Visual impairment

Information, resources and links to support children and young people with visual impairment.

Visual impairments can affect one or both eyes and can have widely differing implications for a child or young person’s education. Visual difficulties take many forms, with specific characteristics unique to each individual child or young person. They range from relatively minor problems to educationally blind.

Some children are born with lack of light perception; others lose their sight, partially or completely, as a result of an illness or accident. In some instances, visual impairment is only one aspect of a multiple disability.

If staff suspect a child or young person has an undiagnosed visual impairment, they should discuss this with parent carers. You should also advise them to seek medical advice from their GP or optician. Educational settings should not attempt to assess visual impairments themselves. Please see external VI support page for further information.

Indicators of possible ‘visual’ impairment’

Moderate visual impairment

Deterioration in academic performance that are due to visual behaviours include:

  • deteriorating handwriting
  • slowness in copying from the board
  • increasingly asking for written instructions to be given verbally
  • child or young person moving text closer to eyes or squinting.

Moderate to severe visual impairment:

  • will have problems accessing work from the board or print
  • may have problems identifying peers in the playground
  • the child or young person may become tired towards the end of the school day – this may be due to increased demands of concentrating on visual elements of learning
  • may be impacted by lack of appropriate modifications or lighting conditions
  • children and young people may have issues with self-esteem, emotional well-being and social interaction.

Severe to profound vision impairment

In addition to the difficulties described for children or young people with mild to severe, the child or young person may:

  • have trouble accessing open areas – they may also be more prone to tripping over or having accidents whilst navigating the school/setting site
  • need access to print through Braille and may not be able to benefit from usual approaches to learning to read
  • have a severe impact on a learner’s ability to function independently in the school environment
  • need a high level of adult support in order to access the curriculum
  • need high level of teaching of Braille outside the classroom environment and texts / diagrams produced in a tactile format
  • take longer to complete tasks, often in a different medium
  • need help with social interactions with their peers and help to fully develop an understanding of others
  • find it difficult to maintain positive self-esteem and social confidence.

Provision and/or strategies:

  • Work together with other professionals. For example, Sensory Support Team, mobility officer, to share strategies and advice to enable the child or young person to access the learning environment – for example, through the use of Information and Computer Technology (ICT), alternative visual resources or pre-learning.
  • Consider lighting and position for the child or young person and how it supports their vision.
  • Provide uncluttered space and plain backgrounds to help the child or young person focus on the appropriate object.
  • Use auditory reinforcements.
  • Use talking books and literature/books or those with Braille if the child or young person is a Braille reader.
  • Use reading apps.
  • Create a folder of frequently used (transferable) resources which the child or young person can access during lessons.
  • Use a 3D printer.
  • Take account of mobility needs such as accessing mobility/cane training.
  • Provide access to low visual aids.
  • Consider using talking equipment for life skills/ curriculum activities.
  • Provide access to quieter learning environments.