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VISUAL IMPAIRMENT SERVICES


Visual Impairments

Definition: The terms partially sighted, low vision, legally blind, and totally blind are used in the educational context to describe students with visual impairments. They are defined as follows:

"Partially sighted" indicates some type of visual problem has resulted in a need for special education;

"Low vision" generally refers to a severe visual impairment, not necessarily limited to distance vision. Low vision applies to all individuals with sight who are unable to read the newspaper at a normal viewing distance, even with the aid of eyeglasses or contact lenses. They use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, although they may require adaptations in lighting or the size of print, and, sometimes, braille;

"Legally blind" indicates that a person has less than 20/200 vision in the better eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at its widest point); and

Totally blind students learn via braille or other non-visual media.

Visual impairment is the consequence of a functional loss of vision, rather than the eye disorder itself. Eye disorders which can lead to visual impairments can include retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, muscular problems that result in visual disturbances, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, congenital disorders, and infection.

Characteristics: The effect of visual problems on a child's development depends on the severity, type of loss, age at which the condition appears, and overall functioning level of the child. Many children who have multiple disabilities may also have visual impairments resulting in motor, cognitive, and/or social developmental delays. A young child with visual impairments has little reason to explore interesting objects in the environment and, thus, may miss opportunities to have experiences and to learn. This lack of exploration may continue until learning becomes motivating or until intervention begins. Because the child cannot see parents or peers, he or she may be unable to imitate social behavior or understand nonverbal cues. Visual handicaps can create obstacles to a growing child's independence. Educational Implications: Children with visual impairments should be assessed early to benefit from early intervention programs, when applicable. Technology in the form of computers and low-vision optical and video aids enable many partially sighted, low vision and blind children to participate in regular class activities. Large print materials, books on tape, and Braille books are available. Students with visual impairments may need additional help with special equipment and modifications in the regular curriculum to emphasize listening skills, communication, orientation

and mobility, vocation/career options, and daily living skills. Students with low vision or those who are legally blind may need help in using their residual vision more efficiently and in working with special aids and materials. Students who have visual impairments combined with other types of disabilities have a greater need for an interdisciplinary approach and may require greater emphasis on self care and daily living skills. Resources:

American Foundation for the Blind. Search AFB's Service Center on the Web to identify services for blind and visually impaired persons in the United States and Canada. Available: www.afb.org/services.asp Holbrook, M.C. (Ed.). (1996). Children with visual impairments: A parents' guide. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine. (Telephone: 800.843.7323; 301.897.3570. Web: www.woodbinehouse.com) Lewis, S., & Allman, C.B. (2000). Seeing eye to eye: An administrator's guide to students with low vision. New York: American Foundation for the Blind. (Telephone: 800.232.3044. Web: www.afb.org) National Eye Institute. (2003, December). Eye health organizations list. (Available online at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/resourceAlpha.asp)

Organizations:

American Council of the Blind American Foundation for the Blind 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 1004 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300 Washington, D.C. 20005 New York, NY 10001 202.467.5081; 800.424.8666 800.232.5463 (Hotline) Email: info@acb.org For publications, call: 800.232.3044 Web: www.acb.org Email: afbinfo@afb.net Web: www.afb.org Blind Children’s Center 4120 Marathon Street Los Angeles, CA 90029-0159 323.664.2153; 800.222.3566 Email: info@blindchildrenscenter.org Web: www.blindchildrenscenter.org National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired, Inc. P.O. Box 317 Watertown, MA 02472-0317 617.972.7441; 800.562.6265 Email: napvi@perkins.org Web: www.napvi.org

National Association for Visually Handicapped National Eye Institute 22 West 21st Street, 6th Floor 31 Center Drive, MSC 2510 New York, NY 10010 Bethesda, MD 20892-2510 212.889.3141 301.496.5248 Email: staff@navh.org Email: 2020@nei.nih.gov Web: www.navh.org Web: www.nei.nih.gov National Braille Association, Inc. (NBA) National Braille Press 3 Townline Circle 88 St. Stephen Street Rochester, NY 14623-2513 Boston, MA 02115 585.427.8260 617.266.6160; 800.548.7323 Email: nbaoffice@nationalbraille.org Email: orders@nbp.org Web: www.nationalbraille.org Web: www.nbp.org National Federation of the Blind, Parents Division 1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, MD 21230 410.659.9314, ext. 360 Email: nfb@nfb.org Web: www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Library of Congress 1291 Taylor Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20011 202.707.5100; 202.707.0744 (TTY); 800.424.8567 (Toll Free) Email: nls@loc.gov Web: www.loc.gov/nls Prevent Blindness America 500 E. Remington Road Schaumburg, IL 60173 847.843.2020; 800.221.3004 (Toll Free) Email: info@preventblindness.org Web: www.preventblindness.org The Foundation Fighting Blindness (formerly the National Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation) 11435 Cronhill Drive Owings Mills, MD 21117-2220 888.394.3937; 800.683.5551 (TTY) 410.568.0150; 410.363.7139 (TTY) Email: info@blindness.org Web: www.blindness.org