Blind & Vision Impaired

Blind & Vision Impaired - what is it?

  • A lot of people don’t realise that most visionimpaired people can see something, or thathow much someone can see will vary fromperson to person. A minority of people candistinguish light but nothing else. Somepeople have no central vision, others have no side vision. Some people seeeverything as a vague blur; others see a patchwork of blanks and definedareas.Different eye conditions create different difficulties. Very few people are totally blind.
  • Don’t assume that a person who has enough vision to do one thing can see enough to do everything.


172 students or 2% of the student population registered with disabilities in Higher Education in Ireland are blind or have a vision impairment (AHEAD, 2011).

Impact on Learning

  • Student may have difficulty seeing print, presentations and blackboards.
  • Student may have difficulty following lectures with a heavy emphasis on visual aids (i.e. diagrams, tables, pictures and overheads).
  • Student may have slower speed of reading, or difficulty reading for long periods.
  • Student may have slower speed of work when using magnification or specialist software.
  • Student may have problems with orientation and mobility (laboratories, field trips). Changes to the timetable or room changes can be problematic.
  • Student may have adjustment problems if diagnosed recently (both practical and emotional).

How can you help?

The effect of a vision impairment varies widely, depending on the condition, its progress and the person’s coping skills. Depending on the individual, it may be appropriate to consider some of the following guidelines:

  • Please refer to the Guidelines on Inclusive Teaching and Assessment.
  • Greet a person by saying your name, as he or she may not recognise your voice. Do not ask or expect them to guess who you are, even if they know you.
  • Do not go out of your way to avoid using phrases such as “see you later” or “it’s great to see you“– people who are blind or vision impaired say these things too.
  • A person using a cane or guide dog has only one hand free for opening doors and carrying belongings. Offer assistance if you think it is needed but do not be offended if your offer is refused.
  • NEVER make a fuss of, or feed, a guide dog – he or she is working and should not be distracted when in harness. Always ask the owner’s permission first.
  • When guiding a person who is blind or vision impaired, walk slightly ahead of them, allowing them to take your arm just above the elbow.
  • Mention any stairs (saying whether they are up or down), or obstacles in advance.
  • When walking with a person who uses a cane or a guide dog adjust your pace to match theirs.
  • Reading lists should be provided well in advance to allow for conversion of books into the appropriate format for the student.
  • Reading lists should be prioritised, as conversion of books into an alternative format is a time consuming and expensive task.
  • Lecture notes and hand-outs should be provided in advance on Blackboard and in the student’s preferred format or in a format that can be easily converted by the student.
  • Convey orally whatever you have written on the board or shown on overheads.
  • If you are planning to use a video tell the student and discuss alternative ways to approach the information that the student may miss.
  • Allow the student to record your lecture if necessary.
  • Ensure that notes and printed materials are clearly produced so that they can be more easily read, scanned or magnified. Lecture notes and hand-outs should have a clear plain font type, for example Arial, and a large font, minimum size 14. Hand-outs should use paper with a matt finish to reduce reflection and glare.
  • Produce large, clear, bold diagrams with a strong contrast in colour between the diagram and the paper.
  • Allow additional time to deliver assignments as students with sight loss may take extra time to read written material.
  • Encourage other students to aid and support their colleague.
  • If in doubt about anything, ask the student.

Figures, maps and diagrams

Many people with sight loss can benefit from visual material such as figures, maps, diagrams, graphs, tables and pictures. Below are some guidelines to assist you in their usage.

  • Describe diagrams verbally.
    Ensure that appropriate lighting is used to assist people to see more clearly. Produce large, bold, clear diagrams with a strong contrasting colour between the print and the paper. The lines in a flow chart or illustration should be thick, dark and clear.
  • Some two-dimensional diagrams such as bar graphs and pie charts may be suitable for reproducing as tactile diagrams.
  • Liaise with the Disability Support Service who will convert visual material to tactile formats.

Supports available through DSS

  • When the student registers with the Disability Support Service they receive a detailed needs assessment report
  • It is a collaborative document between the student and the disability advisor, parts of which are circulated to their department.
  • This report details the supports that the student needs at higher level
  • The Disability Support Service will also put in place, exam accommodations, assistive technology, and should the student require, act as an advocate on their behalf.

Assistive Technology Lab -The Assistive Technology (AT) Lab is located on the ground floor of the Boole Library, UCC. The lab is available to students registered with the Disability Support Service. It is an open access facility with the latest range of technologies and software to assist students with disabilities. The AT Lab offers an Alternative Media Formats Service to students who are Blind/Vision Impaired. Liaise with Linda Doran, Assistive Technology officer and Disability Advisor to Students who are Blind/Vision Impaired for information and guidance on inclusion of students in the learning environment.


Reasonable Accommodations

  • Provide lecture notes in advance.
  • Be flexible with deadlines where possible. Using magnification and assistive technology decreases reading and writing speed.
  • Physical environment - Try to keep the physical environment consistent. Blind or visually impaired students may develop mental schemas of how rooms are laid out which make them easier for them to navigate. If you intend to alter the layout of a room drastically then try to inform the student beforehand and offer them the opportunity to readjust to the new layout.

General classroom strategies 

  • Face the class when speaking and make sure whatever is written on the board is also communicated verbally.
  • Permit lectures to be taped.
  • Plan field trips and internships well in advance and alert field supervisors to whatever adaptations may be needed.
  • Team the student with a sighted classmate or laboratory assistant.

Recommendations for Examination Accommodations

  • Use of a computer with appropriate magnification / screen reading software for vision impaired students.
  • Use of scribe. Provision of a scribe should be a temporary support until the student’s keyboard skills improve.
  • Extra time 10 minutes per hour.
  • Examination paper available in correct format – enlarged text, Braille etc.
  • Reader.

Disability Support Service

Seirbhís Tacaíochta do Dhaoine faoi Mhíchumas

South Lodge, UCC, College Road, Cork