15 April 2024

​Understanding low vision

​Low vision affects each person in unique ways. Discuss learning and accessibility preferences with students and whānau, and areas they would value support.

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Vision is a complex sense. It is made up of the ability to see contrasts and sharpness of detail. It also helps with location of objects in the environment. 

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

Types of low vision

In New Zealand, vision impairment is known as low vision.

Low vision may be:

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

Influence on learning

A student’s low vision can have an impact on their learning across the curriculum, but it very much depends on the condition, their wellbeing, and the context.

Video hosted on Vimeo

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. 

Areas students may find tiring or challenging without support include:

  • processing visual information
  • accessing materials, especially print
  • learning social and daily living skills
  • navigating new or changing classroom layouts
  • organising personal belongings and school work.

Key actions to support learning

Teachers may support students through:

  • adjusting learning activities, teaching strategies and assessment.
  • clear verbal explanations and instructions.
  • use of technologies.
  • changes to the physical learning environment.
  • helping students to engage with peers and to stay healthy and safe.

Technologies commonly used

Technologies and digital materials enable students with low vision access to education alongside their peers.

Low tech

High tech

Dark pencils and felt-tipped pens Laptops, iPads, cell phones
Dark lined pads and exercise books CCTV
Adjustable stands for devices Image capturing devices such as digital cameras or cell phones
Adjustable copy holders with line markers Magnification software
Hand-held magnifiers or monoculars Screen reading software
Writing and reading guides Voice recognition software
Slope boards and desks MP3 players
Angle-poise or clip-on desk lamps GPS

Useful resources


Glossary of Eye Conditions

Comprehensive glossary of eye conditions with links to further resources.

Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind


Classroom adjustments (podcast)

Classroom adjustments (podcast)

Publisher: Australian Government, NCCD

Next steps

Return to the guide “Low vision and learning”