If there is a vision education specialist or orientation mobility specialist on the team, he or she might have more information on text adaptations relevant to individual students. Below are some strategies for using News-2-You, Unique Learning System and SymbolStix ONLINE with blind or low-vision students.
Students with vision impairments and blindness can access the content from News-2-You, Unique Learning System and SymbolStix ONLINE 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-side 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 low vision or blindness. If students are working with a Braille curriculum, learning the Braille alphabet or the Braille contractions, these can be added into daily activities. 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 News-2-You 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, News-2-You, 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 or words with Braille contractions. If the newspaper uses the word can, a student learning Braille contractions could have a Brailled letter c accompanying that word in a sentence. All sentences can be Brailled. Short sentences can be Brailled. Just contractions or keywords can be Brailled. Students learning how to read Brailled numerals can check the page numbers during News-2-You reading groups. Page orientation can be part of each lesson as well. Bound or stapled copies of News-2-You can help students with low vision or blindness orient the top or left side of the book so they may begin accessing the text.
Printed SymbolStix lend themselves to adaptation for students with low vision and blindness in several ways. Here are two:
First, SymbolStix is less visually cluttered than other symbols. 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. In fact, the same light cues draw attention to a target for students with intellectual disabilities and/or low vision.
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 ONLINE database and print each symbol. Then use the handheld perforator to outline each shape. Assist the students in exploring the outlines with their fingers. Many trade books for students with blindness and low vision are specifically sold to schools for the purpose of exploring shapes, textures and outlines. With SymbolStix ONLINE 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, feel, students will be more ready to perform other actions such as read, evaluate, choose and decide!