Visual disabilities include a broad spectrum of experiences of people who may identify as blind or visually impaired and/or who may experience a range of limitations in perceiving or processing visual information. A legally blind person is one whose vision, while wearing corrective lenses, does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye, or whose visual field is less than an angle of 20 degrees. Ninety percent of individuals who are identified as legally blind have some useful vision or light perception. Total darkness is rare. Color blindness and visual processing disorders are other types of visual disabilities.
Visual disabilities are not always obvious. Students may navigate independently or a use guide dog or white cane to enhance mobility. Students with visual disabilities may use magnification or text to speech software to access printed or electronic material.
Barriers to Access
- Accessing printed materials
- Small font size
- Light sensitivity and contrast sensitivity
- Color perception
- Navigating unfamiliar environments
- Expectations to process visual information in short periods of time
- Inaccessible digital material and platforms
Considerations and Tips for Improving Accessibility
Students’ accommodation letters outline the accommodations they are approved for with D&A. Following delivery by the student, instructors must provide each accommodation listed. The following list includes suggested instructional tips and practices to consider in addition to the provision of ADA accommodations. (Information about a student’s disability is confidential with Disability & Access, and while a student may choose to disclose their disability, this information cannot be requested by instructors).
- Provide reading lists or syllabi in advance to allow time for students to obtain or request accessible copies of class materials. Recognize students may be using technology (including their phones) for magnifying information shared on the board or to take notes Ask students if they have a preference for where they sit in class and, if necessary, reserve seating for them. Depending on their visual ability it may be better for them to sit in front of the class or on the left or right side. Verbalize the content printed on overheads or the whiteboard (e.g. read out words written on the whiteboard, describe images on a slide presentations)
- Provide digital copies of all materials shown or used in class. In providing printed copies, use minimum 12 point font: ask students if they need a larger font size Ensure PDFs and visual elements (graphs, charts, images) are accessible. Be patient and be aware of imposed time limits; it may take students longer to process visual information or following along using their technology
- Identify yourself when initiating conversation with the student (don’t assume voice recognition), and note who you are directing conversation to in group settings.
UT Resources & Links
- Tuition Exemption
- Assistive Technology (Disability and Access): https://community.utexas.edu/disability/assistive-technology-2/
- Alternative Text Book Request Form
- Information for Users with Disabilities (UT Library): https://web-prod.lib.utexas.edu/about/policies/services-assistive
- Texas Technology Access Program
- Talking Book Program (Texas State Library and Archives Commission)
- Texas Workforce Commission-Blind Services
- Austin Chapter-National Federation of the Blind
- Austin Council-American Council of the Blind of Texas
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