University of Edinburgh

Vision for Doing

Assessing Functional Vision of Learners who are Multiply Disabled


The field of multiple disability has come a long way in the past two decades. Happily we have moved on from the time when children and young people were isolated in hospital wards because of their severe disabilities. Now people with similar problems are beginning to be valued in the community. Naturally, as more has been learned, increasing specialism has been necessary amongst the professionals involved in understanding better the world of the learner who is multiply disabled. One natural move in this specialisation has been towards increased recognition of the nature and effects of visual impairment in the presence of additional disabilities.

When we began the research activity on which this book is based, there was little available to offer direction. Fortunately, that position has since changed. Now there are several books and papers which explore some of the issues which can contribute to an improved understanding of the person who is multiply disabled. This book, along with several books and papers written by others, concentrates on understanding better the effects of visual impairment in the presence of multiple disability.

The uniqueness of the present book lies in combining three distinct objectives. First, our principal aim was to help staff who are not specialists in visual impairment in the demanding task of assessing visual functioning. Second, we wanted to make explicit links between assessment findings and suggestions as to what might be carried out with the learner on the basis of these findings. The third characteristic of this book lies in the framework proposed, around which new opportunities in the 'curriculum' may be built.

We believe there is a need for a framework because, coupled with increasing specialisation, has come the emergence of many competing 'therapies' and techniques. The 'Tower of Babel' looms. While recognising the need for assessment materials, we therefore wanted to offer a framework within which to interpret assessment findings. While the reader might want to rush straight into the actual assessment, we would therefore urge caution. We believe it is essential first of all to have some agreement as to general approaches.

You may be thinking that we have omitted to mention parents and families. Our reason for doing so is simple. If parents want to make use of parts of this book then that is fine. We just think parents and families already offer to the child or young person who is multiply disabled a great deal more than is contained in this or any other book.

Stuart Aitken and Marianna Buultjens.