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.
The Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center: Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) are materials designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of student variability regardless of format. There are a variety of ways accessible educational materials (AEM) can be obtained. Visit the AT&AEM website for more information.
The Federal Quota Program: At the direction of the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children, the AT&AEM Center conducts the annual Federal Quota Registration of Blind Students for Ohio. Each year in December, the AT&AEM Center mails a packet of materials to superintendents and/or principals, requesting them to register each student who is legally blind and attending school in their district as of the first Monday in January. The Federal Quota provides supplemental funds to local school districts to purchase materials for identified students. For more information visit the AT&AEM website.
Teaching Braille Reading and Writing Webcast: In this webcast, Lucia Hasty, a well known lecturer and expert of teaching braille, discusses the importance of early literacy, language and concept development for children who are blind and the specific skills needed for braille literacy. In addition, Lucia shares information regarding the importance of supporting others involved in the process e.g., classroom teachers as well as "best practices" for teachers of learners with vision loss.
Seedlings Braille Books for Children: A non-profit organization, Seedlings braille books are provided at each level of development, from toddler board books to classic literature for older children.