Students with blindness in biology

Our college has been working toward the goal of full accessibility for years.  Though we have more work to accomplish, we have made great progress.

We have a lot of experience supporting students with disabilities in a lecture setting.  Our Center for Accessibility (CFA) excels at coordinating with faculty and the students to ensure that any necessary accommodations are provided to meet the student’s needs.  Despite the experience and training of CFA personnel, however, they often do not know how to support students with disabilities in specific science laboratory activities.  And it’s the lab experience that is so challenging in a science class, because it’s important that the accommodations provided enable a lab experience comparable to that of the non-disabled students.

A student with total blindness recently completed our first semester general biology course.  As biology is the most visual of the sciences, a lot of preparation was involved.  We met with the student and a relative who would attend lab with the student prior to the start of the semester and were able to determine the best seating location, where the cane should be temporarily stored, how the student would access the sink and supplies, etc.  Course materials were already accessible and both general and specific accommodations were provided.  Additionally, the relative, who knew the student could read braille, created simple, effective tactile images with braille labels throughout the semester for additional help with challenging concepts.  It was of course primarily due to the student’s hard work and determination that they successfully completed the course, but our prior planning contributed to all involved having a positive experience.

If you received news that a student with total blindness would be in your general biology class, are you ready?  What information would you want?  What would be your concerns?

My suggestion?  Start thinking and planning now.  Email with your questions.

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