Vision Loss Toolbox

Support for Blind/Visually Impaired Students

The BVI Toolbox (link below) provide information about vision loss and general strategies for teachers including special covid considerations for students who are blind/visually impaired.

** Acknowledgement:  This toolbox was compiled by the Low Incidence Team of Central Alberta.

While the availability of specialists will vary among school jurisdictions, generally speaking there are two types of service which help to support children/youth with vision loss.

  • Educational Consultant for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI)
  • Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M)

These specialists work hand in hand often along with other support professionals.  While there is certainly some overlap in their roles, the simplest way to understand the difference is that the

  • BVI consultant focuses on recommendations for adaptations/accommodations for the CURRICULUM as well as recommendations and training regarding equipment to support student learning.
  • Orientation and Mobility specialist focuses on instruction for students to travel safely and effectively through their environment.

What services might the Educational Consultant for the Blind and Visually Impaired (BVI) provide?

This specialist provides consultation to school staff regarding programming to support a child or youth with vision loss.  This might include recommendations for educational resources or equipment, accommodations and adaptations.  The consultant might

  • make recommendations for modifications to the classroom, school and, possibly home environment;
  • help interpret vision reports for school staff (and parents);
  • assist with the identification of, access to and use of resources and appropriate assistive technology;
  • support programming provided by other professionals (ex. Orientation & Mobility, assistive technology);
  • work in conjunction with other service providers (i.e. OT, SLP) to ensure their recommendations consider the visual impairment;
  • recommend accommodations, adaptations and modifications to the student’s overall academic programming;
  • support and provide guidance with specific goals in the student’s IPP;
  • provide recommendations for accessing/adapting materials in order for the student to achieve instructional outcomes;
  • provide strategies for the student’s programming in the areas of
    • independence,
    • self-advocacy
    • social skills

What services might the Orientation and Mobility specialist provide?

This specialist helps a blind child know where s/he is in space and where s/he wants to go (orientation) and to carry out a plan to get there (mobility).  For example, a blind child may not be able to conceptualise where the bathroom/classroom/playground etc. let alone know how to get there safely.  The specialist might

  • provide consultation or training to school staff regarding:
    • travel strategies for the student,
    • sighted guide assistance,
    • how the student travels (e.g., use of long cane, use of vision),
    • the physical arrangement of the classroom/school environment,
    • effective communication (e.g., direction giving, offering assistance),
    • interpret vision reports or functional vision assessments with a focus on safe travel,
    • lighting conditions, seating, glare reduction, equipment use and storage
    • information about agencies and resources for student support.
  • provide direct teaching to the student:
    • use of low vision devices
    • motor skills needed for balance, posture and gait
    • orientation skills
    • protective techniques/ personal safety awareness when travelling
    • sighted guide techniques
    • pre-cane skills and long cane training
    • use of adaptive mobility devices
    • map skills and route planning including techniques for traveling both indoors and outdoors at school
    • self-advocacy

Transitioning from One Grade to the Next

Transition planning from one year to the next is the responsibility of the school.  Neither the BVI nor the O&M specialist will likely be able to arrive at every school in September to provide recommendations or to train the new year’s teacher/staff.

  • When a student moves to a new grade, the new teachers should familiarize themselves with the program recommendations by consulting with the previous year’s teacher(s) and/or the “student learning facilitator” for the school or jurisdiction.
  • Recommendations are, typically, stored at the school and/or placed in the student record. At the beginning of the year teachers are strongly encouraged to review and implement the recommendations previously provided.