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The ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education (ERIC EC)
ERIC EC Digest #E511
What Is Meant by Visual Impairments?
For legal and administrative purposes, the following definitions are used:
For functional educational purposes these definitions are used:
What Are Some Typical Characteristics of Individuals with Visual Impairments?
The degree to which visual impairments affect development depends on the type of visual loss, severity, age of onset, intellectual ability, and environmental experiences. The lack of vision or reduced vision may result in delays or limitations in motor, cognitive, and social development. Without visual input, an infant may not be motivated to reach and move toward interesting objects in the environment. As soon as the infant with a visual impairment finds it exciting to hear sounds, he or she will begin to reach and move toward the objects in the environment that make sound. This does not occur until several months later, since hearing sounds does not motivate movement toward objects as soon as seeing objects does.
Cognitively, the child who has a visual impairment cannot perceive objects in the environment beyond his or her grasp, including those that are too large or too small or are moving. While use of other senses enables the child to obtain information about the environment, a cognitive limitation does exist in the range and variety of experiences.
Socially, a child with a visual impairment is limited in interaction with the environment. The child cannot see the facial expressions of parents,teachers, and peers; cannot model social behaviors through imitation; and sometimes is unaware of the presence of others unless a sound is made. While touch provides direct information, it is often socially unacceptable. The older child is limited in the ability to orient to environmental cues and travel freely.
What Are the Educational Implications of Visual Impairments?
Academically oriented students with visual impairments have been mainstreamed successfully into regular classes for many years. They receive instruction from specially trained teachers in the additional skills necessary to increase independence. The unique curriculum for students who are blind includes reading and writing through the use of braille, listening skills, personal-social and daily living skills, orientation and mobility, career education, and instruction in the use of special aids and equipment. In addition to these areas, students with low vision and visual limitations may need instruction in the efficient use of vision and in the use of optical aids and alternative learning materials. A high proportion of students with visual impairments have additional disabilities and may require a curriculum that emphasizes functional living skills and communication skills.
Educational settings and services for children with visual impairments vary according to individual needs. Self-contained classrooms, residential schools, or regular classrooms with or without special assistance may be appropriate options for individual students.
American Council of the Blind
American Foundation for the Blind
American Printing House for the Blind
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and
Visually Impaired (AERBVI)
Blind Children's Center
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Division for the Visually Handicapped
Blind Children's Fund
National Association for the Visually Handicapped
National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired
National Coalition for Deaf-Blindness
National Federation of the Blind
Library of Congress
Recording for the Blind, Inc.
Barraga, N., & Erin, J. (1991). Visual handicaps and learning: A developmental approach. PRO-ED, Inc., 88700 Shoal Creek Boulevard, Austin, TX 78757.
Corn, A., & Ryser, G. (1989). Access to print for students with low vision. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 3(7), 340-349.
ERIC/OSEP Special Project. (1987). Orientation and mobility for blind infants. (Research and Resources in Special Education No. XIII.) The Council for Exceptional Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091 (ED 298 680).
Martin, G. J., & Hoben, M. (1977). Supporting visually impaired students in the mainstream. (ED 145 609).
Rogow, S. (1988). Helping the visually impaired child with developmental problems: Effective practice in home, school, and community. New York: Teachers College Press.
Scholl, G. T. (1980). Self study and evaluation guide for day school programs for visually handicapped pupils: A guide for program improvement. (ED 192 483).
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ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education