Supporting blind or visually impaired students

Different eye conditions create different difficulties. Very few blind people see nothing at all. A minority can distinguish light but nothing else. Some have no central vision; others have no side vision. Some see everything as a vague blur; others see a patchwork of blanks and defined areas. Some people with impaired vision can see enough to read this, though they may have difficulty crossing the road (RNIB).

Adjustments you can make

Most students will already have a preferred system of accessing information. This will usually be large print, audio tape, Braille or electronic format. Many students use a combination of these.

You should consider:

  • Providing copies of course materials and presentations in advance and in electronic format (or student's preferred format)
  • Providing book lists with key text recommendations in advance so texts in alternative format can be obtained (transcription centres usually take 6-8 weeks to transcribe documents)
  • Providing hyperlinks to electronic/web resources which can help save the student time navigating to the correct information
  • Information written on the board may not be seen
  • Prompting a student when it is their turn to speak as they may not be aware of other visual clues
  • Information displayed on a noticeboard (eg. essay deadlines/change in tutorials) may not be accessible
  • Explaining visual aids used in lectures (eg. reading out information on Powerpoint)
  • Whatever format is being used it may be best to send a 'test' document to ensure it is accessible before proceeding to the transcription of numerous resources/pages
  • Using Listen Again whenever possible, remembering to follow the guidelines to ensure clarity of recording

Documents in electronic format

Often the easiest way to make documents accessible to students who are blind or partially sighted can include using the web and forwarding documents by email.

Large print documents

  • Usually 16-18pt (preferably printed as documents - enlarged on the photocopier can often lose quality).
  • It may still be preferable to present on A4 size paper rather than enlarging to A3.
  • CCTV can be used by students who use large print. This magnifies a page of a book onto a screen (the library has a MyReader).
  • Software can enlarge the print and icons on screen (see electronic above).

Audio

  • Accessible electronic materials can be read by assistive software.
  • RNIB library provides some texts on audio tape or in audio format.
  • Text not in electronic format can be scanned into the computer and received through a voice synthesiser.
  • Course materials can either be read aloud to a student (by a reader recruited by the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service) or can be transcribed by the RNIB.

Braille

  • Only a minority of people who are registered blind use Braille (even less use moon which is a similar system).
  • RNIB library provides many texts in Braille.
  • Many electronic materials can be printed out in braille by an embosser linked to a computer. Students who use braille also have this equipment.
  • Transcription centres are able to transcribe longer, more formal documents.
  • There are two types of braille contracted (Grade 2) and uncontracted (Grade 3).
Two women looking at a PC screen
Help and support

Our Student Services Hub provides advice, information and guidance on a range of health and wellbeing issues to help you support students.