Student Greetings and Interactions

Authors: Wendy Montgomery, M.A.T. (Trinity University) with Supportive Information from Elmwood Visual Resource Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand

Vision impairment does not affect what a student can learn as much as the way a student learns and processes information (Friend & Bursuck, 1999; Turnbull, Turnbull, Shank  & Smith, 2004).   Turnbull et al. (2004) state that “In general, educators should expect students to master the same content and meet the same performance standards as students with vision, even though the students with vision impairments may use adapted methods to access the curriculum and demonstrate these standards” (p. 469).  By providing the appropriate accommodations and making adaptations to the curriculum and instruction, it is possible to create equal opportunities for students with vision impairments to access the curriculum.

This chapter has been divided into sections that provide a range of general strategies teachers may wish to use when setting up their classroom, and developing class procedures to accommodate a student with a vision impairment or a student who is blind.  

  • When entering a room or approaching a student with a Vision Impairment, always address the student and identify yourself. The Alberta Department of Education suggests, “Hi_name____, it’s _name____.” Model this behavior for younger children and establish it as a class procedure, even after the student has learned your voice (1996, p. 59).
  • If the student approaches you initially, say "Hello." He or she may not realize you are there until you speak.   Then, say immediately "This is _name____.”  Even if the student has some residual vision, s/he may not be able to recognize you visually.  S/He may not be able to recognize your voice as its not always easy to recognize someone by voice only.  As you and the student become acquainted s/he may let you know that your voice is recognizable, after which you need not say your name each time you meet (American Foundation for the Blind [AFB], 2005c).
  • If you want the student’s attention, say his/her name (Keller, 2004). If you do not know the student’s name, ask (AFB, 2005c).
  • It is necessary to ask permission if touching a student with vision Impairment.  Explain to the student what is happening (Sewell, 2005). 
  • Play games with the class or arrange activities that do not require vision.  Such activities can help the student learn to pair classmates’ names with their voices (Alberta Dept. of Education [ADE], 1996).
  • If you are handing or placing something near to a student with vision impairment, tell the student precisely where you have put it. Use such phrases as “in front of,” “to your left,” and “opposite” (Sewell, 2005) in relation to the student's body orientation (Keller, 2004, General Courtesy).
  • When describing things, be specific.  Use such phrases as "as big as," "smaller than", "wider than," "rough," "smooth," "similar to," "something like," or "shaped like" with relation to things that are familiar to the student.  Avoid use of terms such as “here” and “there” when describing the position of an object or person.  Use phrases such as “in front of,” “to your left,” and “opposite” in relation to the student's body orientation. You can use such terms as “look” and “see” (ADE, 1996, p. 10).
  • Use verbal praise and disapproval or use tactile reinforcers, such as “a reassuring hand on the shoulder,” since facial expressions and body language might not be readily apparent to the student (ADE, 1996, p. 10).
  • Always excuse yourself when you leave. The student may not be able to see or hear you leave (Sewell, 2005).

Be prepared

  • Establish a plan for emergencies such as fire drills. Prepare a form for the substitute teacher detailing this information (ADE, 1996).  
  • Be aware of potential dangers in your classroom: (1) Keep walkways clear. (2) Keep doors and cupboards completely closed or completely open.  (3) Inform the student if an object or piece of furniture has been moved (ADE, 1996). 
  • “Contrasting colored [and textured] duct tape or brightly colored paint” (ADE, 1996, p. 10) on floors, walls, and doors can enable the student to distinguish door openings.  Such contrasting aids can assist the student’s orientation within the classroom (ADE, 1996; North Carolina State Dept. of Public Instruction [NCSDPI], 1998).
  • Though classroom teachers may not have control over modifying areas of the school outside of the classroom, it might be necessary to investigate other aspects of the school’s safety beyond the classroom and make recommendations to an appropriate member of the school’s administration. For example, “contrasting colored [and textured] duct tape” (ADE, 1996, p. 10) or “colored stair tread nosings” (NCSDPI, 1998, p. 23) may improve the ability of the student to travel safely on stairs. (ADE, 1996; NCSDPI, 1998).
  • Be familiar with the sighted guide technique (American Foundation for the Blind, “Being a Sighted Guide”, 2005).  This technique is a method that enables a sighted person to walk safely and comfortably with the student with vision impairment.  For more information on the sighted guide technique refer to the article “Sighted guide technique.

Lighting and Colour


A-1. The student, the specialist teacher, and at times, the parent(s) of the visually impaired will help the teacher determine where the student should best be seated in the classroom (ADE, 1996)

A-2. Seat the student in a location with which s/he is comfortable and is able to make the best use of “functional vision” (ADE, 1996, p. 11). For example, if a student is using telescopic lenses or a monocular to see from far away, then sitting at the back of the room is a better position (Sewell, 2005).


A student may need extra workspace for any specialized equipment or technology needs. Also, have the electrical wiring evaluated for the student’s necessary assistive technology (NCSDPI, 1998).


Be aware of glare. The North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction states that, “Glare should be eliminated (e.g. special dry marker board surfacing) or controllable (e.g. by blinds, shades, indirect lighting and window location)” (NCSDPI, 1998, p. 23). Consider adjustable lighting so that certain parts of the room may be lit while others are darkened (NCSDPI, 1998). D. Colour Contrast (Elmwood Visual Resource Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Colour Contrast

Author: Elmwood Visual Resource Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand

Effective Colour Contrast
Designing for People with Partial Sight and Colour Deficiencies by Aries Arditi, Ph.D.

This brochure contains basic guidelines for making effective colour choices that work for nearly everyone. To understand them best, you need to understand the three perceptual attributes of colour: hue, lightness and saturation, in the particular way that vision scientists use them. Full explanations of these terms are provided in the pages that follow.

How does impaired vision affect colour perception?
Partial sight, aging and congenital colour deficits all produce changes in perception that reduce the visual effectiveness of certain colour combinations. Two colours that contrast sharply to someone with normal vision may be far less distinguishable to someone with a visual disorder.

Multi-color diagram that demonstrates high contrast versus low contrast

Exaggerate lightness differences between foreground and background colours, and avoid using colours of similar lightness adjacent to one another, even if they differ in saturation or hue. 

Two block diagram that demonstrates how lightness is perceived by people with colour deficits


Don’t assume that the lightness you perceive will be the same as the lightness perceived by people with colour deficits. You can generally assume that they will see less contrast between colours than you will. If you lighten your light colours and darken your dark colours, you will increase the visual accessibility of your design.​​​​​


Light colors vs Dark colors

 Light Colors VS Dark Colors Graph effectiveness for VI

Choose dark colours with hues from the bottom half of the hue circle against light colours from the top half of the circle. Avoid contrasting light colours from the bottom half against dark colours from the top half. 


effective-not as effective #2

For most people with partial sight and/or congenital colour deficiencies, the lightness values of colours in the bottom half of the hue circle tend to be reduced. 

Contrasting hues

Color Contrasting Hues and their role in VI

Avoid contrasting hues from adjacent parts of the hue circle, especially if the colours do not contrast sharply in lightness. 


Contrasting Hues- Effective- Not Effective#3



Colour deficiencies

Colour deficiencies associated with partial sight and congenital deficiencies make it difficult to discriminate between colours of similar hue. Hue, lightness and saturation - the three perceptual attributes of colour - can be envisioned as a solid.

-hue-lightness-Color Deficiencies Graph


Hue Variations

Hue varies around the solid; lightness varies from top to bottom and saturation is the distance from the centre.


 color-wheel - Hue Variations

Hue is the perceptual attribute associated with elementary colour names.

Hue enables us to identify basic colours, such as blue, green, yellow, red and purple. People with normal colour vision report that hues follow a natural sequence based on their similarity to one another.  With most colour deficits, the ability to discriminate between colours on the basis of hue is diminished. 


saturation- Degree of Color

Lightness corresponds to how much light appears to be reflected from a surface in relation to nearby surfaces.

Lightness, like hue, is a perceptual attribute that cannot be computed from physical measurements alone. It is the most important attribute in making contrast more effective. With colour deficits, the ability to discriminate colours on the basis of lightness is reduced.

saturation- Degree of Color
Saturation is the degree of colour intensity associated with a colour’s perceptual difference from a white, black or grey of equal lightness.

Slate blue is an example of a desaturated colour because it is similar to grey. A deep blue, even if it has the same lightness as slate blue, has greater saturation. Congenital and acquired colour deficits typically make it difficult to discriminate between colours on the basis of saturation.


color-vision- Blue Grey and Purple. effectiveness


To a person with colour-deficient partial sight, the left-hand panel might appear like the right-hand panel appears to a person with normal colour vision.

With colour deficits, ability to discriminate colours on the basis of all three attributes - hue, lightness and saturation - is reduced. Designers can help to compensate for these deficits by making colours differ more dramatically in all three attributes.


Making Text Legible

Author: Wendy Montgomery, M.A.T. (Trinity University) with Supportive Information from Elmwood Visual Resource Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand; Aries Arditi, Ph.D

Designing for People with Partial Sight:

This brochure contains basic guidelines for making effective legibility choices that work for nearly everyone.

Impaired vision often makes reading difficult by:

Reducing the amount of light that enters the eye Blurring the retinal image


Light reduction and blurring reduce the effective contrast of the text, while central retinal damage impairs the ability to see small print and to make eye movements that are crucial to reading.

  • Damaging the central portion of the retina best suited to reading


Text should be printed with the highest possible contrast. There is good evidence that for many readers who are older or partially sighted, light (white or light yellow) letters on a dark (black) background are more readable than dark letters on a light background. However, the traditional dark on light may be aesthetically preferable.



Very high contrasts are difficult to achieve with color combinations other than black and white. Printed material, generally, is most readable in black and white. Different colors may be important for aesthetic or other reasons, but it is better to use such combinations only for larger or highlighted text, such as headlines and titles.

not-effective color for VI

Type should be large, preferably at least 16 to 18 points, but keep in mind that the relationship between readability and point size differs somewhat among typefaces.


Leading, or spacing between lines of text, should be at least 25 to 30 percent of the point size. This is because many people with partial sight have difficulty finding the beginning of the next line while reading.

Leading and Not effective Leading text

Avoid complicated, decorative or cursive fonts and, when they must be used, reserve them for emphasis only. Standard serif or sans-serif fonts, with familiar, easily recognizable characters are best. Also, there is some evidence that sans-serif fonts are more legible when character size is small relative to the reader’s visual acuity.

Font Family

While there is little reliable information on the comparative legibility of typefaces, there is some evidence that a roman typeface, using upper and lower cases, is more readable than italics, oblique or condensed.

4 Font Style

Text with close letter spacing often presents difficulties for readers who are partially sighted, especially those with central visual field defects. Where possible, spacing should be wide. Monospaced fonts rather than proportionally spaced fonts seem to be more legible for these readers.

4 Letter Spacing


Extra-wide binding margins are especially helpful in bound material because it makes it easier to hold the volume flat. Spiral binding can be helpful as well. Many visual devices, such as stand- and video-magnifiers, are easiest to use on a flat surface.

Margins Effective and Not Effective

Paper with a glossy finish can lessen legibility because many people who are older or who have partial sight also have problems with glare.

 Paper Finish And Glare Issues

Visual impairment often makes it difficult to find a book or other document that is buried among similar publications, especially for sets with volumes that differ only in title or number. Use of distinctive colors, sizes and formats on the covers can be especially helpful to older individuals and those who are partially sighted.

Designers can help to compensate for the difficulty experienced by readers who are partially sighted by following the guidelines in this brochure.


Organizational Skills

Since many students cannot “visually structure their environment,” they must have assistance (Sewell, 2005).


  • Provide a specified place to keep items and expect the student to use the space appropriately (ADE, 1996).
  • Use “containers and zippered pencil cases” to hold items. Supply a tray or non-stick sheets for objects that might roll off the desk easily (ADE, 1996, p. 12).
  • Supply color-coded and distinctly textured folders, binders and notebooks for the student with low vision (ADE, 1996).  For students who are blind, covering the binders with different textured material such as terry cloth, corduroy, velvet, leather, fake fun can help them differentiate between binders (Montgomery, 2005).
  • The American Printing House site for the Blind at has many products to aid organization and a variety of other helpful products. Through a “federal quota system,” specialist teachers (VI) in the USA can order materials at no extra cost to the school or program (Blind Children’s Center [BCC], 1993, p. 187)
  • Fasten Braille labels to folders, binders, equipment and storage areas for a student who reads Braille (ADE, 1996)

Orientation to the Classroom

An Orientation and Mobility Specialist will instruct the student in cane use, general “movement techniques,” using “environmental information” (sounds, smells, and touch) to enhance mobility and help modify the “school environment” (BCC, 1993, p. 18).  However it is the classroom teacher’s responsibility to orient the student to his/her particular classroom.

Becoming Orientated to the Environment 

  • Students, especially young ones, must learn about the structures of the room and explore them (Baldwin, n.d., Issues for New Teachers).
  • Baldwin states that “there are characteristic sounds that are located in fixed positions inside spaces, [for example], the sound of an aquarium bubbling on one side of a room…A blind child needs only a single sound source within a room to travel about the room unassisted” (n.d., Issues for New Teachers, Positioning the Body in Space, ¶ 3).

  • “Solid objects, like desks, walls, chairs can be used for orienting in space. Blind children can position their bodies to flat surfaces and then travel to other areas of a room. The teacher uses the combined sensory richness of a room, the sounds, smells, and tactile surfaces together to build a blind child's understanding of space” (Baldwin, n.d., Issues for New Teachers, Positioning the Body in Space, ¶ 8).

  • In order to familiarize the student with the classroom, it is important to establish a “definite landmark” (e.g. object, door, fixed sound) as a “home base” and explore the room systematically (ADE, 1996, p. 24), for example, left to right, in to out (Sewell, 2005).  Give the student the opportunity to wander around and explore the room when other students are not present, so as to minimize extraneous noise and embarrassment.

  • For more information about orientation and mobility within the classroom, refer to the link (Baldwin, n.d., Orientation and Mobility Department).

General Teaching Strategies

Classroom Materials

Every student must have classroom materials transferred into his or her appropriate reading medium such as Braille, large print, necessary contrast in a timely manner (Illinois State Advisory Committee [ISAC], 1999). Often for high school and possibly middle school students, teachers might need to transfer class notes and copies of overhead slides into the correct medium before class.

Experiential Learning

Hands-on learning is beneficial to all students. Use real objects as much as possible. Never assume that a student with vision impairment already has learned the necessary background experiences and concepts. When exploring new objects or in helping direct the student’s attention, use the hand-under-hand technique, in which the teacher places his/her hand under the student’s and guides their hand (Sewell, 2005). Refer to for more information on the hand-under-hand technique.

  • Read aloud anything that is written on the board (ADE, 1996).
  • Verbal descriptions and directions should be clear and specific (Van Wagner, 1994). Visual Information needs to be described auditorily for students with severe vision loss (Jordan, 1998).
  • Tactile graphics and raised line drawings are also helpful for conveying information that is normally in illustrations, graphs, and drawings. For more information on tactile graphics and guidelines for designing your own tactile graphics, see the following webpages: Tactile graphics, an overview and resource guide at Guidelines for design of tactile graphics at Oregon State University has a site listing for various organizations that provide products related to tactile graphics. Outline diagrams, graphs, and pictures with liquid glue in order to make simple raised line drawings (Kumar, Ramasamy & Stefanich, 2001). It is important to remember to not solely rely on tactile graphics in your teaching. Understanding and using tactile graphics is a special skill that most blind and low vision students are not generally taught. It is a skill best taught by VI specialists, and tactile graphics can only be adequate when produced by people familiar with methods for making them useable by blind and low vision students. 
  • During group discussions, have each person identify him or herself before speaking (Keller, 2004).
  • It may also help for older students to allow presentations to be audiotaped (Kumar et. al, 2001). However, some students may find reviewing presentation tapes time consuming and boring. It is more effective for the students' learning in the long run, to encourage the students to learn to and practice taking notes in Braille with a slate and stylus, or in large print with the appropriate pen. In the upper grades it may also be appropriate to encourage students to take notes with an electronic note taker if they have mastered using this adaptive equipment. These strategies allow for notes to be taken more quickly and easily reviewed.


  • “Students with visual impairments need assistance in making the connection between vocabulary, and real objects, body movements and abstract ideas” (ADE, 1996, p. 12).
  • Important vocabulary and concepts should be pre-taught using concrete, multi-sensory experiences combined with verbal explanations. Review material by asking the student to describe what s/he understands about the term or concept (ADE, 1996).
  • New vocabulary should be spelled out verbally (Keller, 2004).
  • Consider having all students share their notes with peers. Anything written on the board or overhead should be verbalized (ADE, 1996).
  • In advance of the class, work together with the specialist teacher to provide copies of notes, handouts, and overhead materials in Braille or another preferred medium (ADE, 1996).
  • Provide assistance to the student in learning how to take notes independently through technology training with the specialist teacher.
  • Use chalk or markers that contrast well with the blackboard or dry erase board (ADE, 1996, Montgomery, 2005). For older students, ask which color combinations they prefer.
  • Be aware of glare on the board (ADE, 1996).  Allow the student to move flexibly in order to gain the best view of the board.
  • It may be necessary to confirm whether or not students can see the material. Ask what they see, rather than if they can see (ADE, 1996). Remember to ask the student privately and not in front of other students.
  • From time to time, check the student’s notes for accuracy (ADE, 1996).
  • “Felt pens, primary pencils, raised and bold lined paper” can help make students’ handwriting more legible and easier to produce (ADE, 1996, p. 14).
  • If writing is too difficult or laborious for the student, introduce computers at an early age (ADE, 1996).
  • Alberta Dept. of Education (1996). Teaching Students with Visual Impairments. Programming for Students with Special Needs. No. 5 (Report No. ISBN-0-7732-1797-5). Edmonton: Special Education Branch. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED407776)
  • American Foundation for the Blind (2005a). Basic Principles for Preparing Tactile Graphics. Retrieved March 1, 2005, from The American Foundation for the Blind Web site.
  • American Foundation for the Blind (2005b). Being a Sighted Guide. Retrieved February 22, 2005 from The American Foundation for the Blind Web site.
  • American Foundation for the Blind (2005c). Module 1 - Awareness In Bridging the Gap: Best Practices for Instructing Adults Who Are Visually Impaired and Have Low Literacy Skills.  Retrieved April 1, 2005 from:
  • American Printing House for the Blind. (2004, July 29). APHont TM Order Form. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from:
  • American Printing House for the Blind. (2004, September 7). APH Products. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from:
  • Amick, N., Corcoran, J., & APH staff. (2004, March 9). APH Educational Research: Guidelines for Design of Tactile Graphics. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from:
  • Baldwin, D. (n.d.) Orientation and Mobility Department, Saginaw Intermediate School District, Saginaw, Michigan. Retrieved March 1, 2005, from:
  • Baldwin, D. (n.d.) Issues for New Teachers. Retrieved March 1, 2005, from:
  • Blind Children’s Center. (1993). First Steps: A Handbook for Teaching Young Children Who  Are Visually Impaired. Los Angeles, CA: Blind Children’s Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED404838)
  • Cooper, H. (2000). Writing in a Variety of Media. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from Hands and Eyes Newsletter: Art and Learning Activities for Students with Vision Impairments and Their Friends, September 2000 Web site.
  • Cooper, H. (2001). Retrieved February 22, 2005, from Hands and Eyes Newsletter: Art and Learning Activities for Students with Vision Impairments and Their Friends Web site.
  • Cooper, H. (2002, July 30). Art: A Great Tool for Teaching Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved February 24, 2005, from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired: SEE/HEAR Newsletter, Spring 2002 Web site.
  • Gardner, J. (1996, May 20). Tactile Graphics, An Overview and Resource Guide. Retrieved February 22, 2004, from Oregon State University, Department of Physics, Science Access Project Web site.
  • Hatlan, P. (Speaker). (2005, February). Lecture for Trinity University EDUC-5337 Adv Clinical Practice: Special Education, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, TX.
  • Jordan, B. (1998). Teaching Students Who Are Deaf-Blind. NETAC Teacher Tipsheet. Rochester, NY: Rochester Institute of Technology, NY. National Technical Institute for the Deaf. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED438665)
  • Keller, E. Webmaster (2004, February 24). Strategies for Teaching Students with Vision Impairments. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from West Virginia University, Eberly College of Arts and sciences website.
  • Kitchel, J.E. (2004, March 9).  Large Print: Guidelines for Optimal Readability and APHontTM a font for low vision. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from APH, APH Educational Research Web site.
  • Krebs, C. (1995). Learning to Solve Word Problems in a Middle School Vision Class. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 95: 12, 757-760. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from Academic Search Premier.
  • Kumar, D., Ramasamy, R., Stefanich, G. (2001). Science Instruction for Students with Visual Impairments (Report No. EDO-SE-01-03). Columbus, Ohio: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED464805)
  • Marek, Boguslaw “Does A Stone Look The Way It Feels?”
  • Introducing tactile graphics, spatial relations and visual concepts to congenitally blind children Paper presented at the European ICEVI ConferenceCracow 9-13 July 2000
  • MacCuspie, P. Ann (2002, August). Access to Literacy Instruction for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired A Discussion Paper. Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
  • McGregor, D., & Farrenkopf, C. (2002, July). Teaching Emergent Literacy Skills to Kindergarten Students in a Braille/Print Program. Paper presented at the AER 2002 International Conference, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Montgomery, W. (2005). Personal observations and anecdotal information.  San Antonio, TX: Trinity University.
  • National Coalition for Vision Health, Canadian National Standards For the Education of Children and Youth Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including Those with Additional Disabilities.
  • North Carolina State Dept. of Public Instruction. (1998). Exceptional Children Facilities Planner. Sample Plans, Accessibility Guidelines. Raleigh: North Carolina State Dept. of Public Instruction. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED424723)
  • Osterhaus, S. (2002a, July 30). Susan's Math Technology Corner: Teaching A Blind Student How to Graph on a Coordinate Plane: No Tech, Low Tech, and High Tech Tools. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Web site.
  • Osterhaus, S. (2002b, July 30). Teaching Math: Teaching Strategies. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Web site.
  • Pennsylvania College of Optometry. (1997). Increasing Literacy Levels: Final Report. Philadelphia: Institute for the Visually Impaired. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED409667)
  • Pierce, Barbara, ed. (n.d.). The World Under My Fingers:  Personal Reflections on Braille. National Federation of the Blind. See especially the section on "Who Should Learn Braille".
  • Preddy, M. (1996, May 20). Firms, Organizations, and Products. Retrieved February 22, 2005, from Oregon State University, Department of Physics Web site.
  • Science Access Project. (2005, January 22). Dos Triangle: A Mathematics Scratch Pad for the Blind. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from Oregon State University, Department of Physics Web site.
  • Sewell, D. (Speaker). (2005, March). Lecture for Trinity University EDUC-5337 Adv Clinical Practice: Special Education, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Austin, TX.
  • Stewart, R. (2004, September 1). WinTriangle- A Scientific Word Processor for the Blind. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from Oregon State University, Technology Access Program Web site.
  • Story, A. (1997) Hand-Over-Hand Guidance: What Lesson Do We Teach?   Retrieved March 18, 2005 from:
  • Van Wagner, B. (1994). Improving Science Instruction for Students with Disabilities: Proceedings, Working Conference on Science for Persons with Disabilities (Anaheim, CA, March 28-29, 1994). In J. Egelston Dodd (Ed.), Guidelines For Teaching Science To Students Who Are Visually Impaired (pp. 70-86). Cedar Falls, IA: Science Association for Persons with Disabilities. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED399724)