Literacy and Vision Loss
Fully sighted children have access to visual media, visual materials such as print and pictures within in their environment, and they incidentally observe the common activities around them. Learners with vision loss often times are limited in the ability to gain access to these crucial experiences. Children with vision loss need direct, hands on practice with basic concepts, as well as, direct exposure to common everyday life activities so that they form a foundation of essential experiences that provide meaning to reading and writing and prepare them to become competent readers.
Learners with vision loss will need adaptations to access printed information throughout the school curriculum. Literacy and reading skills are foundational skills that will allow the student to access all areas. It is the role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) to determine the student's primary reading mode by completing a Learning Media Assessment (as part of the Functional Vision Assessment). Although the student demonstrates strong auditory skills, it is also essential for the student to learn to read print and/or braille.
Students with low vision will typically use printed materials. Some students may be able to read print without any adaptations, but the majority of students with low vision will require large print or magnification devices to comfortably read print for short and sustained reading activities. For students who need large print, magnification devices should be considered as they allow a student to access all printed information independently, so they are not dependent on what has to be enlarged for them.
Braille readers should be exposed to braille books well before they are formally taught to read. Early literacy and pre-braille skills, such as adequate language development, understanding of basic positional concepts, interests in books, demonstration of sufficient tactile skills and fine motor coordination are all essential to be successful as a braille reader. A student's education team will work with the student's TVI to determine the best approach for the student's individual needs.