About: Inclusion for Students with Visual Impairments
Students with visual impairments have been included in general education classrooms for many, many years. In fact, there is documentation of children who were blind and visually impaired attending public schools as early as 1903. Long before the beginning of “mainstreaming” or “inclusion” for students with disabilities was required by law, teachers and parents made accommodations for students with visual impairments to attend classes in their neighborhood schools.
While most students who are visually impaired attend public school and are enrolled in a general education classroom, there remain a number of students who attend a residential school for the blind. Most states in the United States have a residential school. More information on the location of residential schools is available online. The only residential school in Canada is the W. Ross MacDonald School in Brantford, Ontario. Residential schools today often provide a wealth of resources that extend beyond the walls of the school and help support even those children who are attending public school classes. Additional information about residential schools and options for services in public schools can be found in the “Service Delivery Options and Professionals” link on the main page of this website.
The following are important points to consider about inclusion of students with visual impairments:
- Decisions regarding inclusion should be made on an individual basis considering the strengths and needs of each child. These decisions should not be made based on philosophy or budgets.
- Placement decisions must include input from all members of the educational team and should include documented evidence of a student’s educational progress and plans for the future. Ultimately, the decision about placement will be made by the parents. The role of educators is to provide parents with information and participate in honest, straightforward discussions about educational options.
- Students who are included in general education classes should have the supports necessary to be successful. These supports include access to qualified teachers, access to educational materials and instruction, and instruction in specialized skills.
- General education classroom teachers should be provided with strong support for planning accessible curriculum and for providing instructional support throughout the day.
- Students whose only disability is a visual impairment do not require one-on-one support from a paraeducator. Paraprofessional support is valuable in assisting classroom teachers in providing individualized instruction and producing accessible materials (e.g., braille copy of classroom handouts).
- Students with visual impairments must be truly included in all classroom activities. Participation in academic, social, and recreational activities is critical for educational and emotional development.
Time is a big issue for students with visual impairments in general education classrooms. Classroom teachers and teachers of students with visual impairments should work together to ensure that students have adequate time to complete assignments as well as participate in direct instruction on specialized skills with the TVI.