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Visual Impairment Resources

Visual Impairment Resources  Guide to visual disabilities--how colleges help visually impaired students succeed 

The Individual with Disabilities Education Act defines a visual impairment in this way: a visual impairment, including blindness means impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness. Visual impairment for any child means:
  • a visual impairment, not primarily perceptual in nature, resulting in a measured visual acuity of 20/70 or poorer in the better eye with correction, or
  • a physical eye condition that affects visual functioning to the extent that special education placement, materials, and services are required in an educational setting.

A number of terms are used to refer to students with visual impairments; the terms partially sighted, low vision, legally blind, and totally blind are used in the educational context to describe students with visual impairments. They are defined as follows:

  • "Partially sighted" indicates some type of visual problem has resulted in a need for special education
  • "Low vision" generally refers to a severe visual impairment, not necessarily limited to distance vision. Low vision applies to all individuals with sight who are unable to read the newspaper at a normal viewing distance, even with the aid of eyeglasses or contact lenses. They use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, although they may require adaptations in lighting or the size of print, and, sometimes, braille
  • "Legally blind" indicates that a person has less than 20/200 vision in the better eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at its widest point)
  • Totally blind students learn via braille or other non-visual media

Visual impairment is the consequence of a functional loss of vision, rather than the eye disorder itself. Eye disorders which can lead to visual impairments can include retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, muscular problems that result in visual disturbances, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, congenital disorders, and infection.

How Common are Visual Impairments?

The rate at which visual impairments occur in individuals under the age of 18 is 12.2 per 1,000. Severe visual impairments (legally or totally blind) occur at a rate of .06 per 1,000.

Ohio's Braille Law

In 1995, the Ohio Braille Law was passed by the Ohio Legislature. The intent of Ohio's Braille Law is to call special attention to the particular instructional needs of students with visual disabilities and to outline steps to address those particular needs.

Definitions incorporated into Ohio Braille Law

As stated in the Administrative Code: "VISUAL IMPAIRMENT INCLUDING BLINDNESS" means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes children who have partial sight, and children with blindness.

As stated in Amended Substitute House Bill Number 164: (M) "Visual disability" for any individual means that one of the following applies to the individual:

  • The individual has a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses or has a limited field of vision in the better eye such that the widest diameter subtends an angular distance of no greater than twenty degrees.
  • The individual has a medically indicated expectation of meeting the requirements of division (M)(1) of this section over a period of time.
  • The individual has a medically diagnosed and medically uncorrectable limitation in visual functioning that adversely affects the individual's ability to read and write standard print at levels expected of the individual's peers of comparable ability and grade level.

The law addresses issues including the certification/licensure of teachers of the visually impaired and rules for the provision of Braille translation computer media for schoolbooks listed for sale by publisher with the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The law also requires that school districts annually assess the reading and writing skills of each student with a visual disability enrolled in the district in each medium in which instruction is specified as appropriate for the student. Further the law requires that the results of each assessment shall be provided in a written statement that specifies the student's strengths and weaknesses in each medium assessed. This information shall become part of the student's IEP.

These reading and writing media assessments can be used to help determine current levels of performance and which instructional medium -- Braille, large print, audiocassette tape, or standard print -- is appropriate to meet the student's needs.

For more information about Ohio's Braille Law and its requirements and best practices in educational program planning, contact the Ohio State School for the Blind Outreach Services at 614-410.0338.