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Visual impairment

Visual impairment is a term used to describe any kind of vision loss, whether it’s someone who cannot see at all or someone who has partial vision loss. Some people are completely blind, but many others have limited or reduced vision to the extent that they are considered legally blind.

Here is a video simulating what a student with a visual impairment may experience in a lecture.

Watch this video from the RNIB where Giles explains how his visual impairment affects him and offers advice on guiding blind and partially sighted people.

Positive ways you can support a student with a visual impairment

  • Always ask if they need support (don’t assume) and ask how you can best support them.
  • Be prepared to adapt the format of your presentations, hand-outs and audio-visuals to allow the student to access teaching materials.
  • Verbally describe objects, activities, and processes whenever possible.
  • Use the student’s name at the start of each sentence so that they know you are addressing them, especially in a group context.
  • When you join a group, identify yourself and the others who may be present.
  • Don’t leave without excusing yourself first.
  • When asked to guide someone, never push or pull them. Let them take your arm and then walk slightly ahead.
  • Be specific about directions, such as rather than saying “here’s a step”, be clear whether it’s a step up or a step down.
  • It’s OK to say, “See you later!” to someone with a visual impairment.
  • As you enter a room describe the layout.
  • Be prepared to accommodate a Guide Dog.
  • If using Collaborate or other software, make sure the connection and any equipment is working correctly.
  • Give advance notice of any tasks and ensure instructions are clear.
  • In online tutorials, allow the student to answer the questions on which they feel the most confident – try not to single them out to answer ‘on the spot’.
  • It may help to allocate students into groups for any group work, rather than allowing them to choose groups themselves.
  • Check if there are any reasonable adjustments you can put in place to support the student.

Check if there are any reasonable adjustments you can put in place to support the student.

Early referral can prevent students falling behind with their work. Contact the Disability Support team to make a referral if:

  • You are aware the student has a visual impairment and requires support.
  • The student doesn’t have a Student Support Plan in place already.
  • You feel you need support around reasonable adjustments.

If the student requires support with anything else including accommodation, money advice or wellbeing support contact the Catalyst Helpdesk to make a referral.

If your student’s disability or condition is affecting their wellbeing or mental health see our Mental Health toolkits for advice on how to support them.

Useful links and further reading


Advice for education professionals from the RNIB

Inclusive Digital Practice Toolkit

Refer to the Student Support Plan if the student has one – these are shared with the named contact in the Department or Faculty or contact the Disability Support team.

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