If there is a vision education specialist or orientation mobility specialist on the team, they might have more information on text adaptations relevant to individual students. Below are some strategies for using News2you, Unique Learning System and SymbolStix PRIME with students who are blind or have vision impairments.
Students with vision impairments and blindness can access the content from News2you, Unique Learning System and SymbolStix PRIME with some adaptations. They can use the same adaptations used throughout their school experiences including, but not limited to: wax sticks, hook and loop, puffy paint, handheld perforator modifications, double-sided tape, scented markers, stickers or real objects. Materials may be printed and adapted using other techniques as well, including page fluffers, binding on the left edge, top or bottom, adding textures or other accents for meaning and context. Facilitators can input students’ answers into the Unique GPS for easy scoring while adapting the printed materials for hands-on learning.
Lack of proficiency in Braille is not necessarily another hurdle, but another opportunity for layered instruction for students with visual impairments or blindness. If students are not proficient in Braille, instructors may want to omit Braille from pre- and post-tests because there may be confusion as to whether mastery or lack of mastery was the result of a learning curve with Braille. Still, Braille can be layered into students’ daily experiences with News2you and Unique Learning System easily using one Braille letter or contraction per page (or whatever Braille level is appropriate for the students).
For example, with the weekly newspaper, News2you, a student working on Braille contractions could have a printed newspaper adapted with Braille labels. With a quick visual scan of the newspaper by an instructor/facilitator, one can pick out repeated words with Braille contractions. If the newspaper uses the word ‘can’, a student learning Braille contractions could have a Braille letter ‘c’ accompanying that word in a sentence. All sentences can be Braille. Just contractions or keywords can be Braille. Students learning how to read Braille numerals can check the page numbers during News2you reading groups. Page orientation can be part of each lesson as well. Bound or stapled copies of News2you can help students orient the top or left side of the book so they may begin accessing the text.
Printed SymbolStix symbols lend themselves to adaptation for students with visual impairments and blindness in several ways.
Two examples are:
First, SymbolStix is less visually cluttered than other symbol platforms. The distinct dark-lined SymbolStix are easily identifiable against a solid-colored background. Printed on canary yellow or neon yellow paper, SymbolStix has been used by students with macular degeneration, cataracts, and up to 20/200 vision in a two-inch by two-inch presentation. If white paper is the only paper available, try using a neon highlighter to draw the students' attention to parts of the symbol. Printing SymbolStix in various sizes for activities not only supports learners with low vision but adds context for everyone reading a story in a differentiated reading group.
Consider pointing to symbols with a flashlight. Some AAC clinicians use these “light cues” to teach students how to use devices without using gestures or verbal cues.
Secondly, SymbolStix are easily adapted with a handheld perforation tool. An inexpensive addition to a facilitator's toolbox, a perforator can be used on larger printed SymbolStix to create raised bumps on the lines of a symbol. Simply trace the part of the symbol that requires texture. For example, if a student requires textured symbol shapes such as circle, square and triangle, search the SymbolStix PRIME database and print each symbol. Then use the handheld perforator to outline each shape. Assist the students in exploring the outlines with their fingers. With SymbolStix PRIME and a handheld perforator, facilitators are not limited to representations chosen by authors. Students can have content that is personally relevant, age-respectful and aligned with content standards.
Students with severe vision limitations often have limited life experience as well because they don't get opportunities to touch anything in order to explore it. By allowing students to touch, explore and feel, students will be ready to perform other actions such as reading, evaluating, choosing and decision-making!