Braille and large print

Adjusting Print for students with low vision.

Screen shows two computer animated female figures – a support teacher vision and a classroom teacher. Print title on screen reads: Adjusting Print for students with low vision

Providing access to the print environment is the most important learning adjustment when supporting a student with low vision in your classroom.

Teaching a student with low vision can seem difficult at first. No two learners with a vision impairment will see the print world in the same way, but there are many low level adjustments that can support access to print in mainstream classrooms.

In NSW public schools, a Support Teacher Vision can help you to identify the best ways to adapt print. The support teacher can provide advice, instructional training and ongoing support for teachers and the student with low vision.

It is important to use a toolbox approach to accessing print to meet the different needs of students.

There are many ways we can give students with low vision access to print.

Depending on the visual needs of the student, different tasks can be adjusted in different ways. For example, low vision aids can be used to help a student to get good clear information immediately from pictures, print figures and tables, or incidental print.

Students can use laptops with magnification software to complete work. iPads with enabled accessibility features can be used to access work as PDFs, ePubs or iBooks or can be used as a basic magnifier. iPads can also capture images of print to perform optical character recognition. This allows older students with low vision the opportunity to adapt the print environment for themselves.

The Support Teacher Vision can help you identify which devices will suit the needs of the student in your classroom.

Environmental adjustments can maximise functional vision. Good lighting, classroom organisation and student positioning can all support access to print.

Most students with low vision will require glasses. Any print modifications made will not work effectively if these glasses are not worn or are in poor condition.

During early literacy, low level adjustments such as heavy lined books and dark marker pens can support students to see their own handwriting clearly.

Larger fonts and adapted pictures can support students when they are beginning to read, simply using the larger font or photocopy is not always the solution.

Sometimes a smaller font viewed at a closer distance, or in conjunction with a low vision aid or an electronic magnification device can be a more accessible option.

In NSW public schools, the Braille and Large Print Service supports students with low vision with access to readers and textbooks in individualised accessible formats.

During the early years, low vision aids are a great way to get learners excited about using their functional vision.

Video magnifiers, low vision aids and generic devices with magnification teach good visual scanning techniques and encourage language that will support beginning readers.

Accessing digital text and teaching good keyboard skills are also important for young learners.

As students mature, they may use less hard copy large print and access work digitally and may require a laptop to complete some or all class work.

Bring Your Own Device policies allow opportunities for young people with low vision to access digital units in the same way as their fully sighted peers.

Students learn in different ways and will benefit from personalised learning approaches in school. Generating accessible documents is an important way to ensure learning is accessible to everyone.

Avoiding ornate fonts and crowding, using headers, good colour contrast and alternate text can help make print and digital documents accessible.

When deciding on teaching materials, keep in mind that print access is easier when you have the digital source. This approach will support and include learners with sensory impairments and will also support students with a range of disabilities, additional learning needs and those students with English as an additional language or dialect.

Interactive whiteboards are often used in classrooms to present classroom learning tasks. Splitter cables and different applications can be used to share the IWB image with laptop computers or iPads.

Video magnification devices or digital cameras can focus on images in the distance and share them with iPads or laptops.

iPads or recommended monoculars can also support accessing print outside the classroom. It is important for students to be flexible learners, to know and feel comfortable using these different types of devices and to have more than one approach when they are accessing print.

The Support Teacher Vision can advise on suitable adjustments to meet the needs of the student and can help you design a plan to adapt print in the classroom. This will include adjustments and devices to support the student to access near and distance vision tasks.

To get in contact with a Support Teacher Vision, or for further help regarding the support needs of students with vision impairment, speak to your school principal.

This presentation was supported by the IOOF Centre for Medical Research in conjunction with the 2014 NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship and the NSW Department of Education.

Braille and Large Print Services provide support and materials in alternate formats for vision impaired students who are supported by an itinerant support teacher (vision).

These include:

  • student textbooks (K-12) and school magazines (Years 3 to 6) in alternate formats ? Braille and large print (various font sizes)
  • electronic format of curriculum titles for access by students who are blind or have low vision using assistive technology
  • Braille format of state-wide examinations such as the Higher School Certificate (HSC)
  • Braille and large print format of state-wide assessments such as the Best Start Kindergarten Assessment, Best Start Year 7 Assessment, International Competitions and Assessment for Schools (ICAS), Opportunity Class assessments (OC), Validation of Assessment 4 Learning & Individual Development (VALID) and HSC Minimum Standards test.
  • Braille format of the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for students in all jurisdictions in Australia
  • loans of Perkins Braille machines for use in class to all students who are blind and their itinerant support teacher (vision)
  • tactile geometric equipment (Braille rulers, Braille protractors and drawing kits) for students who are blind
  • heavily lined exercise books and pads in numerous line patterns for writing, geometric grid and music manuscript for all students in Years K to 12 with low vision
  • syllabus-based 3D models with full colour, embedded with Braille labels and textures
  • a comprehensive library in alternate formats to ensure students who are vision impaired have timely access to school requirements
  • links to 11 Braille outposts located in schools throughout NSW that enable the sharing of resources to maintain local deadlines. These outposts are staffed by a school learning support officer (SLSO) who is responsible for any miscellaneous classroom handouts in Braille or large print required by the student in a short turn-around.

Support for schools and teachers

  • The itinerant support teacher (vision) consults with the school on behalf of their student through the class teacher and/or specialist teacher(s) to determine the curriculum and format needs of the student
  • The itinerant support teacher (vision) submits requests to Braille and large print services for appropriate action and the dispatch of resources to the student or school
  • Staff at Braille and large print services, upon request, provide advice and direction on Braille code rules and formatting to itinerant support teachers (vision)
  • Braille and large print catalogues of all titles available in the library collection and details of their font and paper sizes are available to itinerant support teachers (vision).

Roles and responsibilities

Many people contribute to supporting students with disability and additional learning and support needs and they have a wide range of roles and responsibilities .

Staff training

Professional learning is available to help teachers and school support staff develop and deliver quality learning experiences for all students.

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