Only a small minority of persons are actually totally blind. The major challenge facing students who are blind in college is the printed material they find in textbooks, class outlines, schedules, and tests. By the time a student who is blind reaches college (unless newly blind), they have probably developed various methods for dealing with the volume of visual materials. It is extremely helpful for the instructor and student to meet before the semester starts to review the student's methods. Instructors are often quite surprised with the degree of independence many students who are blind exhibit.
Interaction with a Student who is Blind
- If a student who is blind seems to need assistance, identify yourself and offer your services.
- If you are walking with the student, let him/her take your arm just above the elbow and walk in a relaxed manner. The student can usually follow the motion of your body.
- When giving directions, use descriptive words such as forward and left. Be specific in directions and avoid the use of vague terms such as "over there".
- Do not assume the student will recognize you by your voice even though you have met before. Identify yourself by name.
- It is helpful to speak directly to the student and to maintain eye contact.
- Students will use one or more methods of taking notes. Students who use Braille prefer to take their own notes using a slate and stylus or portable Brailler. Some students may record lectures.
- Remember, words like "this and that" or phrases like "the sum of this plus that equals this" are basically meaningless to a student who is blind. The instructor can say, "the sum of 4 plus 7 equals 11".
- Students who are blind may miss all nonverbal cues unless they are explained.
- Give verbal notice of room changes, special meetings, or assignments. Students who are blind are likely to miss a notice written on a chalkboard or in a syllabus.
- Consider making copies of overhead materials presented for students who are blind. Students can go over the description with their readers prior to or immediately after the lecture.
- Readers and writers may be needed for tests or in-class assignments.
- Some students use the assistance of trained guide dogs to increase their mobility. Other students may use white canes.