Skip to content

Office of Disability Support Services
Faculty Handbook

Visual Impairments

General Information

A major challenge facing visually impaired students in college revolves around the overwhelming mass of printed material with which they are confronted: textbooks, class outlines, class schedules, tests, etc. The increasing use of computerized presentations, films, videotapes, overhead projectors, and closed-circuit television adds to the volume of visual material to which they must have access in some other way. Unless the impairment has recently occurred, by the time most visually impaired students reach college they have probably developed various methods for coping with the volume of visual materials.

Most visually impaired students will use a combination of methods including, but not limited to live readers, scribes, adaptive computers, books on tape, Braille books and eText.

It is the combined responsibility of the Office of Disability Support Services (ODSS), faculty and student to discuss what methods, techniques, or devices may be used to maximize learning.

Persons with visual impairments may be grouped into two general categories those who are blind and those who are visually impaired.

A blind person has no usable vision, but may have limited perception of light. A visually impaired or partially sighted person has a limited amount of usable vision and may perform many tasks in much the same way as his/her non-impaired counterparts, with no adaptations.

Some visual impairments may fluctuate from time to time as in persons who have multiple sclerosis and glaucoma while others remain constant. Some can benefit from good sources of light while others are hindered by bright light. Some may be able to read for hours while others can tolerate only a few minutes before the strain causes their vision and mental alertness to deteriorate. In addition to the above, it is preferable that the student and faculty member discuss what methods, techniques, or devices may be used to maximize learning.


Suggested Classroom Accommodations for Students with Visual Impairments

Information about Instructor Memos

Specific accommodations will need to be individually tailored because visually impaired students will vary depending on the degree of visual loss.  Usually, a combination of adaptive methods is the best approach.

Upon request adaptive software is available for installation in the classroom or lab.

Visually impaired students may need to tape record lectures.

Provide appropriate written and verbal descriptions to accompany any visual aids, diagrams, films or videos used in class.

Written information on the blackboard needs to be verbalized.  Technical terms need to be spelled and verbally defined.  Remember:  this/that or here/there phrases are meaningless to the student.

Guide dogs are trained and well behaved.  They will not disturb your class.  However, the dog's owner is in control of the dog's behavior.  If the dog's behavior is interfering with class, the owner needs to have it brought to his/her attention.

Most visually impaired students who use Braille prefer to take their own notes in class using adaptive equipment.

Give students a clear syllabus, listing tests and assignments with due dates noted.

Discuss travel needs/accommodations for field trips with the student.

Consult with the student and ODSS when assistance is needed in solving a problem.

Materials (syllabus, handouts, etc.) need to be provided to Reader Services, keeping in mind that it may take up to 12 business days to produce alternative text.


Test Adaptation and Administration for Students with Visual Impairments

  • Adapted testing procedures generally include the use of readers, scribes, word processors, large print magnifying equipment, tape-recorded or brailed exams, and closed circuit monitors.
  • Tests can be in large print or Braille format.  Materials needs to be provided to Reader Services (ODSS) at least 12 business days prior to need.
  • Reader Services Coordinator (ODSS) is available for consultation and assistance with test administration.
  • Allow extra time for test taking in a separate, quiet setting.
  • To insure that there will be a scribe/reader available the student is responsible for scheduling a test with Reader Services five business days in advance of the test.
  • If the test is being taken in the Assessment Center, instructors are to follow Assessment Center guidelines for placing tests with the Assessment Center
  • Computers with adaptations for visual impairments can be used for test taking.  Contact the Reader Services Coordinator, 517-483-5263 for more information.


Tips for Positive Communication with Students with Visual Impairments

  • When speaking to the student, introduce yourself and anyone else who might be present.
  • Use a normal voice level when speaking.  Remember, a visually impaired student has sight problems, not a hearing problem.
  • Speak directly to the visually impaired student and address him or her by name.
  • Do not hesitate to use such words as see or look, students with visual impairments use those terms also.
  • When walking with a visually impaired student, allow him/her to take your arm just above the elbow.  Walk in a normal manner and pace.
  • A guide dog is trained as a working animal and should not be petted or spoken to without the permission of the handler.  A general rule of thumb is that the dog is working while in harness.
  • when offering a seat to a visually impaired student, place the students hand on the back or arm of the seat.
  • Do not hesitate to ask a student what adaptations, if any, are required int he classroom.  The student is the expert about his/her particular needs.
  • Avoid the use of vague terms such as over there/here.
  • Avoid leaving the classroom/office doors partially open.
  • Remember to push chairs in under tables/desks when not in use.
  • Avoid the placement of obstacles such as signs or unattended carts, (even temporarily) in them middle of common areas such as aisles, lobbies or hallways.
  • State directions in clear, specific terms such as right, left, front, back.
  • Avoid having conversations in the middle of hallways/doorways.


Office of Disability Support Services at Lansing Community College

Disability Support Services
Gannon Building - StarZone
Phone: (517) 483-1924
Additional contact information »