content.
Tips for Facilitating Better Notes
Most of these tips benefit all students in the class.
- When writing on the board, speak specifically about what you are writing. For example, say 2 + 2 = 4, not this plus that equals this.
- During class discussions, identify students that you call on by name so that the student who is blind can identify who is speaking.
- Provide students who are blind or visually impaired a copy or disk of all overheads.
- Speak clearly and use transitions to signal topic changes and relationships.
- Be sure to leave notes, diagrams, graphs, etc. on the board long enough for the notetaker to copy them or provide a handout.
- Write numbers and difficult or foreign names and vocabulary on the board.
- Write complete assignments on the board, including dates, page and exercise numbers (where applicable).
- Provide the notetaker a copy of all handouts, including syllabi, agendas, and assignment sheets.
- Some professors may find it convenient and useful to provide a copy of lecture notes to the paid notetaker. Note: These notes should not be copied or distributed without the professor's permission.
- Encourage the use of assistive technology for notetaking, when appropriate. Notetaking technology includes, but is not limited to, tape recorders, Braille notetaking devices, slate and stylus for Braille, low vision aids (such as magnifying devices), and laptop computers.
- Encourage students to ask questions if they do not understand or need to have information repeated.
- Invite students to meet with you during office hours if there are questions or concerns that are best discussed in private.
Northeast Technical Assistance Center; Rochester Institute of Technology; National Technical Institute for the Deaf; 521 Lomb Memorial Drive; Rochester, NY 14623-5604.