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Blindness

  • Common Characteristics
  • Challenges
  • Possible Accommodations
  • Note

    Common Characteristics
    Blind students are usually perceptive to the feelings of others because they have learned to listen and interpret nuances in voices. Other than that, they are just like everyone else. They want to be treated with respect and don't want pity. By the time they have reached college, they have become independent and determined individuals.

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    Challenges
    The biggest problem facing blind students is the overwhelming mass of printed material with which they are confronted. Textbooks, class outlines, class schedules, bibliographies, campus newspapers, posters, tests, mail, etc. bombard them. The increasing use of films, videos, overhead projectors and closed-circuit television adds to the volume of visual material, which they must access.

    Most blind students use a combination of readers, Braille, audio taped lectures and books and commercially recorded texts. Students may use raised line drawings of diagrams, charts and illustrations; relief maps and three-dimensional models of physical organs, shapes, microscopic organisms, etc. Modern technology has made available other aids for blind people including talking calculators, paperless Braille machines, Braille computer terminals, talking computers and reading machines. Many blind students who use Braille prefer to take their own notes in class using a slate and stylus or a brailler. Other students have a classmate make a copy of his or her notes, which are read into a tape recorder. Some blind students audio record lectures and later transcribe notes from them into Braille.

    Dog guides are used by some blind students. Dog guides are well trained and disciplined and will not disturb the class. Most of the time they will lie quietly under or beside the table or desk. The greatest disruption a faculty member can expect may be an occasional yawn or stretch (from the dog).

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    Possible Accommodations

    1. Choose texts early
    so that students can have time to order and receive books on tape. Sometimes there is as much as a 6-8 week delay in receiving the tapes.

    2. Use specific terms so the information is clear.
    For instance, a faculty member may say, "The sum of this is found here," while pointing to information on the board. The faculty member could easily say, "The sum of 3 plus 8 equals 11." The blind student in this case is getting the same information as a sighted student. The faculty member may point to a model and say, "The lungs are here and the heart there." The faculty member might be able to personalize locations by asking class members to locate them by touch on their own bodies. Examples of this type will not always be possible. However, if the faculty member is sensitized not to use strictly visual examples, the blind student and probably the rest of the class will benefit.

    3. Include blind students in off-campus trips.
    Most blind students travel quite independently and learn a great deal from the experience by using other senses. In most instances all that will be required is for a member of the class to act as a sighted guide. Usually, students quite willingly volunteer to take turns providing that service.

    4. Allow tape recording of lectures.

    5. Emphasize important information verbally, not just seen visually on the chalkboard, overhead projector or screen.

    6. Prepare early for tests.
    It is embarrassing for blind students to come to a class to take a test when accommodations have not been made. Discuss ahead of time with the person who will be reading the test to the blind student and confirm where and when it will be given. One way to administer a test without a monitor is to give the blind student two tape recorders, one with the test on tape and the other with a blank tape for him or her to record the answers. If the instructor is not concerned with test security and can rely on the honor system, a take-home quiz can be given to the blind student.

    7. Allow the blind student to sit in the same seat each class period.
    It is especially difficult for the student to become oriented if the chairs, tables and other potential hazards are moved around. One easily accessed seat reserved for the blind student will cut down on confusion and frustration for all.

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    Note

    1. Sometimes blind students become disoriented. If you see them looking confused, ask if they would like help. Do not ignore them or grab their arm without asking.

    2. When greeting blind students, identify yourself.

    3. Don't play with dog guides if they have their harnesses on. That means they are working and can easily be distracted.

    4. The words "see" and "look" are often used by the blind. Do not be embarrassed to use them. Blind students might say, "I saw your friend yesterday." They mean they talked with your friend.

    5. Include blind students in conversation and social events. Be open and honest with them about not knowing their needs. They will tell you if you can help them; remember, they have the same feelings and thoughts as others.

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  • Contact CDS Updated 03/11/02