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Visual Disabilities

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Visually impaired students need most of their accommodations in the form of alternative formatting or access to materials.  Some pointers:

  • Make handouts, assignments, and any possible reading available on Canvas, in Microsoft Word, HTML documents, or OCR-compatible PDFs. To make a PDF accessible to all students, visit Stanford's SCRIBE Project to convert your files.
  • Giving assignments in which students can only research printed documents is challenging for visually impaired students.  Finding articles and documents in the library is particularly difficult.  Independent online searches are usually more accessible to visually impaired students, since their screen readers can read anything text-based aloud.
  • For discussions that rely heavily on visuals, provide the student with verbal descriptions of material rather than pointing or using phrases such as “this” “that” and “click here.”  Verbal descriptions should be used when writing on a blackboard, using slides to convey a point, using highly visual computer or multimedia presentations, and in library orientation workshops.
  • It can be difficult for a visually impaired student to identify classmates by voice.  Ask students to say their names at the beginning of several of the first class periods, instead of only on the first day. Some visually impaired students might ask if you can create assigned seating—it is often easier for them to recognize classmates by their position in space.
  • For partially sighted students, an assigned seat that optimizes any vision they have--for example, in the front row--may help the student see the whiteboard and the instructor more easily.