Can you read THIS?

May 21, 2010 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

For the first-time ever, our Real-World Super Heroes class ventured into the world of low vision and blindness. Since this was a new topic for me as well as our students, I was thrilled to welcome Community Outreach guru Annie Presley from Visions into our class. (Thank you Visions!)

Annie explained to us that many people who we may think are blind actually possess what is called “low vision” or “partial blindness.” If their conditions worsen, then they can become totally blind.  “Legally blind” in New York is vision of 20/200, which means needing to be no more than 20 feet away from something which could be seen clearly from a distance of 200 feet by a person with average vision. Once we had our definitions down, we talked about how someone with low vision or blindness might get around and accomplish school tasks on their own. Annie shared some great tools, low vision or blind kids and adults use including a talking watch, writing templates, and a filling alarm. This last item is a small device you hang on the edge of a cup or pot to beep when the liquid you are pouring nears the top of the vessel.  NOTE to self: when shopping for seniors, there are some great Web sites out with really clever products that can help them maintain independence.

Of course, we also learned about Braille. Annie brought in some Braille books our young Heroes loved and even had made a card for each child with his or her name in Braille! For more Braille fun, your kids can try the interactive games in the Braille Bug site hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind.

Following our show and tell, we got the chance to experience classroom life as someone blind or with low vision. The Super Heroes put on goggles and masks that had been altered to simulate different vision scenarios such as tunnel vision, cloudy vision and spots. (This video shows you what we mean.) You could make these at home: just take an old pair of goggles or glasses and: (1)  stick on some paper with a hole cut out in the middle, or (2) stick on some irregular dots, or (3) brush with a layer of glue.

While simulator glasses, our Heroes walked over to the tables to color in pictures and write their names.  At least immediately bumped into a chair, and Annie had to remind everyone with low vision to please walk with a sighted helper since the experience was new to them.  So, this exercise is useful in at least two areas:

  • providing an experience to help raise our level of undertanding of what it is like to function with low vision
  • providing an opportunity to practice the correct way to offer to help to someone with low vision or blindness; one person can wear the simulator glasses and one can be the sighted helper and then switch roles

For a clear guide on the best way to offer and lend a hand, I suggest watching this “Top 10 Tips for Helping” video.

After our simulation experience in class this week, our Super Heroes set to work adapting Candyland games for children with low vision or blindness. They added raised foam shapes to the game’s colored squares to create a tactile aspect to the game boards and cards.  The kids dove into the project and even came up with the need for some additional tactile cues for special spots such as “Lose a Turn.”  I was impressed by our Heroes’ abilities to fashion great solutions for the issues they ran into while adapting the games.  

Well, that’s all (and a lot) for this week. Enjoy a picture-perfect weekend!

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