DefinitionAs the term indicates, a visual impairment involves an issue with sight which interferes with a student’s academic pursuits. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) officially defines the category as “an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.”
Common TraitsSeveral conditions can cause visual impairments, and these disabilities can take a number of forms. The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (known as NICHCY) names a range of examples, including common conditions such as near-sightedness and far-sightedness, as well as more complex conditions like congenital cataracts and strabismus. While the causes vary, there are several common signs which may indicate that a child has a visual impairment. These include:
Irregular eye movements (for instance, eyes that don’t move together or that appear unfocused)
Unusual habits (such as covering one eye or frequently rubbing eyes)
Sitting abnormally close to a television or holding a book close to the face
Low Vision: able to learn using residual vision but may need high contrast or font size changed by magnification.
Functional Blindness: typically uses a combination of modes to function in their surroundings. Braille use is likely. Usually can move around surroundings using sight.
Blindness: near and total blindness include primary use of tactile and audio learning media and inputs.
Educational ChallengesIntelligence does not require sight; therefore, overcoming educational challenges is vital to enabling a student with a visual impairment to reach his or her full academic potential. Such challenges may entail:
Safely maneuvering around the classroom
Operating standard educational tools such as calculators and word processing software
The Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs, activities or employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. Inquiries may be directed to the Title IX Coordinator or the Section 504/ADA Title II Coordinator at 341 Bellfield Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 or 412.529.HELP (4357).