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Content creation

General points

Visual impairment covers a wide range of conditions from congenital blindness through to colourblindness, age-related deterioration and visual issues related to specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Since the range of visual impairments is so wide, the range of appropriate and reasonable adjustments is also very wide. Some learner needs will be perfectly satisfied by very modest adjustments whilst others may pose real challenges.

Some subject areas can pose more difficulties for learners with certain types of visual impairment. Visually based subjects like fine art and film pose obvious difficulties for learners with no vision. Less obvious but no less problematic, are the difficulties in making sense of mathematical, statistical and engineering notation to people with no vision.

Visual impairment will rarely if ever make a subject impossible to study, but choice of subject can have a significant bearing on both effort required and likely achievement for a given level of effort.

Assistive technologies

A wide range of technologies exist to support people with visual impairments. These include:

  • Software based tools such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, text to speech software and screen tinters. Many mainstream software packages have built-in features such as soon, text reflow, colour and font options etc.
  • Hardware based tools such as refreshable braille, CCTV magnifiers or portable magnifiers, talking tools (eg measuring jugs, rulers etc). Good sources of information on the wide range of commercial products and suppliers can be found on the EmpTech website.

Traditional resources and activities

Traditional classroom resources tend to be books, handouts, overhead projector or whiteboard notes and videos. For learners with visual impairment many of these resources could prove difficult to use independently. Handouts and books can be photocopied at the larger size but whiteboard notes and videos will require seating in particular places - something that can be embarrassing for some learners. In terms of classroom activities, discussions, debates and oral interactions are highly accessible.

Digital resources and activities

One of the benefits of digital resources and activities is that they are highly flexible so can be used in conjunction with assistive technology in a discreet way. Digital resources potentially allow much higher degrees of learner independence. Where text to speech software is used it is possible for many learners to access their resources using their personal technologies such as mobile phones and MP3 players. Digital resources that are dependent on video and animation may prove problematic for visually impaired learners and generally will require effective subtitling, transcripts or text summaries. Whilst many online activities are perfectly accessible to visually impaired learners is important to recognise that some interactions can prove very difficult to access with a screen reader. For example wikis require the user to recognise non--linear changes that may have been made since they last looked. Such scanning is relatively easy to do by sight but much more time-consuming by listening.

Content creation for visually impaired learners - subsections