In this video, Caitlyn provides ten tips for science teachers with blind or visually impaired students. Below, you will find a written list of the tips along with links to the resources mentioned in the video.
1. Maintain constant communication with your student and their TVI, (teacher of the visually impaired). Try to get your lesson plans to the tVI ahead of time so that they can evaluate the assignments for accessibility and modify them as needed. Remember that all blind people are different, just like all sighted people are different. Each blind or visually impaired student is going to have a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and needs. These tips can serve as general guidelines for making your classroom accessible and inclusive, but only your student and their TVI can tell you how to best meet the needs of your particular student in any given situation.
2. Be descriptive when you are teaching. Some science classes can have a lot of visual elements, and it is important to provide your blind student with context for what is going on visually. Make sure you describe any pertinent visual aspects of experiments like light, color, motion, etc. You may also need to describe the visual layout of equations and charts. Your student’s TVI can provide tactile graphics as needed. just make sure you get the material to the TVI at least a week in advance so they have plenty of time to adapt it.
3. Use accessible materials. Many online programs like IXL and Kahoot are not accessible for blind students. If you plan on using these tools in your classroom, you will need to work with your student’s TVI to come up with alternative assignments for your blind student. One option is to have your blind student do work out of the textbook while your sighted students complete interactive online activities, or your student’s TVI may be able to create accessible copies of the assignments.
4. Use tactile manipulatives whenever possible. There are many kits available that contain tactile graphics, braille charts, and print/braille numbers and symbols that can be used to demonstrate concepts to your blind student. Plastic skeletons, fake or real plants, and models of the solar system can be beneficial for your blind student as well as your sighted students. The more hands-on you can be, the more your blind student will take away from your class. The following links will take you to some useful braille and tactile resources:
5. Make sure experiments are accessible and inclusive. Many experiments are not useful for blind students because they require the observation of color and other visual elements. Try to choose experiments that your blind students can hear and touch, and make sure you describe what is happening visually in detail. If you have your students working in groups to complete experiments, one option is to have the sighted students describe their research findings in detail, and the blind student can be responsible for recording the data and turning in the worksheet. You will need to consult your student and their TVI on a case by case basis for experiments in order to modify them as needed. Each visually impaired student is at a different skill level, so some may be more comfortable participating directly in experiments than others. For instance, some visually impaired students are perfectly capable and comfortable measuring and pouring liquids for experiments, while others would rather be the notetaker for the group or be given an alternate assignment.
6. lessen your blind student’s workload for some assignments. It is not necessary to modify all assignments, but some things like reading tactile graphics, solving equations, and looking things up on the periodic table are very time consuming for blind students. If the assignment requires solving equations or reading charts, there is no need to make your blind student answer a hundred questions if they can master the concept by answering ten.
7. Work one-on-one with your blind student as needed. Some concepts will be more difficult for your blind student to grasp, and they may need some supplemental instruction using tactile manipulatives.
8. Adapt group projects as needed. Many sighted students do not understand how to interact with blind students in a constructive way, and asking your blind student to participate in group projects that require a lot of math or visual elements can sometimes be detrimental to both your blind student and the sighted students n the group. Work with your student’s TVI on a case by case basis to determine whether or not each group project is appropriate for your blind student and adapt it as needed.
9. Provide descriptions for images and videos as well as video transcripts. Make sure you describe any visual elements of videos that aren’t apparent based on the narration, and describe any images and charts that you use in class. you can also have your student’s TVI create tactile representations of images. It can be difficult for blind students to follow videos, so having a transcript that they can read and keyword search is very beneficial.
10. Challenge your blind student just as you would any other student. Some elements of science classes are extremely difficult without vision, but blind students are perfectly capable of succeeding in the STEM field if the proper accommodations are made.