Vision for Doing
Assessing Functional Vision of Learners who are Multiply Disabled
Part 3: Topics Revisited
Appendix IV Vision for doing: A tool not a test
Vision for Doing makes no claims to be a "standardised test" of vision. We offer it as a Procedure or set of Guidelines to educators and care-givers. As we have said we do this to help them in turn offer the most appropriate learning environments and activities to their learners who have visual and multiple disabilities. We did not want to offer a rigid, inflexible format. That is not the way to carry out work with learners who are multiply disabled. If sequences of learning are followed too rigidly, then there is a very real danger of restricting learning opportunities. We realise that this does not sit very comfortably with present policy within education circles in the UK - and elsewhere - where set procedures and attainment targets are becoming the norm.
In this short Appendix we would like to discuss in a little more depth our reasons for taking this route and, moreover, to discuss what we believe emerge as the real strengths - not weaknesses - as a result of our approach.
A word about Standardisation
The two major features of test standardisation &emdash; whereby a test measures what it is supposed to measure are:
- the way in which the test is administered;
- whether the test results in the establishment of norms.
Administering Vision for Doing
We suggest in Vision for Doing that it is more important to carry out this procedure over a time determined individually for each learner. What will be right for one learner in one situation, will be inappropriate for the same learner at a different time or place; and would be different for two or more different learners. In this respect, then, standardisation has not been carried out on the Vision for Doing. Therefore it is not a test in the strict sense. We would, however, argue that our approach is entirely appropriate to the particular population to which these guidelines are directed. We do not see the multiply disabled as conforming to some normative process which is commonly applied in other spheres.
We would argue that the field of education with learners who are multiply disabled is a very young field. Indeed until only a few years ago, many of the people who might have been offered learning opportunities were hidden away - often in hospitals. The time is not yet right for standardisation. But more than this, we question whether it will ever be possible to standardise on 'testing' with the most severely multiply disabled learners.
Assessment for what?
The need expressed by the people who became involved in this study was not just for an assessment of how much vision a learner had. Requests came for indications as to what might be tried with that learner - on the basis of his or her functional vision. Suggestions were needed on appropriate materials and development of the curriculum.
Curriculum development requires a long lead time before one can unreservedly decide whether this or that intervention technique works. In the short term a specific technique may well work, but its success may well be to the detriment of longer term abilities. We would venture to suggest that the field of visual impairment in the presence of multiple disability is not yet ready to make categorical statements on issues of what has worked and what has not worked. Some insights have been gained, much remains to be learned and developed.
Our selection of items for the assessment of vision and 'The Other Senses' was predicated on the few measures already available. Our emphasis was more on what could be interpreted from these measures. As suggestions for practice, we incorporated a range of accepted techniques - both our own and those of others. The categorisation system we used - Awareness, Attending, Localising, Recognising and Understanding - was one which encapsulated the structures used by several practitioners in the field. This particular wording was in fact in agreement with that used by Laura Pease of Whitefield School, London (after such as Jose et al (1980), Langley and Dubose, 1976). The nomenclature used is in essence the approach carried out by others in the field. Our contribution was fourfold:
- to widen its applicability;
- to apply the model across the other senses as a general model of the learner;
- to introduce a hierarchical model based on these principles;
- and finally to tie the model to specific suggestions for developing the curriculum of the learner.
Therefore a strong, testable and refutable model lies at the core of Vision for Doing.
We also set out to complement the framework proposed by such as Chapman et al (1989) with Look and Think. This particular checklist was developed for learners who have the single impairment to vision. Its content is less appropriate to those who have multiple disability with visual impairment. We endeavoured to concentrate most heavily on the areas for which Look and Think is less useful. Vision for Doing is most appropriate when used with learners who have multiple disability. It is less applicable for those who have "only" visual impairment, though may be appropriate with very young children.
While each of the authors did not set out to obtain inter-rater reliability measures for each item, a criterion of agreement was invoked which was more functional and therefore probably more useful for the purposes of these guidelines. For each of the learners we followed up (around 90 in number), a report was written giving suggestions for curricular development. This report was to be used in the learner's activities. In order to write the report, the two authors had to agree as to its contents. At this stage, we were performing a functional inter-rater reliability.
Indeed, we would argue that this was probably more powerful as a measure of reliability than any standard inter-rater reliability. Its success was after all measured by the outcome of the suggestions made. We then followed up our recommendations by asking a sample of professionals whether our suggestions had proved to be of any value. In other words, not only was face validity1 of items being measured, so too was criterion validity2 : if it had not worked, the item would have been junked!
The oldest of the learners with whom we have used Vision for Doing were in their late 20's. Although we frequently use the term 'child' in the main text, we consider that, by using age-appropriate materials, the procedures described may be used successfully with adult learners.