Ideas to teach a blind person
December 1, 2015 6:59 AM   Subscribe

One of my pupils is visually impaired. I need to brush up on my teaching skills.

I teach English in France. One of my pupils (6th grade) is visually impaired. He enjoys English (he enjoys all the subjects I guess) but I'm at a loss to find engaging activities or material to teach him.
My teaching relies heavily on pictures, but I can't use pictures to teach him. Sure there's a SNT with him, who can tell him what happens, describe things, but I'd like to provide him with stuff he could experience first-hand. He likes to sing, to move (mime), and we do that pretty regularly.
I thought about audio description of movies or series, but I couldn't really find stuff online (I know that Daredevil has got audio description, but I'd like to find other kinds of content).

I 'd really like pushing the envelope here, so thanks a lot for your suggestions.
posted by nicolin to Education (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I have a friend who uses puff paint to make pictures and maps accessible to her visually impaired students. She laminates the picture/map, then goes over outlines in the image with puff paint (or will fill in entire areas as appropriate, layer the puff paint to change the height of different areas, etc.) It's pretty cool.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:50 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I teach English in Hong Kong and had a blind 7th grader in class two years ago!

She still studies with us and is happy and well-adjusted, though most of our other (sighted) teen students don't really know how to cope with her. We teach students that age for two hours once a week, so we had the twin problems of an absence of a routine and an absence of social familiarity with the other students.

Actually delivering content and teaching her was less problematic, though, than getting everyone else on board to keep the class communicative; getting her parents, her classmates, their parents, my supervisors, and the resources staff at my school all working together is something I'm really proud of, because buy-in from everyone else was the most important factor in making it not really two classes at once - me teaching the blind student and ignoring the other 19 people in the room.

Overall, I needed to be very direct. People were, honestly, a bit surprised that they were expected to make a special effort to accommodate her, but once I told them what needed to be done they came through.

Some adaptations I made and things I did to make the class work well:

- meeting with a local blind-people's-support organization as soon as I could to understand what was possible and what wasn't in terms of information reception and retention (my sighted students could hear a video, read the English subtitles, and see the lips of the speaker move, but my blind student only had access to one of those channels...)

- liaising with her parents to get material I made for class printed in Braille in advance as much as possible - we didn't have a Braille embosser/software suite at school at the time so I had to adapt most of my photocopies and handouts into a reasonable format

- getting her to bring in her laptop and USB braille output keyboard plus headphones so she could access and generate material that non-VI students could read and vice-versa - the other students were at first fascinated and then incredibly impressed with how well she managed to read their material.

- keeping it as digital as possible - instead of writing stories on paper, a Google Doc the class worked on together with a set of laptops was easily read in its entirety and quite quickly by my blind student, who would then add comments just as easily as a sighted student would

- trying hard to push the social interaction aspect of the class with lots of mingles and presentations - often she would write the text while others made the poster/visuals. I did this primarily because she had been in a segregated school with other blind and VI children and was quite immature socially compared to her peers, perhaps more like a 4th or 5th grader in terms of likes/dislikes and behavior

- working with my school to change our assessment structure for her level as a whole to be based on smaller, in-class activities instead of a huge end-of-term test, which she would never have had a chance to finish given her far slower reading speed

- doing some major learner training. I needed to be very explicit with the other students, none of whom had seriously interacted with or even met a blind person before, in terms of what they should do in class to make it work for all of us - I wrote them a letter that my student helped me compose (on her laptop!), and added in tips like remembering to push in chairs and say where things are relative to the person ("your book is in front of you, past the laptop screen", not "your book is over there"). We also talked about safe and acceptable ways to help her navigate the classroom - dragging someone behind you is not OK, asking if they'd like some help and then gently touching someone's elbow is OK. Again, my students had next to zero experience with blind people and were at a very socially awkward age; yours may be different.

- doing far more chanting/drilling/pronunciation work to get classroom language down so that she could use other people's discussions to orient herself since she couldn't use the interactive whiteboard or some other visual means of reference

- getting other students to take on some of my responsibilities with each other, including her - the students would vote on homework for the coming week or vote on what they liked best about the lesson and she'd get help filling in her ballot; we also involved her in things like cleaning up her group's table when it was her turn, and getting the sighted students to help her navigate to the appropriate bin in English was very motivating for all

- being very explicit with the teacher's aide, who had far less training than a teacher and no real experience working with people with disabilities, about when my student needed to work with others, work alone, or work with the aide; I had to stop the aide from infantilising her in front of others

- featuring other people who were socially marginalized - not always because of a disability - in our curriculum helped my students build empathy and work with her better, and helped my blind student see more of the world than the blind/sighted dichotomy she deals with every day

- finally, asking my school to change my workload so I had the day before I taught this student a bit lighter and the day after a bit heavier to give me additional preparation time; this was important for my own mental health and to stay focused on her needs and how much more interesting the class was, instead of my resentment of the fact that her needs were, in reality, a time-consuming headache I wasn't trained to manage

I hope you find something here to help guide you!
posted by mdonley at 7:54 AM on December 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


My teaching relies heavily on pictures, but I can't use pictures to teach him.

As goodbyewaffles pointed out, you can! You are looking for tactile drawings/tactile images.

Tactile Educational Materials: Tips and Resources

See also:

APH Tactile Graphic Image Library

and

Tactile Library: A free library of diagrams used in the education of the blind and partially sighted

...for some free resources.

Described video:

The Media Access Group at WGBH is the main provider of a lot of network/major motion picture described video in the US, if you're looking for material en anglais.

Here is a list of all of the movie titles they have provided described video services (DVS) for.

Here is their list of movies with DVS available on DVD - not sure how available those might be as regionally-encoded versions in France.

Question: since you said you wanted to push the envelope, is having your other students assist in describing things (or helping create tactile images) in the realm of possibility?

Described video best practices (available in both English and French).

That last link comes from Accessible Media Inc./Accessibilité Média Inc., which is Canadian. They offer described and accessible content in both English and French - outside of Canada, their online content would still be available. You can find it here in French.

They also produce a cooking show aimed at a blind audience: Les Quatre Sens / The Four Senses.

When I get home tonight and talk to my blind guy, I might have more ideas. Bonne chance!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:36 AM on December 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please ask your student! Ask what kind of activities have been enriching in other classes. Ask if there's anything that didn't work. Your student is the best authority on their learning style. So often, people forget to involve disabled people whom their actions will directly impact. They ask "authorities" instead of checking in with the person. Your student has great expertise in what works for them. Please ask and respect the answers. If he enjoys all his subjects, he's got a pretty good idea what's working for him. You should also check in with his other teachers. If he enjoys their classes, they're doing something right.

In short, not all visually impaired people are the same. Treat him as an individual who already has a number of years success at school, and replicate what's already being done that's working for him. No need to reinvent the wheel.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:40 AM on December 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Please ask your student! Ask what kind of activities have been enriching in other classes. Ask if there's anything that didn't work. Your student is the best authority on their learning style. So often, people forget to involve disabled people whom their actions will directly impact. They ask "authorities" instead of checking in with the person. Your student has great expertise in what works for them. Please ask and respect the answers. If he enjoys all his subjects, he's got a pretty good idea what's working for him. You should also check in with his other teachers. If he enjoys their classes, they're doing something right.

Very much this.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:43 AM on December 1, 2015


Thanks for these outstanding answers ! I really appreciate your input.
posted by nicolin at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2015


Definitely ask your student! Visual impairment varies a huge amount, as does the way a particular person likes to learn.

You might also find the Perkins Activity Bank materials have some ideas you can use or adapt. (I work for Perkins, but not directly involved with that site, but feel free to MeMail me with more questions if you like, and I'd be glad to dig up more specifics for you.)

If you have things that you'd normally use pictures of, can you replace any of those with small models? (Doll house items, small toys, things like that?)Some schools for the blind are now exploring 3D printing as a way to do these kinds of items easily, so if you know anyone who likes playing with a 3D printer, it might be really fun for them to come up with objects for you to use.

Also, anything that uses other senses: a small dish with dried lavender or pine needles or cinnamon chunks (barring other allergy issues) can be really informative and evocative.
posted by modernhypatia at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2015


I'm visually impaired.

I'll second the use of digital materials to whatever extent is possible. Digital access really is king for visually impaired people anymore. Any means of tactile output is also a huge plus. Involving other students is also a great suggestion. It'll help them learn about disabilities and perhaps aid your student if there's any lingering sense of social isolation I know when I was younger, that could be difficult.

But really, asking your student is the best way to achieve results. The roadmap is right there if you want to read it. Essentially it's very important to involve the student in his own education. Blind people are too often disregarded and made to feel like invalids. Providing that agency is a wonderful idea.

Feel free to memail me if you've got any other questions. I'd love to help if I can. This will be easier to answer when the particulars of your student's situation are known.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 1:42 PM on December 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


RNIB and Dyslexia Action in the UK run Load2Learn which provides accessible learning resources for people with print disabilities. There's a charge for users outside the UK.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:21 PM on December 1, 2015


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