Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days of Awareness: Visual Impairments

Visual Impairments

Awareness Month : October
Awareness Day: World Sight Day (2nd Thursday in October)

A visual impairment is any visual condition that impacts an individual’s ability to successfully complete the activities of everyday life. Students with visual impairments are infants, toddlers, children and youths who experience impairments of the visual system that impact their ability to learn. The rate at which visual impairments occur in individuals under the age of 18 is 12.2 per 1,000. Severe visual impairments (legally or totally blind) occur at a rate of .06 per 1,000.

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.
Educational ImplicationsChildren 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.

Adaptive Technology
In order to access print information, students with visual impairments must be trained in the use of a number of adaptive devices, methods, and equipment that are collectively referred to as assistive technology. Some of this technology allows access to information presented on a computer while others are devices to be used independently. Computer hardware and software are continuously advancing, allowing for more access to information than ever before. Some examples:
Computer adaptations:
  • Braille translation software and equipment: converts print into braille and braille into print.
  • Braille printer: connects to a computer and embosses braille on paper.
  • Screen reader: converts text on a computer screen to audible speech.
  • Screen enlargement software: increases the size of text and images on a computer screen.
  • Refreshable Bbraille display: converts text on computer to braille by an output device connected to the computer.
Adaptive devices:
  • Braille notetakers: lightweight electronic note-taking device that can be connected to a printer or a braille embosser to produce a printed or brailled copy.
  • Optical character reader: converts printed text into files on a computer that can be translated into audible speech or Braille with appropriate equipment and software.
  • Electronic braillewriter: produces braille, translates braille into text or synthetic speech.
  • Talking calculators: calculates with voice output.
Optical devices:
  • Closed Circuit Television (CCTV): enlarges an image to a larger size and projects it on a screen
  • Magnifiers: enlarges images
  • Telescopes: used to view distant objects
A specially trained teacher of students with visual impairments can help supply many of these devices and can provide training for the student to become independent and proficient in using assistive technology.
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kim November 14, 2012 at 2:29 AM  

The importance of a braille translation being accurate and efficient can indeed not be overstated. Especially in the ever faster moving world of globalized business, successful information and technology transfer within multinational businesses can make the difference between win or lose.