Week 4: July 21-27

Instructions : Participants are expected to respond to one of the questions posted in a manner that reflects an appropriate level of analysis and engagement in the discussion; applying the knowledge and insights from the readings to practical applications; drawing conclusions based on the content, raising new questions, presenting a counter argument, etc. Each response should include the question number, be stated in complete sentences, and apply the knowledge from the readings and sessions to practical applications.

In addition, each participant is expected to comment on at least two participants’ responses. The responses should be reflective and thoughtful, not simple short answers like “I agree” or “Me too.” A thoughtful response integrates readings, may provide examples, add new information, or present a counter argument.

Acquisition of Literacy Skills by Young Children who are Blind: Results from the ABC Braille Study (JVIB, 2009, p. 610-624)

  1. Examine the implications of the study’s findings for educational practices concerning literacy instruction for students who are blind. How might educators integrate these findings into their approaches to braille instruction? What do you think might happen if local or federal policies mandated specific literacy practices for braille reading students?

  2. How do the assessment methods and protocols described in the ABC article align with your current practices for assessing the literacy skills of students who are blind or visually impaired? Are there any adjustments or enhancements you would consider based on the study’s findings?

The Legibility of Typefaces for Readers with Low Vision: A Research Review (JVIB, 2007, p. 402-415)

  1. Generalize how evidence from research be applied to students with central and peripheral vision loss as it relates to accessing digital literacy.

  2. What steps could you take to collaborate with colleagues, administrators, and support staff to promote awareness and implementation of best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom? Should local school districts adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials? Why or why not?

, administrators, and support staff to promote awareness and implementation of best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom? Should local school districts adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials? Why or why not?

According to the research from Elizabeth Russell-Minda, Jeffrey W. Jutai, J. Graham Strong, Kent A. Campbell, Deborah Gold, Lisa Pretty, and Lesley Wilmot, “typefaces and the characteristics of fonts can affect legibility.” When determining the best typeface/font for students with a visual impairment. A Functional Vision Assessment (FVA) is completed. This assessment includes definitions of the student’s eye condition, their near and distance acuities, their near and distance reading preferences, seating arrangements, what devices may be useful, and other accommodation that may be useful for a student to complete day to day tasks. When testing what typeface/font is best for a student, I keep in mind the font size, presence or absence of serifs, contrast between the text on the page, the thickness of letters, interletter spacing, leading, and the medium on which text is printed as outlined in the study “The Legibility of Typefaces”. Once this information is collected and the report is written, it is then shared with the student’s Child Study or 504 Team. Collaboration is key to ensure that colleagues, administrators, and support staff are aware of and can implement best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom. Once the report is shared, I periodically visit to observe whether or not the teachers are utilizing the recommendations in the FVA.

I do not believe it should be left to local school districts to adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials. Each student’s visual impairment is unique to them; therefore, their preferences are specific to them. If a school adopts inclusive design principles for printed materials, it may not be the best fit for a specific student. I would rather have the FVA to assist the Child Study Team/504 Team, to accommodate each of my students so that they have the best accommodations for their visual needs.

  1. What steps could you take to collaborate with colleagues, administrators, and support staff to promote awareness and implementation of best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom? Should local school districts adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials? Why or why not?

In order to collaborate with others, I would first need to collect important data on my students. During my functional vision assessment of students with low vision, I would make sure I assess a student’s preference among different font types, font size, spacing, and effects of lighting. If time allowed I would also collect data on reading performance comparing these factors.

I would present my findings to IEP team members during the student’s evaluation/IEP meetings and when collaborating 1:1 with individual teachers and support staff that work with my students. I could show examples to the team of how changing these factors could lead to easier recognition and readability for certain students. I could also point out accessibility features available on the students’ or teacher’s tablets or computers that could help make reading materials more accessible.

I do believe school districts should adopt inclusive design principles for printed material, within reason. This would serve not only individuals with visual impairments, but also those who have other disabilities such as dyslexia or who simply have other preferred learning styles. Also, I think this should not simply mean making materials available in simply audible or print version because all students should have access to materials they can access either visually or tactually (in braille). No one should have to access math or science material audibly if they cannot access it visually.

Furthermore I think in our modern age this is becoming easier as most schools are transitioning to use of digital materials, in which font size, font style, lighting, and other conditions can be easily modified. However this can still be improved. Sometimes it requires add-on plug-ins to different online learning platforms (such as Google classroom) in order to produce the results needed to make material accessible for a student. These things can be provided universally without much cost. Also, I think a student should have the option of using hardcopy materials. I have students that perform better and experience less eye fatigue when they are able to read and work with materials in hardcopy form and place it under a magnifier rather than access it from a computer.

I do understanding that a classroom teacher with many students and competing demands on their time may not have time to cater to the needs of one student. In this case the students (and teacher of visual impairments) should at least be provided the means and the clearance to provide the needed accommodations for themselves. For example, they should allow students to access the advanced accessibility features of their chromebook, which they often cannot do on a school device without administration or IT clearance.

From the research, there doesn’t seem to be enough conclusive evidence to show that certain font types, spacing, and font size to traumatically improve reading performance. A lot of the evidence as stated in the article is based on individual preference, not necessarily objective data. That’s why I say I am in support of inclusive design, but not to the extent of placing undue hardship on the teachers or cost for the districts. Rather the students should be given some of the ability and responsibility to make the needed modifications for themselves.

I also agree with you that the responsibility should rest fully on a school district to adopt inclusive design. As you said, each student’s visual impairment and their preferences are unique to them. It’s impossible for a district to meet everyone’s needs. That said, the student and the TVIs and others that work closely with that student to figure out how to best meet their needs should be given leeway and clearance in order to make the adjustments necessary, whether that’s downloading a plug-in to a student’s google chrome browser, accessing the advanced settings of a chromebook, etc. in order to modify the font or converting text-to-speech to meet the student’s needs.

What steps could you take to collaborate with colleagues, administrators, and support staff to promote awareness and implementation of best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom? Should local school districts adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials? Why or why not?

First of all I would have liked to see more information on the effects of large font size on reading rates, and when students are using magnification to make print larger than those listed in the study. I know that might be beyond the scope of the study, but that is just my thought.I have found teachers to be open to working with font sizes and willing to learn how to use the copy machine to enlarge when using printed worksheets, etc. Colleagues and Administrators, Its very important to make time to work with support staff about the impact of font legibility on students with low vision. Everyone in the education system is very busy, so we have developed guides that can quickly show someone how to use a common copy machine to enlarge print. If we go more into the how and whys, we have often found that we “lose” the teacher and staff. If we had the opportunity to offer more in depth training in our district that would be great, and after reading that I hope we can revisit that with our supervisors to try and set that up during the education choices staff have during the back to school trainings. Guidelines and Resources would be great, and something I am going to suggest we try, especially with campuses that are more receptive. When we come back in the fall, I want to suggest to the rest of the TVIs that we try to develop clear guidelines for selecting fonts and formatting printed materials. Include recommendations on font size, including those using magnifiers, contrast, and spacing.

  • Create resource materials such as posters, handouts, or digital guides that can be easily accessed and referenced by teachers when creating instructional materials.
    In our district we often work with OT to get their input on how to integrate these practices into accommodations they can support. .
    Most teachers and staff, when you emphasize the benefits of inclusive design, see the benefits of this.

I agree and I think you make a good point in your statement: I think this should not simply mean making materials available in simply audible or print version because all students should have access to materials they can access either visually or tactually (in braille). No one should have to access math or science material audibly if they cannot access it visually.

That has been a problem with some teachers in getting the math and science in an accessible format. If anyone disagrees about how hard it is to access math audibly, I would suggest having that person try to do higher level math audibly. We have had to take the issue up the chain of command as a last resort to get materials in an accessible format. However, usually, if we can help staff see the need to work with us and provide lesson plans ahead of time, they can see that we are able to assist and that it benefits the student immensely.

It is very true that it should not be left to the school to develop these standards. As is stated, every student’s visual needs are unique to them, so that takes out the option of a single approach, although administrator support can be very very helpful. I agree that the best place to start in developing a personalized approach is through the 504 Team or IEP team. Since these team members are most familiar with the student, it is the place to start for accommodations specific to each student’sneeds and requirements. Again, a broad set of guidelines can be a good place to start; having a good FVE/LMA to reference and show the student’s abilities is a good way to start with the team.

I like your ideas William. It makes me wonder if there are other ways to use the common copy machine to make large print materials that I don’t already know about. I usually reprint materials on 11x17" paper and select the setting “zoom to fit”. It’s helpful. You had a great idea of posting step-by-step instructions on creating enlarged materials right there on the copy machine and offering simple guidelines for choosing appropriate typefaces, etc. Often times I just do this myself, but it would be so much better if all the teachers were given the know-how on all of this.

I agree that it should not be left to the local school districts to adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials. We have FVA’s and IEP’s for a reason. Each student has unique vision and learning needs and the IEP needs to be tailored to each induvial students needs. We cannot expect that one font or one print size material can be used for all students with learning differences. The FVA tells us what vision accommodations are needed for that particular student to access their curriculum best. We then take those findings and put them in the IEP. It is the VI teachers responsibility to train the gen ed teachers on how to make these accommodations and how to implement them in the classroom. I am an itinerant teacher and cannot make all the necessary accommodations if I am not there everyday. The teachers and paraprofessionals need to be educated on how to make these accommodations for our VI students to successfully access the needed materials in class allowing for the best learning experiences.

Hello Melissa,

You definitely share my point of view. This is why I conduct an FVA and shared with the teachers and then I periodically meet and/or observe the student to ensure teachers/paraprofessionals are providing the necessary accommodations for my students. We, as TVI’s, cannot expect teachers/paraprofessionals to know what accommodation to provide. It would be similar to them asking us to teach their subject area.

What steps could you take to collaborate with colleagues, administrators, and support staff to promote awareness and implementation of best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom? Should local school districts adopt inclusive design principles for printed materials? Why or why not?

What collaborative steps could I take to promote awareness and implementation of best practices for font legibility to support students with low vision in the classroom? I think the first step (even before talking about FVELMAs) is to educate, educate, and educate teachers, administrators, and content creators that fonts do matter for our students with visual impairments! For example, some teachers are not aware that fonts such as Pacifico and Dancing Script are nightmares for some students with low vision! For example, a fourth-grade student of mine had a multi-paragraph story to read that was typed in dancing script or the like such as copperplate. The text was available digitally, but the “business” of the script rendered my student unable to access the text. I taught my student how to copy and paste the text into a Word or Google document where she could change the font to better fit her needs. But phew! Cute-sy fonts are NOT so cute for our low-vision kiddos!
Similarly, one day I was in an elementary classroom during math instruction. The teacher was using a PowerPoint that had been created by our school district to introduce exponents. The font on the exponent was so light that there was no way for my student to even see it! Again, content creators need to be educated on the principles of universal design for learning which would include the use of accessible fonts.
Finally, I had a high-achieving student with Stargardt’s in very high-level AP classes (Calculus, Physics, etc.) who struggled to see exponents and any print that was pixelated. Don’t even ask about the fonts on some of the world maps that were part of AP History! I spent a lot of time making documents accessible to her by changing the fonts or darkening pixelated text. Notability and a smart pencil were life savers.I found that once I explained the problem the student was having with accessing educational materials, her teachers were very cooperative, often giving me her instructional materials in advance to screen/adapt them for accessibility. The constancy throughout these three examples is the lack of awareness at the teacher, administrator, and district level of how a visual impairment impacts access to printed material as well as how each student’s needs are unique.

I believe school districts should adopt the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for all educational materials. This approach would provide students who use JAWS and those with low vision unfettered access to learning. UDL emphasizes proactive planning—designing lessons and assessments with diverse learners in mind from the outset. It also focuses on removing barriers, identifying, and eliminating potential obstacles to ensure accessibility for all students.

Educating stakeholders is crucial – but how can we effectively do this? Sharing student experiences, like those mentioned earlier, can help raise awareness. However, parents may sometimes need to become deeply involved to advocate for their children. As a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) in a large school district (the 9th largest in the country), the accessibility needs of our students with visual impairments often get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. Unfortunately, my advocacy efforts, along with those of my 12 peers in the VI Department, often go unnoticed due to the relatively small number of visually impaired students compared to the total student population. Despite the legal requirements, this remains a sad reality. If our district adopted a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model to guide instructional content, education would become more equitable and accessible for every student.

Finally, when we advocate for our students with VI (and teach our students to self-advocate as well!) it’s important to remember what the law says-- the 2004 IDEA Reauthorization includes expectations for State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to provide learners with disabilities with AEM (accessible educational materials).

I completely agree that collecting detailed data on students’ visual preferences and performance is crucial for effective collaboration. Assessing factors like font type, size, spacing, and lighting during functional vision assessments is a valuable step. This individualized approach allows us to understand each student’s unique needs and preferences, which is essential for tailoring effective accommodations.

Sharing these findings with IEP team members and collaborating with individual teachers and support staff is vital. Demonstrating how adjustments in font types, sizes, spacing, and lighting can improve readability for certain students can be eye-opening for the team. Additionally, simulating the visual impairment can help to open the eyes of other team members. (APH has a great VI simulation kit!) Highlighting the accessibility features available on tablets and computers further ensures that we leverage all possible tools to support our students. This collaborative effort can significantly enhance the learning experience for students with visual impairments.

Adopting the universal design for learning principles for printed materials is indeed a step in the right direction. As you mentioned, this approach benefits not only those with visual impairments but also students with other disabilities or different learning preferences. Ensuring that materials are available in multiple formats, including visual and tactile (braille), is crucial for equitable education. I agree with you that students should not be forced to rely solely on auditory means if they cannot access materials visually.

It’s also crucial to emphasize the importance of teaching our students with visual impairments (VI) how to self-advocate effectively for accessible materials. Empowering students to speak up for their needs is a vital skill that will serve them well throughout their educational journey and beyond. Self-advocacy involves students understanding their own needs, knowing what accommodations and resources are available, and having the confidence to request these supports. This skill not only fosters independence but also ensures that students can actively participate in their learning. As students with VI learn to advocate for themselves, they also raise awareness among their peers and educators about the importance of accessibility. This heightened awareness can lead to systemic changes, encouraging schools to prioritize accessible materials and inclusive practices for all students. For example, one of my high school students was upset about the accessibility of a district assessment. She initially tried to contact the Assessments Department for our school district but did not receive a response. Undeterred, she reached out to the Director of Assessments for our county and explained the accessibility issue. Her advocacy ultimately led to changes that benefitted not only herself but also other students with VI!

Hi, Melissa!
I agree that each student with a visual impairment has unique needs, and it’s essential that the IEP is tailored to address those specific requirements. The Functional Vision Assessment (FVA) is crucial in identifying the precise accommodations necessary for each student to access their curriculum effectively. Translating these findings into actionable strategies within the IEP ensures that students receive the support they need.

As VI teachers, we play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between these assessments and their practical implementation in the classroom. However, as itinerant teachers, it’s challenging to be present daily to make all the necessary accommodations ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to empower general education teachers and paraprofessionals with the knowledge and skills to implement these accommodations consistently. However, I also think having students participate in their IEP meetings is helpful so that they will understand their accommodations (and advocate for them!).

I like to share Veroniiiica with Four Eyes’ website/blog with my older students. https://veroniiiica.com/ Veroniiiica started her blog when she was a college student to share how she lives with low vision and learns with assistive technology, while also creating free resources with tips and strategies that she learned. In one of her posts entitled “Ten Lessons My TVI Taught Me,” Veronica writes that self-advocacy was the most important lesson that her TVI taught her. https://veroniiiica.com/ten-lessons-my-tvi-taught-me/

All of the top goals on my IEP revolved around learning to self-advocate and practicing self-advocacy, because my TVI believed that self-advocacy is the most important skill to have when it comes to living with vision loss. I actually hated the idea of having to self-advocate at first, because I found it unfair that I had to justify why I deserved to learn and have access to the same things that other students got by default. However, I quickly learned that I should not expect to be included by default, and my TVI had me practice self-advocacy skills in multiple different contexts, which helped me for when I had to deal with more complicated situations.

Veronica also has a blog entitled " Eight Things That You Need To Know About Your DisabilityAccommodations" which is also helpful AND empowering to students. https://veroniiiica.com/things-to-know-about-disability-accommodations/

In conclusion, I think our job is two-fold: we need to help teachers understand the needs of students with VI (through the FVELMA/IEP, face-to-face meetings, etc.) while also teaching our students about their accommodations and how to self-advocate effectively.