Adapting lessons for children with vision impairment: Part three

Post date: 
Monday, 5 September 2016
Worksheet and iPad

In the final part of our adapting lessons series, discover ways to modify classwork for Year 10 Science students. Anna Pilson, a QTVI from Sheffield Vision Support Service, explains.

The key role of a qualified teacher of children with vision impairment (QTVI) is to provide support to children with vision impairment (VI) so they have access to the curriculum effectively.

Yanko and Jerri’s story

Yanko and Jerri are Year 10 pupils. Jerri's vision impairment means she struggles to differentiate between colours and finds poor contrast difficult. She also has suspected cerebral visual impairment (CVI), which means the brain may not be able to process visual images correctly. Yanko has glaucoma, which is a condition that reduces his visual field. His vision has deteriorated to just being able to see a very small area centrally and he is registered blind.
Yanko uses a mixture of braille and a laptop with speech software to read and write in lessons. Jerri uses an iPad with a keyboard to record and any printed resources are provided in font size 24. Academically, they are on a par with their peers and expected to achieve a minimum five Grade A*-C GCSEs.

The original task

There has been a focus in the school on developing ‘learning to learn’ skills, a process of discovery about learning to help pupils learn more effectively. So the class teacher had devoted lesson time specifically for study skills.
In Biology, the class was asked to do independent and group revision, using a standard revision guide (a hard copy textbook) and some teacher-prepared worksheets. The hope was that pupils would work together to demonstrate recall of key facts and terminology by completing a cloze text (gap fill) activity. Then pupils were asked to use the same revision guide to make revision notes or cards. In Chemistry, pupils were asked to use the periodic table to recap how to calculate the number of protons, neutrons and electrons belonging to each element using the mass and atomic numbers.

Adapting resources

The QTVI decided not to make any adaptations to content, which he may have done in Key Stage 3. The students have been supported throughout their time at school to develop assistive technology skills, such as touch typing, use of an iPad’s in-built accessibility features and use of a laptop with speech software. Because of this, by the time they reach their GCSEs, they have an array of skills to call upon to help them read large blocks of text effectively. It is also important that students have access to the subject-specific language required by the exam.
The QTVI provided large print versions of the Biology gap fill sheet for both pupils' groups and ensured the revision guide was available in an electronic format on Jerri's iPad. For Yanko's Chemistry lesson, he gave Yanko a tactile version of the periodic table.


In Year 9 and the start of Year 10, Yanko received some pre-teaching in using the table. It takes time to explore tactile resources and learn strategies about how best to access them. For example, where on the resource should the child begin reading? What direction should they navigate?
It is important to make time for pupils to build up tactile skills before the lesson they will be using them in. This is so they can concentrate on the academic learning and application. It is much harder to find the time within the busy GCSE curriculum to develop tactile skills, so developing those skills from Year 7 onwards is crucial, as is the opportunity to reinforce them throughout a pupil's time at school.

Accessing the lesson

It is important to remember that thanks to new technology, it is not always necessary to provide modified hard copies of resources. Jerri was able to access the revision guide independently and make learning choices suitable to her own needs. She was able to remove the colour by using the in-built accessibility features on the iPad and greyscale the visual display. She could also manually enlarge the document and use the search feature to find the information she wanted quickly and effectively. She was then able to make her own revision cards, just as everyone else in the class was doing.

By giving pupils the opportunity to access work in a range of formats it gives them flexibility of approach and more opportunities to make personalised learning decisions. We must balance academic learning with the need to support the development of the child into an independent learner.

Yanko’s group decided one person would read the worksheet aloud, they would discuss as a team the answer and Yanko would write the completed sentences on his laptop. This was printed for his peers to revise from and Yanko kept the file electronically so he could listen to it as part of his revision at home.
In the Chemistry lesson, Yanko's use of a tactile periodic table, which was provided by the exam board, ensured that in the real exam he would be able to effectively locate specific elements. This helps give Yanko parity with his sighted peers.

In summary...

It is crucial to give students the opportunity to utilise a wide range of equipment in lessons. This encourages them to develop skills as independent learners and make learning choices at school and home.
The Joint Council for Qualifications is the body in charge of facilitating and delivering common administrative arrangements for examinations. They provide guidance (which is updated annually) on adjustments that can be made in exams for candidates with a disability or learning difficulties. It states it is imperative students are given opportunities to practice using their access arrangements before the real exams. These might include having a scribe, extra time, speech recognition technology, and using enlarged or modified exam papers.
QTVIs must work with mainstream staff and the school’s exams officer to make sure the appropriate changes are made for pupils in any exam situation – mock or real.

Further information

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