Blind and visually impaired immigrants and refugees with little or no English proficiency are difficult to count. In addition, they are rarely informed about specialized help that may be available to them. For example, most immigrants and refugees with visual impairments do not seek out the services of rehabilitation agencies for the blind. This is especially true of women because their families frequently do not want them to work outside their homes. Older immigrants and refugees who have no interest in paid employment may see little value in contacting such agencies.

As a teacher, it is beneficial for you to know when your student lost his/her vision. This will help you to know if they have visual concepts. It is also helpful to know if the student had some literacy in his or her native language prior to vision loss.

Head injury or physical trauma to the brain may lead to different degrees of visual impairment and/or blindness.  This is important for all students but particularly immigrant and refugee students.  Be prepared to take into account brain injuries and/or mental trauma, for example: war, famine, torture, car accidents, etc. These issues may affect learners’ classroom participation and learning styles.  See Brain Injury and Mental Health sections.

Grade 1 Braille: Uncontracted Braille. When every letter of every word is expressed in Braille, it is referred to as Grade 1 Braille. Very few reading materials are transcribed in Grade 1 Braille. However, all newly blind adults learn this system of Braille.

Grade 2 Braille: Contracted Braille. This is the system used for reproducing most textbooks and publications. This system does not correspond to English contractions but is maybe more akin to shorthand. This system is not suitable for beginning to intermediate ELL students.

Emboss: To print Braille translated material.

Tips for Meeting and Greeting a Blind or Vision-Impaired Person

  • If a student who is blind is using a guide dog, remember the dog is a working dog and should not be distracted by petting or offering food. Remind other students in your class. If there are Muslim students in your class, you may want to discuss why a dog is OK in the classroom, etc.

More information in Instructional Strategies section below.

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