University of Edinburgh

The Importance of Art in the Curriculum for Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Young People

Presented on Tuesday 4 March 2008

Responding to pupils' needs when teaching art and design

Vision is the primary sense upon which most educational strategies are based. These strategies must be modified to reflect the child's visual, auditory and tactile capabilities. A child with severe vision loss can directly experience only what is within arm's reach and can be safely touched, and in most cases, what can be directly heard. The roe of the teacher is to stimulate awareness and to encourage the pupil to explore the creative possibilities in a range of materials.

Although the national Curriculum emphasises the visual aspects of the subject, art can provide a vehicle for expressive creativity for all; it need not only be visual. A differentiated curriculum will depend on developing practical and manipulative skills in making and investigating as well as providing experiential knowledge and understanding.

The importance of art and design to pupils with a visual impairment and/or learning difficulties

Art and design stimulates creativity and imagination. It provides visual, tactile and sensory experiences and is a means to communicate with others. Pupils learn about the role of art, craft and design in life today as well as in different times and cultures.

Modifying the art and design programmes of study

The statutory inclusion statement of the Curriculum for Excellence requires staff to modify the programmes of study to give all pupils relevant and appropriate challenging work at each key stage. Staff should teach knowledge, skills and understanding in ways that match the pupils' abilities.

Improving access to the art and design curriculum

Staff can make art and design more accessible by focusing on the senses, by:

  • using materials and resources that pupils and experience and understand through touch, sight, sound, taste or smell;
  • organising different activities to make up for the lack of first hand experiences;
  • giving pupils first hand experiences of current and past items and artifacts;
  • helping pupils to observe and understand natural and man-made materials and objects;
  • providing direct art and design experiences through visits to museums, galleries, gardens and sites where pupils can experience first hand knowledge by handling different objects and materials.

Useful websites


Learning through touch: Supporting children with visual impairment and additional difficulties, Mike McLinden, Stephen McCall. David Fulton.

Creative and mental growth, Lowenfeld, V, Lambert Brittain, W (1987) Macmillan London.

Analyzing children's art, Kellog, R (1970) Mayfield, California

Child art therapy, Rubin, J A (1984) John Wiley & Sons, New York.