Blind & Low Vision Accessibility Guide
By Federal law, students with disabilities must be given “substantially equivalent ease of access” to course materials. Any course materials, whether posted online or distributed in class, need to be prepared as accessible documents. Refer to https://www.mines.edu/accessibility/ for resources related to creating accessible documents.
Refer to https://www.washington.edu/doit/low-vision to learn more about students with vision disabilities and common accommodations.
Considerations to keep in mind when interacting with people who are blind or have a vision disability:
- Introduce yourself and anyone else present when speaking to a person with a significant vision disability.
- When speaking to someone directly, address them by name.
- Vocal cues like the one above are especially important in group conversations.
- Use a normal voice level when speaking; remember that a vision disability affects sight, not hearing.
- Keep in mind that turning your head away while speaking can muffle sound.
- Keep in mind that body language and gestures cannot be seen.
- Do not hesitate to use words such as “look” or “see”; people with vision disabilities also use these terms.
Assistance with Mobility and Orientation
- When walking with or guiding someone, let them take your arm just above the elbow; do not grab their arm. Walk in a natural manner and pace.
- Do not interrupt someone’s cane traveling, grab them, or lead them without their permission. Don’t simply assume they need help.
- Provide clear pathways and directions for someone who is cane traveling.
- Do not leave someone who is blind in an open area; describe the area and help them get oriented to a landmark.
- When offering a seat, place their hand on the back or arm of the seat. This gives them a frame of reference to seat themselves.
Guide Dog Considerations
- A guide dog is trained as a working animal and should not be pet or spoken to without the permission of the handler. A general rule of thumb is that the dog is working while in harness.
- Allow someone with a guide dog to sit where appropriate to accommodate the dog’s presence.
- Guide dogs are specially trained and well-behaved. You do not need to worry that they will disturb a class or event.
- Guide dogs will need special consideration when planning laboratory exercises and field trips.
- Let the class know about your required course materials as soon as possible so that arrangements for an alternate format can be made.
- Discuss necessary classroom accommodations and testing adaptations within the first couple of class days. Do not hesitate to ask a student what accommodations, if any, are required in the classroom. The student is the “expert” about their particular needs.
- Appropriate seating for the student is important; they need to be seated in a position to receive verbal cues since visual cues are difficult or not possible to see.
- Ask the student if they need assistance with printed materials.
- Provide hand-outs (preferably electronically) in advance of lectures and allow audio-recording where possible to assist review of notes. Be open to students recording your lectures; audio agreement forms are available from the DSS office.
- Individual introduction to laboratory or computer equipment may be helpful. Classes taught in a lab setting may need workstation modifications. Often, the help of a lab assistant will be required in order for a student to fully participate in a lab.
- Extra time and/or a separate room may be necessary when a student requires a reader, a scribe, or needs to use assistive technology.
- Students with disabilities should be allowed the same anonymity as other students in the classroom. When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask them as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
- For fieldwork or field trips, assess the need for safety and transportation accommodations.
- Ensure that notices such as re-scheduled classes or cancellations are announced in ways that are accessible. If the class location is moving, be sure to have someone remain behind to let the student know (a note on the door will not suffice).
- If the classroom/office arrangement has changed, let the student know.
- Use a visual and auditory approach while teaching, holding meetings, and in other encounters. Read aloud what you are writing on the board or referring to on handouts. Provide appropriate written and verbal descriptions to accompany visual aids, diagrams, films, or videos you might use in class. Talk through calculations or procedures as they are carried out. When using technical terms, remember to spell them out or give descriptions if appropriate.
- Create text-based descriptions of materials that are primarily visual or graphical in nature.
- Diagrams and charts can be presented in tactile form by using a special plastic film or, for partially-sighted students, by using thick black pen lines or enlargement.
- Try to be specific when describing visuals (e.g., avoid using terms like “this” and “that”).