1 (800) 464-3075

NH Educational Guidelines

For Vision Professionals, Educators and Parents

 

How the Guidelines Can Help Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Children are best served by an effective collaborative effort including parents or legal guardians as informed advocates, vision services professionals as instructors and guides, and school/community personnel as committed champions for the academic and functional needs of each child with a visual impairment. Parents, vision services professionals, teachers, and school administrators must work cohesively in order for a learner with visual impairment to thrive.

Children with visual impairments have a unique set of needs—both functional and educational—to help them achieve academic and lifelong success. Only by understanding and addressing the impact of vision loss on all aspects of a child’s development can we effectively support their learning both in and out of the classroom.

All adults invested in the success of a child with a visual impairment need access to relevant, timely and accurate information, as well as support in their various roles.  Visual impairment is a “low-incidence” disability with a high degree of variability from child to child.  Thus, the approach often must be customized.

Visual Impairment in Children

Many children have acuity (visual clarity) issues that can be successfully corrected by wearing glasses or contact lenses – this is not considered a visual impairment. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) officially defines a visual impairment as “an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.”

  • Low visual acuity (partial sight) means vision between 20/70 and 20/400 with the best possible correction, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.
  • Legal blindness in the US means visual acuity of 20/200 or worse with the best possible correction, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.
  • Blindness is defined as a visual acuity worse than 20/400 with the best possible correction, or a visual field of 10 degrees or less.
  • Total blindness means the lack of any light perception.

Visual impairment may be ocular (based on the condition of the eyes, as defined above) or neurological (based on the ability of the brain to process visual information).  Such a neurological cause is often called Cortical or Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI).  CVI may occur on its own but is often associated with other disabilities, premature birth, traumatic brain injury or lack of oxygen.

Visual impairment can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (develop or occur over time).  Some impairments are genetic and degenerative, meaning that the child will gradually lose most or all of their vision over a period of years.

(Back to top)

Consider All Areas of Development

In a highly visual world, visual impairment can have a profound impact on the overall development of a child, beyond academic learning and safe mobility. Indeed, federal law states that the evaluation process must include a comprehensive review of progress in all areas related to the visual impairment.

The American Foundation for the Blind’s (AFB’s) National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities has served as a ground-breaking statement of consensus on how the needs of children with visual impairments should be met. Among the ten goals in the document is an articulation of the educational and functional needs of children with visual impairments that schools and educational programs should systematically assess and address. The National Agenda provides a framework for meeting the academic and functional needs of the whole child with respect to visual impairment in a world where the vast majority of learning, social interaction, daily living skills and readiness for college and career are typically dependent on vision.

Social Cues and Interactions

A visual impairment can socially isolate a learner, impede typical social interactions, or limit social skill development. A learner with visual impairment may not be able to see facial expressions and body language, which are important cues to participate successfully in conversations and activities. Social skills that sighted learners observe and imitate may need to be explicitly taught to a learner with visual impairment.

Effective Use of All Senses

Sensory efficiency includes visual, tactual, and auditory skills. Learners who are blind, have low vision, or are deafblind need systematic instruction to learn efficient use of all of their senses

Academic Compensatory Needs

If the ability to see and process visual information is compromised or absent, then access to literacy, mathematics and other academic coursework must be obtained through braille (including Unified English Braille and Nemeth Code), magnified print, and/or auditory skills. Many learners with visual impairment with low vision use regular print with magnification devices. Some learners with visual impairment need both print and braille and are known as dual-media learners. Learners with multiple disabilities, including deafblindness, may use a tactile or object symbol system for literacy. Tactile learning must include instruction in tactile graphics, increasingly used in instructional materials and evaluation tools.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Needs

Orientation and mobility (O&M) is the set of concepts, skills, and techniques needed for safe, efficient, and confident travel in all environments. Taken separately, orientation refers to the use of sensory information to establish and maintain one’s position in an environment, including an understanding of directionality, cardinal directions and laterality.  Mobility refers to the capacity, readiness, and ability to move throughout many types of environments.  O&M instruction should be provided in school, home, and community environments. The importance of both assessing and teaching learners in new settings, including those in the community, cannot be overstated.  Learners may move comfortably and effectively in familiar environments, yet possess few problem-solving skills and little comfort in navigating through new circumstances, leaving them ill-prepared for independent and safe travel.

Recreation and Leisure Skills Needs

Learners with visual impairments need sufficient experiences with recreation and leisure activities to learn, to participate, and to enjoy throughout their lives. They are often not aware of the options or possible adaptations that would allow them to participate in these activities. Such skills should include both individual and organized group activities for learners with visual impairment at all ages and levels.

Independent Living Skills Needs

Personal hygiene, dressing, food preparation, time and money management, housekeeping, and organization skills are critical skills for successful transition from school to independent living. Most children begin learning basic skills in independent living from visual observation and imitation. Most learners with visual impairment, however, will need systematic instruction, specific adaptations, and frequent practice.

Educational Technology Needs

Mainstream technology, such as smartphones and digital tablets, as well as assistive technology such as optical devices and braille readers, permits learners with visual impairment to access the general education, to increase literacy options, and to enhance communication or improve their functional capabilities.

Career Education and Readiness Needs

Learners with visual impairments need to be taught about the variety of work and career options that are available since they cannot casually observe people in different job roles. They need opportunities to explore their strengths and interests in a systematic, well-planned manner.  It is important to have opportunities to job shadow for concrete experience of different career choices, and to learn about other people with visual impairments who have successful vocational outcomes.

Self-Determination Needs

Self-determination involves knowledge of self and others, decision-making, problem solving, goal setting, personal advocacy, self-control, assertiveness, and knowledge of how to interact with various environments to achieve desired outcomes. These skills lead to personal competence and are important components of positive self-esteem. Learners with visual impairment who become effective advocates for themselves through instruction in developing self-determination skills can meaningfully participate in their educational and transition planning and make positive adult lifestyle, job, and other life choices upon graduation.

Not all of the above needs will be equal for each child with visual impairment, and specific needs for a given child with a visual impairment may change in importance over the years. Rather, the identification of needs is an invitation for us to follow the child, to understand the full scope of visual impairment on a child’s development and to be intentional about addressing those challenges.

(Back to top)

Types of Qualified Vision Education Professionals

Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI)

Often referred to as a TVI, Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments are trained and certified specialists who teach specific skills and ensure access to curriculum and learning opportunities for children who are visually impaired from infancy through completion of high school.

TVIs do not teach academic content; this is the role of the classroom teacher.  TVIs do, however, provide direct instruction to help students access the curriculum and learn in all environments, including the efficient use of other senses, such as tactile symbols, braille (including literary and Nemeth Code), and auditory skills. 

TVIs also provide evaluations, training and consultation on the best uses of assistive educational technology, including near and distance low vision optical devices and braille devices, skills for transition and information and guidance for educational teams and parents in other academic and functional need areas.  Close partnership with the child’s educational team and parents is critical.

 

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist

Children who are visually impaired must be taught many skills to help them navigate their everyday lives safely and efficiently, at home, at school, and in the community.  A Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (commonly referred to as an O&M Specialist; also referred to as COMS) are critical members of the team for all children with visual impairment who have identified orientation and mobility needs.  

O&M specialists work with infants and toddlers to encourage purposeful movement, exploration of immediate surroundings, and motor development.  As children get older, O&M specialists may teach efficient use of optical devices and/or other mobility tools – such as the long cane, assistive technology and adaptive mobility devices – for safely negotiating the built and natural environment, including uneven terrain, stairs and sidewalks.  Using auditory and other skills to navigate parking lots and street crossings is a critical safety skill, and preparation for independent travel is necessary for transition to college, career and independent living.

 

Assistive (Educational) Technology Specialist

Assistive Technology (AT) specialists are well versed in the accessibility features and apps for mainstream technology (smart phones, laptops, tablets) as well as specialized equipment such as optical devices, refreshable braille displays and wearable technology.  The AT specialist can help determine the best match of technology based on what the child/student needs to be able to do and what his/her strengths and learning preferences are.  In addition, understanding the digital workflow to make documents and materials accessible to learners with a visual impairment is a key skill that can be taught to children and reinforced to educational teams and parents.

(Back to top)

Types of Assessments and Evaluations

Early childhood providers, school personnel or family members may refer a child with suspected visual impairment for initial evaluation. In conducting a comprehensive evaluation, a variety of evaluation tools and strategies can gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child that may assist in determining whether that child is eligible for special education and to determine their educational and functional needs.

Functional Vision Evaluation

A Functional Vision Evaluation (FVE) incorporates direct visual testing of the child; observations of his/her visual behaviors in the learning environment, under different lighting conditions, in common spaces and outside; and interviews with parents and school personnel most familiar with the child.

While the medical eye report often clinically documents the extent of vision and the behavior of the eyes, the FVE formally and informally assesses the way that the child actually uses the residual vision they have, the implications of visual deficiencies for learning and functional skills, and the coping or compensatory behaviors that the child with visual impairment employs.

Conducting an FVE when a visual impairment is diagnosed or suspected, and every three years thereafter at a minimum, is required by federal law.  A FVE should be conducted by a certified TVI prior to other evaluations so that visual factors can be incorporated into the design and administration of any additional testing. The goal is to ensure that other test results accurately reflect the child’s aptitude and not the impact of a visual impairment.

Learning Media Assessment

The Learning Media Evaluation (LME) extends the results of the FVE and assesses the efficiency with which the learner with visual impairment gathers information from various sensory channels (visual, auditory , tactile, etc.), the formats of general instructional materials and methods needed, and the types of educational technology (low-tech and high-tech) that will enable the learner with visual impairment to access the learning environment. 

For educational purposes, the LME should almost universally be completed at the same time as the FVE.

In addition, an LME is the only evaluation that can answer the question about the need for instruction in braille.  According to federal law, “In the case of a learner who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in braille and the use of braille unless the IEP team determines, after an evaluation of the learner’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the learner’s future needs for instruction in braille or the use of braille), that instruction in braille or the use of braille is not appropriate for the learner.” (34 CFR §300.324)  In plain English, this means that the IEP team has to prove that, at that particular point in time, a learner with visual impairment does not need braille.

A Learning Media Evaluation, conducted by a TVI as part of a comprehensive evaluation, is designed to help make that determination, and to determine how the learner with visual impairment will be able to efficiently access the curriculum, if not through braille.

Assessment for Cortical Visual Impairment

Because CVI interferes with the brain’s ability to process visual information, even in cases where the eyes function normally, the indicators may be different from, but as important as, indicators of an Ocular Visual Impairment (OVI). By definition CVI involves some dysfunction in one or more areas of the brain. More than 40% of the brain is involved in visual processing in some capacity, and the visual pathways that are affected will correspond with certain visual and motor behaviors.

In cases of premature birth, brain injury, oxygen deprivation,  or when multiple disabilities are present or suspected, the FVE process should consider implications that stem from the potential impact of a neurologically-based visual impairment. CVI is now the most prevalent and fastest growing cause of visual impairment in children.

CVI falls in a range from mild to severe. The clues that could indicate CVI include visual behaviors such as delayed attention to a visual stimulus, prolonged gazing at a light source, greater attention to objects that are color saturated, particularly bright red or bright yellow, for instance. Some visual behaviors, such as the lack of a blink reflex to protect the eyes from potential injury, may pose a safety concern. Other behaviors, such as lack of eye contact when listening to someone speak, can be misinterpreted as disinterest. Still others indicate a disconnect between vision and body movements, such as a child who looks away before reaching for something.

Orientation and Mobility Evaluation

An Orientation and Mobility Evaluation conducted by a Certified Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist is essential for learners who are blind and visually impaired to determine their ability to move safely, independently, and efficiently through their environment. Uneven terrain, stairs, elevators, escalators, new environments, parking lots and street crossings can all pose significant safety hazards for children and adolescents untrained in ways to safely navigate these spaces.

Taken separately, orientation refers to the use of sensory information to establish and maintain one’s position in the environment, and mobility refers to the capacity, readiness, and ability to move safely.  Depending on age and disability, the environments for evaluation should include community settings; many learners with visual impairment are quite dependent on families and caregivers when younger. As they age and become more independent, safety and experience in navigating unfamiliar settings becomes crucial. 

Assistive (Educational) Technology Evaluation

Assessing the needs for technology for a child with visual impairment should be done only after the FVE and LME, so that functional vision and learning channels are well understood, thus allowing technology to be matched to the learner’s preferred learning channels.

The purpose of the evaluation for Educational Technology — often referred to as Assistive Technology (or AT) — is to document and/or determine if the present technology being used is appropriate and used correctly, as well as determine future needs for technology for the child to access the curriculum and complete tasks in the learning environment. The use of multiple tools and methods, including allowing the child to trial appropriate technology, allows the evaluation to be individualized.

(Back to top)

Vision Impairment at Different Ages

In infants and toddlers (0-3)

Because a visual impairment in infants and toddlers (birth up to age 3) can cause or be associated with a risk of significant developmental delay, most will be eligible for home-based services through a Family-Centered Early Supports and Services (FCESS) program.

Planning for potential entry to preschool special education begins when a child who is medically diagnosed with visual impairment turns 27 months, or earlier if the child is found no longer eligible for Early Supports and Services (ESS), or as soon as possible if the child enters ESS after 27 months of age. At that time, a written transition plan is developed and becomes part of the child’s Individual Family Support Plan (IFSP). The transition plan lays out the steps and a timeline for what will happen over the next few months. As part of the transition plan, the IFSP team, which includes the parents, will decide whether or not the child is potentially eligible for preschool special education and discuss the notification/referral process. The assigned ESS Service Coordinator will also explain the parent’s right to opt-out of making a notification/referral.

  • After the school receives a referral from the FCESS program, they must schedule a meeting to be held within 15 calendar days with the parents (or guardians) and other members of the Individual Education Program (IEP) team. Parents are members of the IEP team. This meeting is to discuss all available information about the child, and to see if the IEP team needs more information, to determine if they are eligible for special education.
  • The IEP team may decide that they need more information to determine if the child will qualify for special education and that they want to conduct an evaluation. The parent’s (guardian’s) written permission for any evaluation is required. The school has 45 calendar days from the date the permission form is signed and submitted to complete the testing and hold an IEP team meeting to determine if the child is eligible for special education.
  • Based on the information provided by ESS and the parents (or guardians), along with any evaluations the school may have done, the IEP team determines if the child is eligible for special education and determines one or more disability classification(s). To be eligible, the child’s disability must negatively impact their educational performance.
  • Within 30 days after the child is found eligible for special education, the IEP team meets to begin to develop the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Sometimes this happens at the same meeting where eligibility is determined. Parents or guardians have 14 calendar days to sign the IEP and they may choose to agree, agree with exceptions, disagree, or request another meeting. The IEP must be agreed upon and signed by a parent and the school district by the child’s third birthday.
  • After the IEP has been signed by the parent or guardian and the school district representative, the IEP team determines the child’s educational placement to implement the IEP. Placement is decided on an individual basis and options may include a variety of settings. Placement, however, must be in the child’s Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
  • To ensure a smooth transition, the ESS Service Coordinator will schedule and facilitate a Transition Conference with the parents (guardians) and the local school district. The Transition Conference must happen after a notification/referral has been made, but at least 90 days before the child turns 3. At this conference parents will learn about program options for their child, determine a plan for the transition process with the school, and update the Transition Plan in the IFSP.

(Back to top)

In school-age children (preschool-high school)

The educational plan during the preschool-high school years will be driven largely by the IEP.

The single most significant barrier to learning for students with a visual impairment is the ability to receive and process information that sighted students can perceive and process with ease.  Because visual impairment can be due to an ocular (eye-based) and/or neurological (brain-based) disorder, educators need to consider the extent to which students can both perceive and process information for learning.  Advance planning and preparation is critical to ensure that the student with a visual impairment receives the same information, at the same time as their sighted peers in accordance with federal law, in a format they can perceive and process.

To reduce barriers to learning, it is important to ensure that key information is accessible to all learners with visual impairment by:

  • Providing the same information through different modalities (e.g., through residual vision, hearing, touch, in the manner best suited to the student’s learning channel)
  • Providing information in a format that will allow for adjustability by the student (e.g., text that can be enlarged, sounds that can be amplified)

In the context of students with visual impairments, Universal Design for Learning reinforces the importance of intentional, advanced planning for accessibility.  Districts should consider implementing policies and procedures for testing and vetting the accessibility features of a curriculum prior to purchase.  Materials are truly accessible when they support visual, auditory, and tactual access across a variety of tools, including assistive technology.

With print materials, the information is fixed and permanent. In properly prepared digital materials, access to the same information is dynamic and customizable. While customization is difficult or impossible with print materials, it is often available automatically or easily in digital materials. A textbook or workbook in a print format provides limited means of navigation or physical interaction (e.g., turning pages, handwriting in spaces provided). Navigation and interaction in those limited ways will raise barriers for some learners—those with physical disabilities, blindness, dysgraphia, or who need various kinds of executive functioning supports.

Wherever assistive technology is required for a student with visual impairment to access information in the curriculum effectively, there is a prerequisite to train the student in the use of that assistive technology as well as a concurrent need to train and consult with the student’s educational team.

(Back to top)

In transition to adulthood (ages 14-21)

The transition from special education to life after high school can present significant challenges to learners with visual impairments, their families and their educational teams.  An early start, a collaborative process, and facilitated supports to bridge the gap will result in the most successful outcomes.

New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation (NHVR) counselors work with teachers, parents or guardians, and others who can help eligible students plan for their future. Within NHVR, a program called Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (SBVI) employs three transition counselors to provide support and guidance specifically to learners with a visual impairment.

Important to Note:

  • The SBVI program is voluntary, and no one is automatically enrolled.  The learner with visual impairment and their family need to apply for the service, often with the help of school personnel and their TVI or O&M specialist.
  • IDEA requires that transition services be made available to eligible students beginning at age 14. Thus, the family and the school should begin the application for SBVI as soon after the 14th birthday as possible.
  • No later than early in the junior year, the school, IEP team and family should begin to develop a definitive transition plan with the learner and their SBVI counselor.  An earlier start on the plan is recommended if a learner with visual impairment is at risk of dropping out of school, or will require more extensive long-range planning due to disability needs.
  • Communication between the TVI (and O&M specialist if the learner has been receiving O&M services) and the SBVI counselor can help delineate the continuum of skills required before and after transition.

Note: Since an IEP meeting for students age 14 and older involves discussion and decisions about the future, a student and family should have met and worked substantively with the SBVI counselor prior to this meeting. 

Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired – Programs and Services for Eligible Learners

  • Career decision-making, counseling and referral: SBVI counselors are skilled in helping learners with visual impairment explore options about jobs and the needed training to get those jobs
  • Vocational training: Many job training programs are available. Using financial guidelines, SBVI may help pay for books, tools, materials, college or technical training.
  • Job search, placement, and job seeking services: SBVI counselors help develop job seeking skills or may refer learners with visual impairment to other agencies that provide these services. Follow up is provided for at least 90 days after a job begins.
  • Assistive technology: SBVI is a leader in technology services that help a person with visual impairment get or keep a job. Worksite accommodations include adapted computers and workstations, and mobility aides.
  • Supported employment and job coaching: SBVI may provide funding for job coaching services. Job coaches teach work skills and behaviors, often at the worksite.
  • Medical rehabilitation services: SBVI may supply certain medical services such as short-term counseling, visual aids, hearing aids, and prosthetics
  • Other support services: assistance may also be available for transportation, maintenance, and personal assistance services

(Back to top)

Individualized Education Plans

With rare exceptions, students in preschool-grade 12 with a visual impairment should have an IEP rather than a 504 plan. An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a comprehensive education plan that serves as a detailed roadmap for a student with special education needs. It is formal and legally binding, and is the result of a required comprehensive evaluation. An IEP includes comprehensive information about a student’s diagnoses, specific needs, established goals, recommended services, and accommodations, and other information pertaining to the student’s unique educational needs.

A 504 plan acknowledges needed accommodations that can be implemented in the general education classroom; it does not equate to a diagnosis or formal special education services. The name of the document arises from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities who are in need of accommodations. This is issued to students who are able to participate fully in a general education classroom with accommodations, but who do not need any specialized instruction or supports.

While every child is different, the reason that a child with visual impairment is eligible for special education in the category of “visual impairment” is that their visual functioning requires specialized services. By law, parents are members of the IEP team. The entire IEP team, including parent(s), must meet at least annually to determine whether the child is eligible for special education, to review evaluation in all areas related to the child’s disability, and to design and evolve the child’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP).

For children with a visual impairment, there are both academic and functional areas of educational programming for the committee to consider.

The following are categories that should normally be addressed or included in an IEP for a child with a visual impairment. A more detailed version of this checklist for parents is available at :

  • The IEP should reflect the academic and functional impact of the visual impairment and the results of evaluations
  • The IEP should reflect the role of a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI)
  • The IEP should reflect the role of a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M specialist or COMS)
  • The IEP should reflect visual impairment, with specific attention to literacy instruction via vision, hearing and/or tactile means. This information should be linked to the results of the Learning Media Evaluation.
  • The IEP should reflect a long-term view of education, including college, career and independent living to the greatest extent possible. All skills and IEP goals should be developed with this long-term view in mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if a child with visual impairment doesn’t have an IEP with vision specific goals?

If a child has a visual impairment that qualifies them for special education, the team must ensure that evaluation of current functioning in all areas related to the disability have been reviewed in developing an annual IEP. If the child does not appear to have any IEP goals or recommended modifications for instruction that reflect the presence of a visual impairment, or any role for a TVI related to the visual impairment, parents should ask to see the evaluations of academic and functional needs.  If none are available, the parent should ask that these be done at district expense.

How does a parent know if their child’s visual impairment programming is high quality?

Parents should ask questions, look for progress, check that all areas of academic and functional need have been assessed and addressed, and that appropriate vision professional support is available. A quality visual impairment program addresses the impact on learning in school and beyond school—it provides compensatory and specialized skills training so that the learner with visual impairment can become a productive and happy adult.

For more FAQs for parents, please see : https://www.futureinsight.org/nh-parent-connect/#faq

 

(Back to top)

About Braille

As is true for any definition of literacy, braille literacy includes the ability to read and write in the medium. Braille literacy also follows the trajectory of traditional literacy in that learners with visual impairment learn to read and write braille before they can use braille to access, learn and demonstrate content knowledge.

It often feels less intimidating for general education teachers to use recorded materials, as most teachers are not familiar with braille. However, exclusive use of audio and speech-to-text applications can lead to functional illiteracy.  Because many learners with visual impairment can’t read by sight or write by hand, if they were to rely solely on learning by audio, they effectively become illiterate. This is akin to a sighted 5-year old being exclusively exposed to educational television shows, online videos, or audio recordings without proper education to read and write. All students need proper and thorough education to become literate.

A refreshable braille display with the appropriate software allows students to both read and write in braille.   The software converts the source information from text to braille for the student to read, and then also does the reverse so that the classroom teacher can read what the student wrote.

According to federal law,

The IEP team shall, in the case of a learner who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction in braille and the use of braille unless the IEP team determines, after an evaluation of the visually impaired learner’s reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing media (including an evaluation of the visually impaired learner’s future needs for instruction in braille or the use of braille), that instruction in braille or the use of braille is not appropriate for the visually impaired learner.

The word “provide” is important, as it means that the IEP team is obligated to assume – even before an evaluation is conducted – that braille instruction will be a necessary service for a learner who is blind or visually impaired. The need for braille has to be disproven rather than proven. This is an important distinction from the common assumption that learners with visual impairment with some usable vision will read print or become an auditory learner, with the provision of braille instruction as the last resort. The evaluation of future needs is also important because a number of congenital eye diseases or disorders are degenerative.

(Back to top)

About Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired

Technology is everywhere: at home, in the classroom and on the jobsite. Traditionally, special devices and software were created specifically for learners who are blind or visually impaired. Many accessibility options that traditionally were stand-alone products are now available as built-in accessibility features; some of these options are also available through software apps on mainstream devices. For example, traditionally a Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) device was used to view the classroom board; however, with modern technological advances, many learners are now using screen-sharing apps on their computer or digital tablet.

There are four types of accessibility.

  • Built-in accessibility options for consumer devices (ex: laptops, smart phones, digital tablets)
  • Downloadable apps for the types of mainstream products listed above
  • Stand-alone specialized products for specific purposes
  • Wearable devices

The process of matching the correct assistive technology applications and devices with the learner should be thorough and intentional.  Assessing the learner’s skills and strengths, the tasks they are being asked to complete, the features of technology that will be the best fit at any given time, and trialing specific equipment or applications is a process that will result in the most effective outcomes.  This process is called an Assistive Technology Evaluation.

Particularly within the context of schools, Information Technology (IT) personnel should be involved in the process of Assistive Technology procurements.  Proactive participation by such IT personnel can help identify possible constraints and engage in advanced troubleshooting on the integration of a new technology or device with existing school networks, firewalls, privacy policies and equipment.  

(Back to top)

Critical Areas of Parent Support

When a child is diagnosed with a visual impairment, parents may feel shocked, alone, and unsure of what the future holds.  Support for parents in four areas is critical.

Connection with other parents

Other parents of visually impaired children, either individually or in organized groups, can offer informed advice, excellent information and ongoing support. For this reason Future In Sight has launched and is supporting the NH Parent Connect program, creating the opportunity for parents to join together via face to face workshops, webinars, and family events.

Confidence as an advocate

As parents you know your child best, and you are your child’s first teacher. Your observations and knowledge about your child are so important. Yours is the most significant role and relationship consistent throughout your child’s life.  Many other people will be a part of your child’s life within the community and school, including specialized services and experts within the medical and educational fields. It’s important for you to recognize the significant role you play – and to have the confidence to express your opinions and suggestions. You can be a “voice” to advocate for your child to ensure she/he is receiving the best medical care, specialized educational services, and equity in everyday life.  NH Parent Connect can help.

Knowledge about visual impairment(s)

Childhood visual impairment is known as a “low incidence disability” within the general population. Eye conditions that cause a visual impairment are extremely rare and can co-occur with other disabilities. As a result, it is often very difficult for families to find information about their child’s eye condition and how it impacts their visual functioning. Some resources on childhood eye conditions can be found through your child’s ophthalmologist and the American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology website. 

Visual impairment may be caused by eye conditions, as noted above.  The fastest growing cause of visual impairment, however, is neurological in nature.  The eyes may be perfectly formed and function normally, but when the brain cannot process the information received from the eyes, this is called Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI).   CVI is often, though not always, associated with other disabilities, prematurity and oxygen deprivation.  An excellent source of information on CVI is cviscotland.org.

Visual impairment, whether ocular (eye-based) or neurological (brain-based), can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (develop or occur over time).  Some impairments are genetic and degenerative, meaning that the child will gradually lose most or all of their vision over a period of years.

Supporting a Child’s Education

In the US we have a Special Education Law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that requires that vision related services be delivered to students by qualified professionals. Plus, the modifications/accommodations needed by students with vision-impairments to learn and participate actively in school are to be identified and put into place for each child. This is done through the development of your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) by the IEP Team – of which parents are equal members.  Your participation with the team is key because of your knowledge of your child and their unique needs for learning as it relates to his/her visual impairment.

 

(Back to top)

How to become a Vision Education Professional

Vision education professionals (TVIs and O&M Specialists) represent a critical shortage area in the state of New Hampshire, and Future In Sight is working actively to support more people entering this rewarding field.  The demand for services is high.  If you like working with infants, children and adolescents, have a passion for leveling the playing field, and want a rewarding career that mixes high autonomy with a supportive, collaborative team, then we want to talk with you!

To Become a TVI

Two programs are available locally to certify people as Teachers of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI).

University of Massachusetts-Boston

The typical candidate for this largely on-line program has a bachelor’s degree in any field (does not have to be education) and some experience working with children; many applicants currently work as paraprofessionals in schools. UMass Boston offers credentialing programs including Teacher of Students with Visual Impairment (TVI), Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M Specialist) and Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist (CATIS). UMass Boston is also the designated training center for vision professionals in the six New England states. As a result, they have a major grant from US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to significantly defray tuition costs for people pursuing a vision studies credential. globalinclusion.umb.edu/academics/graduate-programs/vision-studies-med

Granite State College

The typical candidate already possesses a master’s degree in special education. An advanced studies certificate as a TVI in blind and visual disabilities is offered.   www.granite.edu/degree-programs/post-baccalaureate-teacher-certification/

Join Our Team!

Future In Sight maintains an active partnership with UMass Boston and Granite State College.  We will hire and provide supervision and mentoring for high quality students in their final year of coursework or their practicum, providing a paycheck, support and an opportunity to immediately practice what you are learning in school.

In addition, Future In Sight will pick up the remaining cost of the UMass program (generally $400 per course) after the federal scholarship in exchange for a minimum commitment of work with our agency after the credential is obtained.   A similar dollar commitment from FIS is available for students in the Granite State College program, although GSC is not able to provide federal funding or a large scholarship that equates with the UMass Boston program.

We offer excellence in service to students, a competitive salary, excellent benefits, paid professional development and a positive, collaborative work environment. We pride ourselves on our work culture.  At FIS….

  • you are a member of a team dedicated to continual improvement
  • we listen to our educators to develop the best possible approaches to this work
  • you are valued, supported and treated like a professional
  • we recognize your dual reality – the autonomy of an itinerant provider and the need to feel connected and supported in a team

Come join us!  For more information, please email educationservices@futureinsight.org or call 1 (800) 464-3075.

(Back to top)

Links and Resources

People who are living with vision loss or are helping others who are, typically have a lot of questions. Future In Sight is a great place to start whether you are a parent, an educator or are experiencing vision loss your self. Here are some resources that may be helpful.

Active Learning (for students with severe multiple disabilities)

www.activelearningspace.org/

____________________________________

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
www.afb.org

____________________________________

APH Federal Quota and Annual Learner Count
www.aph.org/federal-quota

____________________________________

Assistive Technology for All  (equipment loans and demos)

www.atinnh.at4all.com/

____________________________________

Assistive Technology for Education and Access to Employment

www.atfored.com

____________________________________

Bookshare (accessible books)
www.bookshare.org

____________________________________

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

www.cast.org

____________________________________

Center for Parent Information & Resources, “Considering Blindness and Visual Impairment”, A Resource for IEP Teams, December 2010
www.parentcenterhub.org/considering-visual

____________________________________

Checklists for areas of academic and functional need
www.region10.org/programs/visually-impaired-services/expandedcore-ecc-checklists

____________________________________

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
www.cec.sped.org

____________________________________

CEC Division on Visual Impairment and Deafblindness
community.cec.sped.org/dvi/home

____________________________________

CVI Scotland

cviscotland.org/

____________________________________

Future In Sight (formerly New Hampshire Association for the Blind)
www.futureinsight.org

____________________________________

Hadley
www.hadley.edu

____________________________________

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
idea.ed.gov

____________________________________

Learning Ally
www.learningally.org

____________________________________

National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities

www.afb.org/national-agenda-education

____________________________________

National Center on Deaf-Blindness
www.nationaldb.org

____________________________________

National Federation of the Blind
www.nfb.org

____________________________________

New England Consortium on Deafblindness
www.nec4db.org

____________________________________

New Hampshire Accessible Educational Materials – About
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/nhaim.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire Accessible Educational Materials – Online Ordering
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/nhaemonlinesystem.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire Department of Education – Special Education
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/index.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire School Transition Services (planning for after high school)
www.education.nh.gov/career/vocational/school_trans.htm

____________________________________

Perkins School for the Blind – Support for Educators and Parents
www.perkins.org/elearning

____________________________________

Paths to Literacy for learners who are blind or visually impaired
www.pathstoliteracy.org/

____________________________________

Paths to Technology

www.perkinselearning.org/technology

____________________________________

Students, Environments, Tasks and Tools (SETT) Framework
www.joyzabala.com

____________________________________

Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology

www.qiat.org

Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals
Vision Professionals

____________________________________

Active Learning (for students with severe multiple disabilities)

www.activelearningspace.org/

____________________________________

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
www.afb.org

____________________________________

American Printing House (APH) for the Blind
www.aph.org

____________________________________

APH Federal Quota and Annual Learner Count
www.aph.org/federal-quota

____________________________________

Assistive Technology for All  (equipment loans and demos)

www.atinnh.at4all.com/

____________________________________

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
www.aerbvi.org

____________________________________

Bookshare (accessible books)
www.bookshare.org

____________________________________

CareerConnect
www.aphcareerconnect.org

____________________________________

Center for Parent Information & Resources, “Considering Blindness and Visual Impairment”, A Resource for IEP Teams, December 2010
www.parentcenterhub.org/considering-visual

____________________________________

Checklists for areas of academic and functional need
www.region10.org/programs/visually-impaired-services/expandedcore-ecc-checklists

____________________________________

CVI Scotland

cviscotland.org/

____________________________________

Family Centered Early Supports and Services (IDEA Part C in NH):
www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bds/earlysupport/index.htm

____________________________________

Future In Sight (formerly New Hampshire Association for the Blind)
www.futureinsight.org

____________________________________

Hadley
www.hadley.edu

____________________________________

National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities

www.afb.org/national-agenda-education

____________________________________

National Center on Deaf-Blindness
www.nationaldb.org

____________________________________

New England Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
www.nercve.org/neaer

____________________________________

New England Consortium on Deafblindness
www.nec4db.org

____________________________________

New England Low Vision and Blindness

www.nelowvision.com

____________________________________

New Hampshire Accessible Educational Materials – About
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/nhaim.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire Accessible Educational Materials – Online Ordering
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/nhaemonlinesystem.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire School Transition Services (planning for after high school)
www.education.nh.gov/career/vocational/school_trans.htm

____________________________________

Northeast Resource Center for Vision Education
www.nercve.org/neaer

____________________________________

Perkins School for the Blind – Support for Educators and Parents
www.perkins.org/elearning

____________________________________

Paths to Literacy for learners who are blind or visually impaired
www.pathstoliteracy.org/

____________________________________

Paths to Technology

www.perkinselearning.org/technology

____________________________________

Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology

www.qiat.org

____________________________________

Race2K (Preschool learners with Disabilities in NH)
www.race2k.org

____________________________________

Students, Environments, Tasks and Tools (SETT) Framework
www.joyzabala.com

____________________________________

Teaching Students with Visual Impairment

www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com

____________________________________

University of Massachusetts Boston
School for Global Inclusion and Social Development
globalinclusion.umb.edu

____________________________________

Visual Impairment Scale of Service Intensity of Texas (VISSIT)

https://www.tsbvi.edu/vissit

Active Learning (for students with severe multiple disabilities)

www.activelearningspace.org/

____________________________________

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
www.afb.org

____________________________________

American Printing House (APH) for the Blind
www.aph.org

____________________________________

APH Federal Quota and Annual Learner Count
www.aph.org/federal-quota

____________________________________

Assistive Technology for All  (equipment loans and demos)

www.atinnh.at4all.com/

____________________________________

Assistive Technology for Education and Access to Employment
www.atfored.com

____________________________________

Bookshare (accessible books)
www.bookshare.org

____________________________________

CareerConnect
www.aphcareerconnect.org

____________________________________

Center for Parent Information & Resources, “Considering Blindness and Visual Impairment”, A Resource for IEP Teams, December 2010
www.parentcenterhub.org/considering-visual

____________________________________

Checklists for areas of academic and functional need
www.region10.org/programs/visually-impaired-services/expandedcore-ecc-checklists

____________________________________

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
www.cec.sped.org

____________________________________

CEC Division on Visual Impairment and Deafblindness
community.cec.sped.org/dvi/home

____________________________________

CVI Scotland

cviscotland.org/

____________________________________

Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire

www.drcnh.org

____________________________________

Family Centered Early Supports and Services (IDEA Part C in NH):
www.dhhs.nh.gov/dcbcs/bds/earlysupport/index.htm

____________________________________

FamilyConnect
www.familyconnect.org

____________________________________

Free White Cane Program

www.Freecane.nfb.org 

____________________________________

Future In Sight (formerly New Hampshire Association for the Blind)
www.futureinsight.org

____________________________________

Hadley
www.hadley.edu

____________________________________

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
idea.ed.gov

____________________________________

Learning Ally
www.learningally.org

____________________________________

National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities

www.afb.org/national-agenda-education

____________________________________

National Center on Deaf-Blindness
www.nationaldb.org

____________________________________

National Federation of the Blind
www.nfb.org

____________________________________

National Organization of Parents of Blind Learners
www.nopbc.org

____________________________________

New England Consortium on Deafblindness
www.nec4db.org

____________________________________

New Hampshire Accessible Educational Materials – About
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/nhaim.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire Accessible Educational Materials – Online Ordering
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/nhaemonlinesystem.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire Department of Education – Special Education
www.education.nh.gov/instruction/special_ed/index.htm

____________________________________

New Hampshire Family Voices

www.nhfv.org

____________________________________

New Hampshire School Transition Services (planning for after high school)
www.education.nh.gov/career/vocational/school_trans.htm

____________________________________

Parent Information Center of NH

www.picnh.org

____________________________________

Paths to Literacy for learners who are blind or visually impaired
www.pathstoliteracy.org/

____________________________________

Paths to Technology

www.perkinselearning.org/technology

____________________________________

Race2K (Preschool learners with Disabilities in NH)
www.race2k.org

____________________________________

Wonderbaby

www.wonderbaby.org/about