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Adapting Video for VI Learners

Other students and teachers

General comments

Problems don't generally arise if the students are attending a specialist school or college for visually impaired people, where optimal conditions and individual attention is the norm.

However, in mainstream schools and colleges, it may be the first time for teachers / lecturers have had a student with visual impairment in their classes. Most will be very keen to make sure that their student will get every help possible, but they will need advice on how this can be achieved.

It is important for students and their support teachers and tutors to sort out these details in the first few weeks, if not days, of a course. It will become harder to change practice and innovate once well into the term or semester.

Firstly, we will consider the large formal lecture. For this, students are usually seated in fixed rows of chairs or desks and it is not easy to get up and move position. If video or film is being used, then planning beforehand will be necessary to determine the best positioning of the student. Here are some strategies and suggestions:

  • It may not be best to concentrate on the screen, but on the teacher: if students with VI have been given the video for pre- or post-viewing, then during the lesson they will be more free to choose a position which will optimise their view of the lecturer, so as to be able to concentrate on their teachers contribution.
  • If presentation software is being used to project the video onto a large screen at the front of the lecture theatre, personal monitors could also be made available to visually impaired students. The students' seating would then depend on the positioning of the monitors.
  • Where students have difficulty in changing visual targets or seeing details accurately, it helps if the lecturer avoids moving about too much. Similarly, once a seating arrangement has been found to work, it should remain unchanged in other lectures or lessons.
  • Similarly if students are allowed to preview copies of any overhead acetates or slides then seating demands are reduced. Students can optimise access to other visually important material such as TV, computer monitor, or the lecturer. It might help to encourage students to change locations as the focus of work changes, and to plan and make time for this migration.

Seminars, workshops and tutorials are much less formal and often participants change their positions depending on the activity. It is easy to lose out in the crowd. When teachers demonstrate a technique or show an illustration or a specimen, they should make sure that students with low vision get to the front of the group.

The same problem will arise over viewing videos. Group viewing is just not a suitable option unless it is limited to two or three people. Students with low vision need to get close up!

So solutions might be as follows:

  • pre or post-session viewing of video.
  • watching with one or two others so being close won't block out the other students' view
  • individual monitor or viewing before or after the other students in the class.

Specific issues

Visual field defects

Positioning decisions need to take into account a wide range of issues, of which seeing other people is just one: we summarise them here.

Seeing detail

The student should ideally be directly in front of the person they are speaking to so that their body language can be observed. Do not stand near a window or with back to a window. Ideally, any demonstrations should be on a one to one basis. Careful and detailed explanations are needed.

Poor colour vision and contrast sensitivity

Be aware of the use of colour and contrast in any demonstrations, board work etc. Contrasting clothing helps recognition!

Narrowness of field

It helps students with this problem if the target of their attention is positioned centrally in their field of view. Be aware that it would be difficult to track 'body language' and there will be problems following any demonstrations which stray beyond the effective area of vision. Similarly, teachers who move unneccessarily don't help: try to stay in view.

Problems seeing moving images

Good use of descriptive language will be needed to accompany demonstrations and bodily gestures. The student should be seated centrally with an uninterrupted view.

Difficulty in changing focus

Problems will arise if there are activities which involve the student in repeatedly changing focus from distance eg viewing black/white board, to middle distance eg watching teacher, or close focus work such as reading texts or worksheets. If they use LVA's or spectacles, students need extra time to refocus or change devices.