Welcome to Inclusive Education.


Low vision and learning

http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/low-vision-and-learning/

Low vision describes a degree of vision loss that affects day-to-day living.

Students with low vision are likely to need support with processing visual information, accessing technology, social and daily living skills, organisation and moving around the classroom and school.

This guide focuses on areas for specific support and on whole-class strategies that benefit all students. Links to in-depth resources and specialist support services are included.

Categories

Specifically about
Low vision
Also related to
Removing barriers to learning
Innovative learning environments

Information about low vision

Vision is a complex sense made up of the ability to see contrasts and sharpness of detail, and to locate objects in the environment. In New Zealand, vision impairment is known as low vision.

Digital tools: on-ramps to the curriculum.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Suggestions and resources

Glasses and low vision (image)
A student wearing glasses
Glasses and low vision

People with low vision have reduced vision, even when they use the best possible corrective contact lenses or glasses.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Glasses and low vision
Types of low vision

Low vision may be:

  • congenital (present from birth)
  • hereditary (genetic, congenital or later onset)
  • acquired (through accident, illness or disease).

A person’s vision can be characterised by:

  • reduced clarity of images and fine detail from a distance
  • reduced ability to read small print
  • reduced peripheral vision.

Source: Nagel 2005

Types of low vision

Resources and downloads

Low vision

Prezi presentation on low vision by Jan Duthie and Catherine Rivers-Smith.

What is low vision?

Information on the common causes of low vision from the American Foundation for the Blind.

Glossary of eye conditions

Comprehensive glossary of eye conditions from the American Foundation for the Blind.

Wairarapa College student reflection (NZ) (video)
Customising access to learning at high school: a student/teacher partnership

Matt, a secondary student with low vision, describes how he makes school work. He reflects on his use of technology, effective partnerships with teachers, and the need for self-advocacy skills. 

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning

Wairarapa College student reflection (NZ)
Possible areas for support

 

A student’s low vision can have an impact on their learning across the curriculum, but it very much depends on the condition and the context. Areas where support might be needed Students who are blind or have low vision may:

  1. find processing visual information tiring and difficult

  2. need access to technology

  3. benefit from extra help to learn social and daily living skills

  4. find organisational strategies and tools useful

  5. benefit from support to move around the classroom and school.

Possible areas for support
Challenges and approaches (image)
Low vision
Every situation and every student is different

How low vision can influence learning summarises some of the challenges students experience at school, and outlines teaching opportunities to support learning.

Students who are blind or have low vision: A resource for educators examines how blindness or low vision can influence learning, and provides strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

Source: Ministry of Education

Challenges and approaches
Environmental considerations

The needs of each student with low vision differ depending on their eye condition, their well-being, and the context. In general, it will be necessary to consider the following:

  1. glare

  2. contrast

  3. lighting

  4. positioning

  5. reducing visual clutter

  6. visual cues

  7. self-advocacy

Environmental considerations

Resources and downloads

Students who are blind or have low vision: A resource for educators

This Ministry of Education booklet examines how blindness and low vision can influence learning and provides strategies teachers can use in the classroom.

How low vision can influence learning

A summary of the challenges students with low vision experience at school, with an outline of teaching opportunities to support learning. A Ministry of Education publication.

A senior student's story (NZ) (video)
Kate’s digital tool kit

Senior student Kate gives an overview of how she uses a range of digital technologies to meet her learning needs.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ1 (NZ)

A senior student's story (NZ)
Using a tablet camera (image)
Photographing text on a white board with a tablet camera
Using a tablet camera to access the white board

Students can use the same technologies as their peers to meet their learning needs.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Using a tablet camera
Commonly used tools

Low-tech and high-tech tools commonly used by students with low vision

  1. Dark pencils and felt-tipped pens.

  2. Dark-line pads, exercise books and graph papers.

  3. Writing and reading guides.

  4. Slope boards and desks.

  5. Adjustable stands for notebook computers.

  6. Large-print keyboard overlays.

  7. Adjustable copy holders with line markers.

  8. Anglepoise lamps.

  9. Magnifiers.

  10. Monoculars.

  11. CCTV (or closed circuit TV).

  12. Image-capturing devices, such as digital cameras.

  13. Laptops.

  14. Magnification software.

  15. Screen readers.

  16. MP3 players.

  17. Cell phones.

  18. Voice-recognition software.

Commonly used tools
Text-to-speech programs

 

Text-to-speech programmes read aloud digital text and webpages. Students with low vision may use commercial programmes or access a range of free text-to-speech programs such as:

  1. Natural Reader download – floating toolbar. Selected text posts into the toolbar window. Text is highlighted in short sections and read aloud. Can sync with Google Docs.

  2. Natural Reader Online TTS – upload document. Text is highlighted in short sections and read aloud. Can sync to Google Docs.

  3. Mac text to speech – a built-in text to speech program. Speaks selected text in all applications including text on internet pages.

  4. Read and Write for Google Docs – the toolbar opens at the top of a Google Docs page. Selected text is highlighted and tracked as it is read aloud. Note: The trial version has more features than the one you get after 30 days.

Text-to-speech programs

Resources and downloads

BLENNZ Learning library

A collation of technology-related blog posts; stories about New Zealand students using digital tools to learn.

Back to top

Identifying needs and strengths, and accessing support

Take an evidence-based approach to identifying your student’s needs for support and extension opportunities. Work in partnership with the student, their whānau and those with expertise and experience.

A student prepares photos for her learner profile. 

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Suggestions and resources

Sample learner profile (image)
Learner profile
Who am I?

A learner profile can be created in any format including:

  • a document with photos
  • a slide presentation with a series of pictures
  • a video
  • a blog.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Sample learner profile
Surveying students

In the video Student Profiles Canadian secondary teacher Naryn Searcy describes how she asks students about how they learn most effectively. She also asks what is important to them beyond school. 

She uses this information in her planning:

"I personally do a survey at the beginning of every class every semester, just everything from personal background to their history in the subject area to things they like to do outside of school, usually put a whole bunch of activities down there that we would potentially do in the class and ask them to rank it, you know what would you enjoy doing, what would you not like doing.

So just to get an idea of who is in the classroom to begin with and what they would benefit, or what they want to see in the class, what would work for them."

 

Source: Student Profiles - UDL supporting diversity in BC schools (Canada)

Surveying students
What to include in a learner profile

The purpose of a learner profile can be agreed by the student, their whānau, and the teacher.

Depending on its purpose, a useful profile (whether an official document or simply inquiry on your part) can include:

  1. important people

  2. cultural connections and experiences

  3. languages spoken

  4. things the student is good at

  5. memorable life experiences

  6. how they like to unwind and relax

  7. likes and interests

  8. dislikes and things they avoid

  9. how they like to learn and what helps

  10. things that make it hard for them to learn

  11. what they do when they need help.

What to include in a learner profile
Sample profile page (image)
A list of strategies to support learning
Student recommendations

Dulcie uses her learner profile to make recommendations to teachers about what they can do to support her learning.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Sample profile page
Using PowerPoint (image)
A list of strategies to support learning
Utilising multi-media tools

Dulcie, an 11-year-old with low vision, used PowerPoint to create her multi-media learner profile in text and images.

As it's digital, it is easy to adjust and add to. Find out how it was developed in this blog post.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Using PowerPoint

Resources and downloads

Laiza’s transition

An example of a primary school student’s learner profile, developed by the adults around her.

Rachel's learner profile (NZ high school)

An example of a secondary student’s learner profile.

Student develops technology and self-advocacy skills while learning about her visual needs

An 11-year-old with low vision creates a PowerPoint presentation to explain her eye condition. A blog post from the BLENNZ Learning Library.

Developing learner profiles

This document provides general support and guidance when developing a learner profile. It includes prompts and questions, along side purpose and benefits for students.

About me

This learner profile template is a companion to "Developing learner profiles". It is an interactive PDF with questions for students to answer.

Most effective when used together

Supporting timely connections (NZ) (video)
Utilise digital tools

Consider using digital tools to share stories about a student's learning.

Blogs, emailed photos or a txt message can strengthen shared understandings.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Hazel Owen (NZ)

Supporting timely connections (NZ)
What to ask whānau

Connect with the family to understand the strengths and needs of students.

Practical elements:

  • the language/s spoken at home
  • medications and allergies
  • equipment used at home
  • what they do at home to support learning.

Student’s likes and dislikes:

  • likes, interests, what they’re good at, need help with, can do independently
  • dislikes, what can upset them, how they express this, calming skills
  • favourites (TV programmes, hobbies, books, songs, sports).

The people in the student’s life:

  • parent and whānau hopes and priorities
  • important people in the student’s life
  • best methods and times to communicate with the family
  • professionals working with the family
  • questions they have and support they would like from the school.
What to ask whānau
Suggestions for working with parents

Suggestions for working with parents, caregivers and whānau

  1. Value the insights and information they share.

  2. Involve them in determining strategies to support the student’s learning and well-being at home and school.

  3. Where possible, work with instructional methods or materials they are using at home, to maximise consistency and support for the student.

  4. Develop a system for passing them information about a student’s needs, progress and next steps.

  5. Communicate and share information in a meaningful way, demonstrating your understanding and support for their concerns.

  6. Share information about out-of-school programmes that may help to boost the student’s engagement and participation (for example, classes or groups for music, art, sports or drama).

Suggestions for working with parents
Understanding parent grief (NZ) (video)
RNZFB Child and Family worker

Students with low vision and their parents and whānau often have connections with the RNZFB.

In this video, Gary Veenstra reflects on his experiences of talking about grief and loss.

 

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ (NZ)

Understanding parent grief (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Family/whānau file

A booklet published by the Ministry of Education to help parents of students with additional needs to brief their child’s school.

The vision book: My child, our journey

Families share their experiences about parenting a child who is blind, deafblind or who has low vision in this Ministry of Education publication.

Student considerations

 

As a team, always begin with the student. Together, consider the student’s:

  1. level of self-esteem and self-advocacy

  2. ability, confidence and willingness to use technologies

  3. mobility skills and ability to manage equipment

  4. awareness of personal needs

  5. awareness of fatigue and frustration levels.

Student considerations
Taking a team approach

Suggestions for taking a team approach

Identify people with specialist knowledge who are in your school or local area. Start with your learning support coordinator. Work with them to connect with outside agencies such as the Resource Teacher of Vision (RTV). 

  1. Share your concerns, questions and ideas.

  2. Take an inquiry approach – evaluate assessment data together, then identify teaching strategies and approaches.

  3. Take a team approach to providing support – meet with the student, whānau and support staff.

  4. Identify colleagues who have experience teaching students with low vision, who can provide advice, guidance or support.

  5. Support the student to identify what will support their learning and well-being.

  6. Explore and share recommended resources and online communities.

Taking a team approach
Evaluating learning tools (image)
Using a mobile phone to enlarge text
A partnership approach

Evaluate the effectiveness of all tools and approaches in partnership with the student.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Evaluating learning tools
BLENNZ Homai Campus (image)
Blennz Homai Campus
Description

The Homai Campus of the Blind and Low Vision Education Network New Zealand (NZ).

Source: BLENNZ

BLENNZ Homai Campus
Community organisations and resources

Organisations that support students with low vision

Community organisations and resources
About BLENNZ

 

Most students with low vision in New Zealand are supported by the Blind and Low Vision Education Network or BLENNZ.

BLENNZ is a school made up of a national network of educational services for students who are blind, deafblind or have low vision.

A student can be referred to BLENNZ when they have see an ophthalmologist who identifies that they are eligible for services from BLENNZ. 

When a student is enrolled with BLENNZ, a Resource Teacher of Vision (RTV) is assigned to the student and their family. This RTV works in partnership with the student, the family, the class teacher and the RNZFB child, youth and family worker. Together they work to support the student’s learning.

About BLENNZ
Blind Foundation (NZ) (video)
Partners in the wider team

Blind Foundation Child and Family worker, Gary Veenstra, talks about his role supporting students with low vision and their parents and whānau.

Note the Blind Foundation was formally called the RNZFB.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: BLENNZ (NZ)

Blind Foundation (NZ)

Resources and downloads

BLENNZ: Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ

Information about the national network of services for students with low vision and their families.

Children and youth

Information about the Blind Foundation and the services it offers for people who are blind or have low vision.

Information for teaching children and young people

Classroom activities for teaching children and young people about being blind or having low vision.

Back to top

Supporting key areas of learning and well-being: literacy, personal organisation, and social interaction

Provide your student with support in literacy, personal organisation, and social interaction across the curriculum. Plan in partnership with the student, their family and the learning support team. Use the Expanded Core Curriculum to inform effective approaches and support continuity and coherence. 

Supporting student agency across the curriculum.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Suggestions and resources

The Expanded Core Curriculum

 

The Expanded Core Curriculum is a body of knowledge and skills specific to learners who are blind or low vision, which is not addressed in Te Whāriki, The New Zealand Curriculum, or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

This resource helps learners who are blind and low vision to access and participate in the regular curriculum, as well as to develop independence skills. Adopted internationally, the Expanded Core Curriculum is critical to supporting positive learning outcomes. It is complementary to the regular curriculum and does not replace it.  

Source: Stepping Stones: Guidelines to the Expanded Core Curriculum 2005

The Expanded Core Curriculum
Areas of learning

Areas of learning in the The Expanded Core Curriculum

The Expanded Core Curriculum forms the basis of BLENNZ (Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ) programmes of teaching and learning. It is supported by the local Resource Teacher of Vision, in partnership with the student, the family and the class teacher and also through national and regional BLENNZ immersion courses. It covers areas of learning such as:

  1. communication modes

  2. technologies

  3. social skills

  4. orientation and mobility

  5. living skills

  6. development of visual efficiency skills

  7. physical abilities

Areas of learning
Supporting living skills (NZ) (video)
Setting and marking an oven – BLENNZ: Ideas for families

Providing support for daily living skills within the Expanded Core Curriculum.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ YouTube (NZ)

Supporting living skills (NZ)
Orientation and mobility skills (image)
Heading towards a destination
A whole-of-life aproach

It is helpful when effective strategies and approaches students use in "out of school" activities are supported in the classroom.

This brings continuity and coherence to learning.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Orientation and mobility skills
Using real experiences (image)
Counting eggs
Supporting concept development

Build understanding by providing multiple opportunities for students to engage with new concepts and ideas over time.

Source: Kathy Cassidy

Using real experiences
Using digital tools (NZ) (video)
Supporting the use of digital tools to enable equitable access to symbols and text

Two students describe how accessing graphic calculators supported their maths learning.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ YouTube (NZ)

Using digital tools (NZ)
Environmental factors in the classroom

Environmental factors that influence students’ functional vision within the classroom

Work closely with the Resource Teacher of Vision and the learning support coordinator to consider:

  • adapted workspaces (for example, quieter spaces)
  • storage space for large print materials
  • ergonomics (positioning and seating)
  • the presentation of materials (slant boards, masking tapes, colour overlays)
  • lighting (glare, too much light, not enough light, type of lighting)
  • student seating (preferential seating, lighting source)
  • power sources (surge protection, charging batteries, extra batteries)
  • portability (equipment mounted on a cart, accessibility within the school, heavy equipment)
  • peripherals (for example, headphones)
  • safety issues in the classroom (cords, furniture and equipment placement).

Adapted from Reading Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments: A Classroom Teacher's Guide (See the resources section.)

 

Environmental factors in the classroom
Managing multimedia

With the support of the student’s Resource Teacher of Vision, discuss with the student how they will manage:

  • paper strategies: regular print, enlargement of small amounts of text, large print text, handheld magnification, video magnification
  • e-text strategies: plain e-text with no enhancements, tracking support, changing text or background colours, magnifying text or the entire screen, auditory supports
  • auditory strategies: using a live reader, listening to text on CDs, MP3 players, audio books and video.

Adapted from Reading Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments: A Classroom Teacher's Guide (See the resources section.)

Managing multimedia

Resources and downloads

Learning to read: Communicating and receiving ideas and information

An example of strategies used to support early reading by an experienced Resource Teacher of Vision and Reading Recovery teacher.

Reading strategies for students with visual impairments: A classroom teacher’s guide

A comprehensive illustrated resource by the team at Canada’s British Columbia Education Department.

Assistive Technology (AT) guide

Use this guide to identify more specialised devices that may support your students and how and when to use them.

Supporting management of technologies

Students with low vision may need additional support to manage their technologies and advocate for their use.

Discuss with students how they will:

 

  1. move specialised equipment around independently

  2. ensure that everyone in class knows about the equipment and understands how to look after and respect it

  3. negotiate extra space to store equipment.

Source: BLENNZ: Stepping Stones – Guidelines to the Expanded Core Curriculum

Supporting management of technologies
Developing independence

When supporting students to develop their independence, consider their:

  • level of self-esteem and self-advocacy
  • ability and willingness to use technology
  • ability to manage equipment and mobility skills
  • self awareness of needs
  • awareness of fatigue and frustration levels.

Create opportunities to discuss with the student how they are managing themselves and their learning, and what strategies could support their next steps.

Adapted from Reading Strategies for Students with Visual Impairments: A Classroom Teacher's Guide

Developing independence
Supporting self-advocacy (NZ) (video)
Learning self-advocacy

A student discusses the value of learning self-advocacy.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ1 (NZ)

Supporting self-advocacy (NZ)
Building core strength (image)
Building core strength
Improving core strength to aid daily physical activities

Understanding our bodies and how they move, and practising movement, is important for students who have low vision.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Building core strength
Using slope boards (image)
A student using a slope board for writing
Using a slope board for writing

Encourage students to personalise the learning environment to meet their needs.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Using slope boards
Coaching communication (NZ) (video)
Coaching communication

Gary Veenstra describes how he works with teenagers and young people to develop communication and social interaction skills.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ1 (NZ)

Coaching communication (NZ)
Modelling social inclusion

One of the critical components of social inclusion is that all students see themselves and others as full participants in the classroom, the school and the community. Respect, value and interact with your student with low vision as you do with all other students in class. All the students will model their behaviour on yours.

Modelling social inclusion
Imitating movement and language (image)
Student speaking on a cellphone
Coaching face-to-face and digital communication

Students with low vision may need help learning and imitating the movement and language used in social situations.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Imitating movement and language

Resources and downloads

Using a visual timetable to support personal organisation in the classroom

A detailed description of how six-year-old Molly uses a visual timetable to support her learning. Learn how to implement this practical strategy in class.

Social stories creator and library for preschool, autism, and special needs

A free app for creating and sharing educational social stories and visual schedules. Download for iPhone and iPad.

Back to top

Using whole-class strategies to support students with low vision in years 1–6

Take a reflective look at your classroom, including your teaching strategies, assessment processes, materials and the ways you construct learning tasks. Consider how it works for your students who have low vision.

This one-minute video highlights how we can unknowingly create barriers to learning.

Source: Keri Holferty (US)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Building independence skills (image)
A student touch typing on a laptop
Building useful skills to increase independence

A student practises touch typing so that he can participate in literacy-related tasks alongside his peers.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Building independence skills
Removing barriers to participation

Removing barriers to participation and supporting independence

  1. Create clear, planned pathways for moving around the classroom. Minimise random obstacles.

  2. Familiarise the student with a new classroom layout BEFORE making changes.

  3. Encourage all students to position themselves in optimum environments to support their engagement and attention.

  4. Discuss with the student the best places for them to sit to access information at a distance.

  5. Make support options, such as text-to-speech, available to all students. Model and encourage their use.

  6. Welcome and encourage digital technologies selected by students, and design activities so that they can use them productively.

  7. Create a culture where students support each other.

  8. Use the student’s name when addressing them.

Removing barriers to participation
Building close relationships

Build close relationships with students, and create regular opportunities for them to share what’s working for them and how the things that are not could be modified or done differently. Action and refine practice in an ongoing cycle.

Be alert for signs that a student’s:

  • confidence as a learner is wavering
  • learning needs are not being met
  • well-being is being compromised
  • the environment or the design of their learning activities is creating barriers to participation and engagement.
Building close relationships
Supporting environmental preferences (image)
A student reading from an iPad in the dark
Supporting students’ environmental preferences

A darker environment increases the clarity of the image.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Supporting environmental preferences

Resources and downloads

Self advocacy traffic light system in a primary classroom

A blog post on how a student uses a traffic light system to let the primary classroom team know how well she can see.

Dance mat typing

A BBC typing programme, in the form of a game, that has been used to effectively support students with low vision.

Story Kit

A story-building app that has been used successfully with students with low vision.

Communicating up close (image)
Teacher and students working in a small group
Limiting direct instruction from the front of the class

Communication can be easier up close. It can reduce distractions and the strain of trying to focus attention at a distance.

For many students it will also help them to read body language and social cues.

Source: Ministry of Education (NZ)

Communicating up close
Using digital technologies (NZ) (video)
Digital technologies to support all learners

Primary teacher Linda Ojala describes her inclusive approach to utilising a range of digital technologies to meet the wide and varied needs of students in her year 3 class.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education, inclusive education videos (NZ)

Using digital technologies (NZ)
Increasing access to content

Suggestions for increasing access to information and content

  1. Support text and spoken information with clear, uncluttered visuals, photos, graphics, audio and video. Present visual materials against a contrasting background.

  2. Present digital text rather than printed text so that students can personalise it (for example, by enlarging it or listening to it).

  3. Provide enlarged photocopied versions of printed materials.

  4. Use high-contrast colours for whiteboard pens, text and graphics on slides. Avoid pastel colours and grey tones on printed and online materials.

  5. Set out board work in a clear, consistent format with good contrast, using columns, grouping information and clear, large writing.

  6. Use visual tools to highlight information such as key words and new vocabulary.

Increasing access to content
Utilising text-to-speech tools (video)
Introduce students to alternative ways of accessing text

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant, Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard (US)

Utilising text-to-speech tools
Finding videos with closed captions

How to find YouTube videos with closed captions using a laptop or desktop computer

  1. Search for YouTube and open the home page.

  2. Type search subject (for example “frogs”) into YouTube search bar and press return key.

  3. On left of screen, click the tab called “Filters” and a menu box will open.

  4. Select “subtitles/CC” under the Features list.

  5. Select a video from the selection of filtered videos presented by YouTube.

  6. Watch the selected video with the closed captions turned on to check for accuracy before sharing with students.

  7. Share closed captioned video with students.

Finding videos with closed captions

Resources and downloads

Representation

In this video on the UDL: Supporting diversity in BC schools website, Canadian teachers share some of the ways they prepare learning materials to address diverse student needs in their classrooms. No captions or transcript available.

Using a visual timetable to support personal organisation in the classroom

A detailed description of how six-year-old Molly uses a visual timetable to support her learning. Learn how to implement this practical strategy in class.

Reading strategies for students with visual impairments: A classroom teacher’s guide

A comprehensive illustrated resource by the team at Canada’s British Columbia Education Department.

Everyone's In: An inclusive planning tool

This planning tool has been developed for teachers by the Ministry of Education. It is designed to assist with developing a classroom curriculum that works for all students, from the outset.

Environments to support thinking (video)
Options at St Mary’s School, Mosgiel

Flexible learning environments enable students to adjust and adapt them to meet their needs.

Innovation in reducing distractions can lead to unique solutions.

View transcript

Source: EDtalks (NZ)

Environments to support thinking
Organising materials to support access (image)
A student with a desk organiser
Minimising barriers

Organise resources and the physical space to enable students to easily find what they need and replace it afterwards.

 

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Organising materials to support access
Supporting autonomy and independence
  1. Label key areas of the classroom and resources with visual and text labels. Keep the layout consistent.

  2. Provide a space for each student to manage their own resources.

  3. Encourage students to look up and into the distance to relax their eyes after reading.

  4. Signal clearly when the subject or discussion is about to change, begin or end. Avoid talking while the room is noisy. Use precise language to give instructions. (Avoid using “here” and “there.”)

  5. Provide students with information on a new topic in advance to allow them to build some understanding beforehand.

  6. Ensure students understand the task before they start working. Break the tasks into manageable chunks.

Supporting autonomy and independence
Illustrating text with graphics (image)
infographic
Supporting understanding

Offer information in more than one way to support understanding.

Use symbols and graphics to illustrate text.

Keep the layout clean and uncluttered.

Source: CORE Education

Illustrating text with graphics
Using high contrast visual timers (video)
Accessible time management tools

High contrast, uncluttered visual representations of time passing may support students in their time management and increase independence.

Explore the Time Timer Apps for more information.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Time Timer (US)

Using high contrast visual timers

Resources and downloads

Graphic organizers

A collation of free graphic organisers from the Universal Design for Learning toolkit. These include hardcopy, App organisers, Chrome extensions, and computer options.

Getting started: Using visual systems to support communication

An in-depth illustrated resource for teachers on developing visual strategies by Dolly Bhargava, Australian speech pathologist.

Everyone's In: An inclusive planning tool

This planning tool has been developed for teachers by the Ministry of Education. It is designed to assist with developing a classroom curriculum that works for all students, from the outset.

Selecting digital collaborative tools (image)
Google Doc with student comments
Evaluate effectiveness

For some students, tools such as Google Docs may create barriers to learning. Discuss with students ways to minimise or reduce barriers.

Introduce all students to accessibility features and model their use.

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Selecting digital collaborative tools
Personalising learning checklist

 

Optimise the environment for personalised learning. Identify and minimise potential barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding. Discuss ideas with a Resource Teacher of Vision.

  1. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and build on their knowledge, experience and strengths.

  2. Develop success criteria with the students and present it supported by visuals.

  3. Encourage and value independent and collaborative work in different formats, such as mind maps, videos, photos, podcasts and diagrams.

  4. Provide opportunities for students to gain confidence using a range of media so they can select the most appropriate to express their learning.

  5. Make learning support tools available to all students (text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools, storyboards and so on).

  6. Use collaborative, peer mentoring and cooperative learning models.

  7. Assess understanding and presentation separately.

  8. Provide support in assessments, for example a reader-writer or access to assistive technologies.

Personalising learning checklist
Using tactile resources in maths (image)
A student using concrete materials to support numeracy
Using manipulatives and ten-frames for understanding place value in maths

Use tactile resources alongside digital tools to support understanding.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Using tactile resources in maths
Ways to show what you know (image)
A list of ways to show what you know
Offering options

Discuss with students the different ways they can share their thinking and demonstrate understanding.

Identify and minimise any barriers to participation and build in supports.

Source: For the teachers blog

Ways to show what you know
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students what support they need to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.

Consider:

  1. possible barriers hidden in the physical environment, for example: unfamiliar layout of room, lighting, temperature

  2. possible barriers hidden in the resources and materials, for example: cluttered presentation, hard-to-read diagrams, unclear layout, hard-copies only

  3. approaches to managing time allocations such as calendar tools and visual timers

  4. approaches to managing anxiety

  5. approaches to maintaining concentration

  6. negotiating breaks

  7. use of digital technologies such as text-to-speech and predictive text

  8. pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills, such as how to approach multiple choice questions.

Supporting success in assessments

Resources and downloads

Different ways to publish your stories: Using a variety of tools

UK teacher Jacqui Sharp illustrates some of the ways students and teachers can present digital stories and inquiries, using many different tools.

Assistive Technology (AT) guide

Use this guide to identify more specialised devices that may support your students and how and when to use them.

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Using whole-class strategies to support students with low vision in years 7–13

Take a reflective look at your classroom, including your teaching strategies, assessment processes, materials and the ways you construct learning tasks. Consider how it works for your students who have low vision.

A secondary student with low vision describes how he makes school work. He reflects on his use of technology, effective partnerships with teachers, and the need for self-advocacy skills and a sense of humour.

Source: BLENNZ1 (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Self-advocacy (NZ) (video)
A student describes the value of learning to advocate for yourself

Finding ways to ask for what you need is a valuable skill for all students.

No captions or transcript available

Source: BLENNZ1 (NZ)

Self-advocacy (NZ)
Equitable learning environments (video)
Creating environments that are accessible demonstrates that we value all students

This one-minute video highlights how we can unknowingly create barriers to learning.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Keri Holferty (US)

Equitable learning environments
Removing barriers to participation
  1. Create clear, planned pathways for moving around the classroom. Minimise random obstacles.

  2. Familiarise the student with a new classroom layout BEFORE making changes.

  3. Encourage all students to position themselves in optimum environments to support their engagement and attention.

  4. Discuss with the student the best places for them to sit to access information at a distance.

  5. Make support options, such as text-to-speech, available to all students. Model and encourage their use.

  6. Welcome and encourage digital technologies selected by students, and design activities so that they can use them productively.

  7. Create a culture where students support each other.

  8. Use the student’s name when addressing them.

Removing barriers to participation
Increasing access through technologies (image)
A student wearing glasses
Minimising barriers.

Students can use built-cameras, magnification and accessibility functions to personalise their access to learning.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Increasing access through technologies

Resources and downloads

Positive steps for social inclusion

A guide to supporting social inclusion compiled by the National Down Syndrome Society (US).

Using mobile phones (image)
A student reading from mobile phone
Encouraging personalisation

Imagine how all students will access and use the content you present.

Encourage students to utilise personal technologies to increase access and connect to background information.

Source: BLENNZ Learning Library (NZ)

Using mobile phones
Utilising text-to-speech tools (video)
Introduce students to alternative ways of accessing text

In this video tutorial, US educator and UDL consultant, Kit Hard explains how to use text-to-speech to access digital text across the curriculum.

View transcript

Source: Kit Hard (US)

Utilising text-to-speech tools
Increasing access to content

Suggestions to support equitable access to information and materials

  1. Take a multisensory approach – use real experiences, physical activities, manipulables, photos, graphics and video alongside text or spoken content.

  2. Present digital rather than printed text so that students can personalise it and use tools such as text-to speech.

  3. Support text with clear, uncluttered visuals, audio and real objects.

  4. Provide enlarged photocopied versions of printed materials.

  5. Use blogs, wikis, and online tools such as Moodle to bring together different versions of content in one place (for example, a YouTube video, a graphic, and some text).

  6. Use high contrast colours for whiteboard pens, text and graphics on slides. Avoid pastel colours and grey tones on printed and online materials.

Increasing access to content
Illustrating text with graphics (image)
infographic
Supporting understanding

Offer information in more than one way to support understanding.

Use symbols and graphics to illustrate text.

Keep the layout clean and uncluttered.

Source: CORE Education

Illustrating text with graphics
Finding videos with closed captions

How to find YouTube videos with closed captions using a laptop or desktop computer

  1. Search for YouTube and open the home page.

  2. Type search subject (for example “frogs”) into YouTube search bar and press return key.

  3. On left of screen, click the tab called “Filters” and a menu box will open.

  4. Select “subtitles/CC” under the Features list.

  5. Select a video from the selection of filtered videos presented by YouTube.

  6. Watch the selected video with the closed captions turned on to check for accuracy before sharing with students.

  7. Share closed captioned video with students.

Finding videos with closed captions

Resources and downloads

Reading strategies for students with visual impairments: A classroom teacher’s guide

A comprehensive illustrated resource by the team at Canada’s British Columbia Education Department.

Everyone's In: An inclusive planning tool

This planning tool has been developed for teachers by the Ministry of Education. It is designed to assist with developing a classroom curriculum that works for all students, from the outset.

Using visual timers (video)
Accessible time management tools

High contrast, uncluttered visual representations of time passing may support students in their time management and increase independence.

Explore the Time Timer Apps for more information.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Time Timer (US)

Using visual timers
Supporting concentration

Provide options to support concentration and short-term memory

  1. Monitor and moderate the classroom for visual and auditory distractions.

  2. Present information in a range of ways over an extended period of time (for example, a week) to help students retain information, build their understanding, and stay stimulated and focused.

  3. Discuss the effectiveness of the classroom with students and make modifications and remove barriers where needed.

  4. Recap to summarise ideas in a conversation and to give students the chance to rethink and catch up.

  5. Make effective use of visual prompts and cues and consistent layout to support understanding and navigation in online environments. Use hyperlinks to access background information.

  6. Schedule regular short breaks to rest eyes.

Supporting concentration
Ideas to support planning and thinking

Suggestions for supporting students’ planning and organising

  1. Use charts, visual calendars, colour-coded schedules, visible timers and cues to increase the predictability of regular activities and transitions.

  2. Encourage students to use their mobile devices to schedule alerts and reminders for regular and novel events and task deadlines.

  3. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  4. Model and make available graphic organisers and flow charts to support planning and thinking in all curriculum areas.

  5. Break tasks and lengthy assignments into small manageable parts. Schedule workflow using Trello to organise what needs to be done and when.

  6. Provide options so that students can submit work online.

Ideas to support planning and thinking
Using mind maps (image)
A mind map
Supporting understanding

Model the use of colour, symbols, and images alongside text when using mind maps.

Encourage students to use mind maps to support thinking and organise ideas.

Source: Barrett Discovery

Using mind maps
Supporting thinking
  1. Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas and relationships using visuals, mind maps, 3-D manipulatives, outlines, flow charts and real objects.

  2. Give students multiple opportunities to engage with new ideas and concepts.

  3. Provide extra time for students to think and process before needing to respond in a discussion.

  4. Use mind maps to brainstorm ideas and make connections.

  5. Support group and class discussions with visual annotations to prompt later recall of key ideas.

  6. Offer students a variety of graphic organisers and flow charts to support thinking in all curriculum areas.

Supporting thinking

Resources and downloads

Free technology toolkit for UDL in all classrooms

A collection of free tools and resources, aligned to Universal Design for Learning approach, that support students in their learning.

Graphic organizers

A collation of free graphic organisers from the Universal Design for Learning toolkit. These include hardcopy, App organisers, Chrome extensions, and computer options.

Everyone's In: An inclusive planning tool

This planning tool has been developed for teachers by the Ministry of Education. It is designed to assist with developing a classroom curriculum that works for all students, from the outset.

Hands-on learning (image)
Gardening creates opportunities for hands-on learning
Creating hands-on learning opportunities

Hands-on learning in authentic contexts supports students to understand, record, share, and articulate their learning.

Source: Laurie Sullivan

Hands-on learning
Personalising learning checklist

Optimise the environment for personalised learning. Identify and minimise potential barriers to students successfully demonstrating their understanding. Discuss ideas with a Resource Teacher of Vision.

  1. Create opportunities where students can personalise learning tasks and projects and build on their knowledge, experience and strengths.

  2. Develop success criteria with the students and present it clearly supported by visuals.

  3. Structure collaborative activities so that each student knows what is expected of them.

  4. Create opportunities for students to gain confidence in a range of media so that they can select the most appropriate to express their learning.

  5. Make learning support tools available to all students (text-to-speech, graphic organisers, planning tools, storyboards and so on).

  6. Assess understanding and presentation separately.

  7. Provide support for assessments and exams, for example a reader-writer or access to assistive technologies.

Personalising learning checklist
Using technologies as learning tools (image)
Using a computer to write
Using technologies as tools for students to express what they know

Encourage students to capture their own images to support their research and writing.

Source: CORE Education

Using technologies as learning tools
Ways to show what you know (image)
A list of ways to show what you know
Developing success criteria in partnership with students

Discuss with students the wide variety of options that can be used to express thinking and demonstrate understanding.

Source: For the teachers blog

Ways to show what you know
Supporting success in assessments

Discuss with students what support they need to demonstrate their understanding in assessments.

Consider:

  1. possible barriers hidden in the physical environment, for example: unfamiliar layout of room, lighting, temperature

  2. possible barriers hidden in the resources and materials, for example: cluttered presentation, hard-to-read diagrams, unclear layout, hard-copies only

  3. approaches to managing time allocations such as calendar tools and visual timers

  4. approaches to managing anxiety

  5. approaches to maintaining concentration

  6. negotiating breaks

  7. use of digital technologies such as text-to-speech and predictive text

  8. pre-teaching specific assessment/exam skills, such as how to approach multiple choice questions

  9. identify whether SAC application needs to be made for NCEA.

Supporting success in assessments

Resources and downloads

Universal Design for Learning iPad strategies: Text-to-speech

A video introducing text-to-speech to access digital text. Developed by US educator Kit Hard.

MyStudyBar

This is a free floating toolbar for Windows desktops and netbooks that provides a suite of portable open-source applications to support learning.

Free technology toolkit for UDL in all classrooms

A collection of free tools and resources, aligned to Universal Design for Learning approach, that support students in their learning.

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This is a Ministry of Education initiative

Building a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills, and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century.