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«Educational Support for Students with Low Vision Presented by: Staff of the Statewide Vision Resource Centre Marion Blazé, Geoff Bowen, Annette ...»

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Educational Support for

Students with

Low Vision

Presented by:

Staff of the Statewide Vision Resource Centre

Marion Blazé, Geoff Bowen, Annette Godfrey-Magee,

Deb Lewis, Lea Nagel, Lyn Robinson and Garry Stinchcombe

Statewide Vision Resource Centre

Department of Education & Training

PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131

Ph. (03) 9841 0242 Fax (03) 9841 0878

Email: svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au

Website: www.svrc.vic.edu.au

Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au Contents The role of vision in the learning process 3 The nature and degree of vision impairment 4 What is visual acuity? 5 What is distance visual acuity? 6 Near vision – Print size 7 Simulation of vision impairment 8-9 The anatomy of the eye 10 Curriculum considerations for students with vision impairments 11 Expanded core curriculum 12-15 Aids and technology that your student may use 16-17 iPad Accessibility Features – iOS7 Update 18-20 Optimising the learning environment 21-24 Vision fatigue 25 Special Provision for students with vision impairments 26 Factors influencing successful outcomes for students with vision impairments 27 Your student(s) with low vision 28-29 To my replacement teacher 30 Further information 31 Notes page 32 SVRC contact information 33 Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au The role of vision in the learning process Vision is the primary sensory input; about 80% of learning takes place through the visual system. Vision is responsible for providing feedback about the world; it is also the unifying sense allowing sighted people to integrate their sensory experiences. At 3 months of age vision is the lead sensory modality and at 6 months it is the primary source of information about the environment.

For children with low vision, the acquisition of information about the world may be more challenging, particularly in the areas of concept development, language acquisition and movement. Children with low vision may need to learn to use alternative means and strategies for reading, writing, interacting socially and performing various daily tasks.

Though in the words of one senior student, having a vision impairment is just not that hard!

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It is important to remember that each child is a unique individual and adjustments to their educational program need to be tailored accordingly.

“Students who are entering Prep this decade will graduate during the late 2020s and early 2030s. This may seem like a long way off … and it is! As teachers, aides and parents we are preparing our children for a world we don’t really know. We need to assist each child to become independent, literate, numerate, technologically savvy, adaptable and able to participate fully in whatever the 21st Century has to offer.” – Annette Godfrey-Magee, 2013

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Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au The nature and degree of vision impairment Educators will be better able to make adjustments to accommodate the student’s learning process by developing an understanding the nature and degree of the vision loss and the educational implications of this loss for their work together in the classroom.

Vision impairment refers to a significant loss of vision in both eyes, which cannot be corrected with glasses. The degree of loss may vary significantly, which means that each student with low vision or blindness needs individual adjustments to learn most effectively.

There are two main categories of vision impairment:

 “low vision” (people with low vision may also be referred to as “partially sighted”) and  “blind” The majority of students with vision impairments have “low vision”, which means they are print users but may require special equipment and materials. These students should be encouraged to use their residual vision in their educational program as much as possible.

You may also come across the term “legally blind”. Legally blindness is used to indicate entitlement to important government and private agency services and/or funding. Students who are described as “legally blind” usually have some vision. The term “legally blind” also refers to people who are totally blind.

Vision impairments are also classified as:

 congenital (vision loss which is present at birth) or  adventitious (vision loss later in life as a result of a degenerative condition, illness or accident) The age of onset and level of development before sight loss occurs are critical factors in the student’s ability to acquire skills and concepts.

It is important to be aware that although two children with vision impairments may be assessed as having the same visual acuity, they may each function and learn in very different ways.

Vision may fluctuate or may be temporarily influenced by such factors as vision fatigue, lighting and/or glare.

An understanding of the type of vision impairment is certainly important, but generalisations about the student’s visual functioning cannot be made solely on the basis of the diagnosed eye condition.

For more information about vision impairment see: www.svrc.vic.edu.au/AV.shtml Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au What is visual acuity?

Visual acuity Visual acuity refers to the measure of the eye’s ability to resolve detail at both short and long distances. Each eye has its own level of visual acuity and this can vary considerably.

Distance visual acuity The capacity of the eye to resolve fine detail is measured by determining the smallest size print/picture that the student is able to read from an eye chart. The student’s visual acuity is often recorded as a “Snellen fraction”, the numerator representing the testing distance and the denominator indicating the smallest letter/picture size the student is able to identify. A student who has a visual acuity of 6/24 sees at 6 metres what the “normal” (ie 6/6 vision) eye can see at 24 metres.

Near visual acuity Determining near visual acuity involves assessing the capacity of the eye to resolve fine detail. Near visual acuity is recorded as an “N point” size. The N point originally referred to a measure of print size used by printers. The “normal” eye can generally read print which is N6 (newspaper print) or even N5.

The N point size indicated on the Educational Vision Assessment Clinic reports (and other ophthalmologist’s reports) generally refers to the minimum size print a student can resolve.

A student with low vision generally requires a different size print (usually larger) for sustained reading.

Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au What is distance visual acuity?

Measurement of distant vision acuity explained The distance visual acuity test establishes the distance visual acuity (distance vision) and is only one of the tests undertaken to assess eyesight. The distance visual acuity test is made up of capital letters, numbers, symbols or pictures which are larger at the top and smaller at the bottom of the eye chart. Distance visual acuity is usually measured at 6 metres; the chart may be viewed using a mirror.

The top line of the chart is usually of a size that could be read at a distance of 60 metres by a person with “normal” distance vision. The second line is of a size that could be read at a distance of 36 metres by a person with “normal” distance vision and so on.

Below is an example of a Snellen chart (not to scale).

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The result of the test is written as a fraction.

 6/18 means that the third line down on the chart above can be read from 6 metres away  6/6 or 6/5 is considered to be “normal” distance vision If no lines can be read from 6 metres then assessment may take place at shorter distances.

 3/36 means that the second line down on the chart above can be read from a distance of 3 metres  2/60 means that the top line on the chart above can be read from 2 metres Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au Near Vision – Print Size (recorded as N point eg N80)

–  –  –

Adapted from: Near Vision Test for Children, Selected Word Reading Chart Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au

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Fields of vision Students may also be eligible for additional support due to restricted visual


 fields reduced to less than 20 degrees – eligible for Visiting Teacher support  fields reduced to less than 10 degrees – eligible for Program for Students with Disabilities funding (DET schools) and the Disability Support Pension (Blind) at age 16 years

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Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au Curriculum considerations for students with vision impairments Educators of students with vision impairments refer to the core curriculum and the expanded core curriculum.

Core curriculum The core curriculum refers to the knowledge and skills a student should have acquired by

the completion of their secondary education:

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For additional information and ideas to improve access to the core curriculum for students with vision impairments see: www.svrc.vic.edu.au/CUcore.shtml Expanded core curriculum for students with vision impairments Students with vision impairments – low vision and blind students – must achieve mastery of an array of additional disability-specific knowledge and skills in addition to the regular core curriculum ie the expanded core curriculum for students with vision impairments.

The expanded core curriculum is unique to each student with impaired vision and,

depending on their specific needs, may include:

 Compensatory or functional academic skills eg braille, auditory skills, concept development, exam technique, handwriting, perceptual skills,  Use of access technology eg touch typing and key commands; refreshable braille display, electronic magnification unit, scanner, text to speech software  Visual efficiency skills eg eccentric viewing, use of optical aids, managing vision fatigue  Orientation and mobility eg cane use, road crossing, public transport  Social interaction skills eg eye contact, body language, making friends  Independent living skills eg banking, shopping, money, shoelaces, use of knife and fork, telling the time, preparing a snack or a meal  Recreation and leisure skills eg games and sports, use of social media, taking turns,  Career education eg career awareness, job skills, work experience  Self determination eg explaining vision impairment, self advocacy, managing learning Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au Expanded core curriculum The expanded core curriculum refers to essential additional disability-specific skills for students with vision impairments. Each student with low vision is unique, and so are the additional skills each student will require in order to achieve success in their educational setting.

The expanded core curriculum for students with vision impairments includes the following:

Compensatory or functional academic skills Compensatory skills, including communication modes, involve the use of tools, adaptations, modifications and behaviours that maximise the student’s opportunity to access the learning environment. Communication needs of students with vision impairment will vary, depending on the degree of functional vision, the impact of additional disabilities, and the task to be done. Students may communicate through braille, large print, print with the use of optical aids, regular print, tactile books, a calendar system, sign language, audio materials, or combinations of these methods.

Other compensatory skills may include, but are not limited to: writing adaptations, computer keyboarding, study and organizational skills, abacus, and accessing information through the auditory and tactile senses.

Low vision and blindness may result in the need for specialised instruction in concept development, spatial awareness, and listening skills.

Use of compensatory skills will minimise the effects of reduced vision and will optimise access to the educational environment.

Access technology Access technology can assist people with vision impairments to independently perform a task or job that they might otherwise be able to complete only with assistance. Access technology can include devices designed specifically for people with vision impairments, such as braille displays, electronic magnification units, magnifiers, and telescopes. Access technology can also include large computer screens, computer software, voice output devices and commonly used aids such as white canes, visors and sunglasses.

Training in the efficient use and maintenance of access technology increases the potential for maximum involvement in all areas of curriculum and in life.

See also the SVRC Access Technology page: www.svrc.vic.edu.au/AT.shtml

Visual efficiency skills Visual efficiency skills refer to the manner, technique or approach a student uses to complete a visual task as effectively and efficiently as possible. With thorough, systematic training, most students with functional vision can learn to use their remaining vision better and more efficiently.

Using the best strategies to maximise acuity levels is one component of efficient visual functioning. Interpreting visual information is another component. Efficient use of vision, aided by optical and non-optical aids and strategies, correlates highly with success in the classroom. Students can learn about their eye condition and how it affects visual tasks, Statewide Vision Resource Centre PO Box 201 Nunawading 3131 www.svrc.vic.edu.au svrc@svrc.vic.edu.au what aids and strategies are most useful, and how to explain their visual needs to others.

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