Blindness and Visual Impairments
A person with a visual impairment may not be
completely blind. Some people see only light and dark, while others may
peripheral or only central vision. A person is declared
blind” if, with best correction, s/he can see less at 20 feet than a
with normal vision can see at 200 feet. A person is considered visually
impaired when s/he sees no better at 20 feet (with best correction)
those with normal vision see can see at 70 feet.
A person is also declared “legally blind” if the person’s
range of sight is less than 10 degrees centrally. This type of
blindness is termed a field defect, and comes as a result of
impairments such as glaucoma,
macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy. A
person with a normal field of vision has a binocular (both eyes) field
of approximately 160 degrees.
Students with visual impairments may not need the same level
of assistance as a totally blind student. S/he may be independent in
moderately lighted settings and only need guidance in very bright or
very dim light. Always ask the student how much assistance s/he needs.
When greeting a blind student, speak in a normal tone and
state your name – “Hi Sue, this is Sally.” Always direct questions
the student to the student, not the staff member who may also be
If someone else enters the room and the student is not aware of that
person’s presence, tell the student who has entered.
When walking with a blind student, ask if s/he would like
guidance. If the student answers yes, offer your elbow to the student
or take his/her extended hand and tuck it between your arm and side
just above the elbow. Proceed at a normal pace, slightly ahead of the
student. Inform the student if you are approaching an obstacle or have
a need to turn suddenly.
When approaching a student with a guide dog, keep in mind
the dog is working. NEVER attempt to get the dog’s attention. This
could easily cause a distraction that will disorient the student and
potentially cause harm. Only ask the student if it is all right to pet
the dog when the dog is out of its harness or the student is seated. If
the student says no,
abide by that wish.
When acting as an exam scribe or proctor for a blind
student, remember the exam is the student’s, not yours. The
accommodation of alternative test taking is to provide the student with
an opportunity to complete exams with equal access. Do not editorialize
the student’s words so they are
grammatically correct. Do not guide the student to the answer you know
is best. Your job is to read the exam to the student and write down the
answer s/he gives to you.
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