Thursday, 1 December 2011

Modifying worksheets for visually impaired students

Here are some guidelines that I have drawn up on a few basic issues when teaching students with low vision. I hope you find it useful. Please email me if  I have left anything out.

General points
Is the sheet a copy from a book? - Give the pupil the actual book or a colour copy. Is it a copy of a copy? - The image becomes fainter each time it is copied. Has the copy been reduced in size to save money? - It may be completely inaccessible to those with low vision.
Pictures, graphs and diagrams
If the image is black and white look at the individual components and shading and ask:How easy is it to distinguish the separate elements of the picture? Do the key points of the picture stand out sufficiently? Is there unnecessary clutter in the image? Are lines bold and sufficiently contrasted to make them as clear as possible?
Titles, headings and body text
Make headings and subheadings very clear with differentiated font and font sizes. Use a font where letters are clearly separated from each other. Arial is a good example. Make it bold and it is even clearer. Times New Roman is less clear because of the ‘serifs’ or hooks on the ends of the lines. Avoid italic text as it is very hard to read. Put good spaces between sections so that it is very clear where one part ends and the other begins. Put good spaces between text and diagrams. Label the questions or sections very well using large bold numbers or highlights: where possible enhance the start of points or questions with highlighting. A good general purpose size for text is point 14. Point 18 is better as there is less on the page.
Paper and backgrounds
As a rule stick to A4 size paper. If you have to enlarge a sheet to A3 try to make the page smaller by cutting down the margins.
White can be glary for some pupils who have problems with light sensitivity so if possible an off-white is preferable; pastel colours such as cream are good.
Printing text on pictures or busy backgrounds can be distracting!
Issues around differentiated materials
Children are often sensitive about being given special materials or equipment as it makes them stand out from the group. To avoid this you can:
Give all pupils in her/his proximity or group the same differentiated materials.
Give the whole class the same size sheet and text.
Give both copies to the pupil –the standard sheet and the differentiated copy.
Make the differentiated copy available so the pupil can use it as needed.
Computers and laptops are a good means of access and recording notes for VI pupils. Pupils will benefit from touch typing lessons and being allowed to use a laptop in class. (They may of course refuse to use any extra equipment to avoid appearing 'different'.) There are stick-on large high contrast letters that can make the keyboard easier to see. There are many shortcuts that can make the keyboard less necessary. All pupils will benefit from learning to be an effective touch typist. Touch typing  reduces the time a pupil has to switch focus between the monitor and the keyboard, which often slows down the pupil who has difficulty focusing. Two useful shortcuts are (1) CTRL + mouse scroll which resizes text / internet pages; (2) SHIFT+ALT+PRT SCRN, which brings up an inverse polarity screen with black background and white text and large icons. Thniks can be fine tuned with the accessibility features. With a  Mac the mouse pointer can be adapted and enlarged within system preferences.

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