Jun 6, 2019 in Research

Introduction

Vision impairments arise from a selection of reasons, as well as injury, brain trauma, congenital conditions, eye infection and other illnesses like multiple sclerosis and diabetes. A person is deliberated legitimately blind if his or her improved visualization is less than 20/200. This implies that a legally blind person can see at twenty feet what others see at two hundred feet. Moreover, an individual is described visually compromised when rectified vision is less than 20/70. According to recent statistics, 80-90% of validly blind people have some assessable visualization or light sensitivity. In essence, a learner who is officially blind may preserve an abundant expanse of vision. Most validly blind learners have the ability to read with distinctive glasses, and a few are able to drive. Even though these students have faultless essential vision, the legally blind students have narrow field and their vision appears as looking through a straw. On the other hand, some students are totally blind, whereby they cannot see anything. Both the totally blind and legally blind students require adaptations in the school setting. The paper seeks to explore transition services and accommodations for blind students. The research paper will include the current trends in transition services for blind students, and assessment and evaluation of eligibility services for the population. In addition, the paper will discuss strengths and weaknesses of the current system in place for blind students.

Background

When working with blind students, it is significant to understand that some unique aspects of their disabilities will call for additional specialized services and resources. In almost all educational institutions, the main objective of education is to maximize lasting success. Visually impaired learners have unique learning needs, which have to be addressed in an attempt to access the general education core curriculum. In essence, provision of facilities which help in meeting the requirements of visually impaired students allows them to become liberated and productive citizens. According to recent studies on the employment track of visually impaired people, 28% of out-of-school youth are in the employment sector. In this regard, educators face a momentous challenge in offering educational services which will enhance prosperous post-school endings. 

 

Students with visual impairments are a diverse group. Some have mild vision impairments while others are totally blind. More so, some students have visual impairment as their only disability while others have additional sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities. Students` visual impairment may vary, with some getting blind at a later stage in life while others are blind since birth. Visual impairment and blindness have negative impacts on the learning process hence there is a need for special services to support students` academic learning. Visually impaired learners lack experiential learning and have slow development of alternate skills and limited access to information required to facilitate the learning process. In this case, curriculum developers recommend the development and application of special approaches to help visually impaired students pursue their education. For instance, most schools utilize transition services and accommodations to help blind learners access general curriculum. Accommodations employed include reading and writing Braille, use of optical devices with standard print, use of auditory materials for learning, and reading of tactual graphics. 

 

Adaptation to being blind is shaped by many factors. These factors include availability and type of family support, and level of intellectual, emotional, physical, and motor functioning. In essence, the degree and nature of vision loss and other factors will help in determining a recommended educational program for visually impaired students. These will also influence support provided to the learners such as transition services and accommodation.  

Literature Review

The subject of visually impaired students has received key scholarly attention. The major focus of the research is on the transition services and accommodations accorded to visually impaired learners. According to scholarly understanding, accommodations help visually impaired learners in the access to the course content. Contrary to popular belief, accommodations do not reduce grade level standards and do not alter the complexity of the information delivered to learners. Accommodation refers to changes in the school program from the typical way things are done so that visually impaired learners can have an equal opportunity to take part. The changes also permit learners in the school to be successful in both academic and non-academic fields. Essentially, the inclusion of these changes does not aim at necessarily lowering the academic standards of a school or an institution. 

 

According to Reed & Curtis, the purpose of accommodations is to disregard the interference of visual disability. In order to prove credibility of accommodations, they are tied to different levels of testing. Notable, accommodations must be part of the learners’ continuing teaching program. Some institutions and schools are reported to introduce accommodations only during the state-required valuations. Depending on the level of the learners’ blindness, instructors need to ensure that the accommodations meet certain prescribed guidelines. Scholars agree that accommodations need to base on current individualized needs, reduce the effect of the disability to access the current curriculum, and be inclusive. More so, accommodations should base on the up-to-date precise needs in each content area and be particular about where, when, who, and how the accommodations will be offered. In this regard, it is important for the educators to select accommodations that are suitable and aim at meeting the needs of visually impaired students. Most importantly, both educators and learners should understand the role of accommodations in the educational programs. Accommodations help in providing level on the education platform and should not provide unfair advantage over others. 

 

From the literature available in regard to accommodations, it is evident that there may be some changes made in the presentation of academic materials, changes in setting, changes in the way learners demonstrate learning and changes in the setting environment. Depending on the degree of visual impairment, educators will determine the applicable accommodations. Popular accommodations in a school setting includes use of recorded text, braille materials, computer screen of eye level and tilted to avoid glare, use of a slant-board to position papers properly, and instructor verbalizing all information that is presented in writing. Other approaches include use of bold line paper, oral testing, shorter written tasks, abbreviated homework assignments, and preferential seating in the classroom.

 

Another key aspect with major intellectual attention is transition services offered to visually impaired students. According to Dell, Newton & Petroff, transition services refer to additional planning and services offered to visually impaired learners in the process of moving to other levels in the course of the educational process. In a school setting, transition can be help students move to another grade, to adulthood, and to another level of learning. Transition to another level of life can be challenging to visually impaired students hence there is a need for support from external members of the society. In a school setting, educators and instructors play a key role in helping visually impaired learners move to other levels of their life through the provision of transition services. Similar to accommodation, transition services are the key aspect in the educational programs as they help learners adapt to the new environment. Transition services offered to students with visual impairment focus mainly on the learners’ educational and functional needs to assist them in educational accomplishment. Transition services aim at fulfillment of academic and functional needs of visually impaired learners. Reed & Curtis explain that transition services include support in classroom activities, educational support, assessments, speech and language, and vocational skills. Transition services need to be designed for inclusion in a result-based process, focusing on enhancing academic and functional accomplishments of visually impaired learners. The services need to focus on an individual learner’s needs. In addition, it is important that the transition services include instruction, development of employment, community experiences, and other post-school goals. The activities included in the transition services encourage learners to take part in the community activities, which include transportation, banking, shopping, recreational, social and governmental activities.

 

Dell, Newton & Petroff add that transition services can be formal or informal and they include broad curricular areas of required coursework, skill training, educational experiences and many others. The services aim at preparing visually impaired learners for college, further skill training and adult life. Transition services include instruction, related services, community experiences, development of employment and other post-school living objectives, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. The delivery of transition services is through curricular and extracurricular activities across varied settings.   

The Current Trends in Transition Services for Blind Students

In the late 1980s, policy makers acknowledged that learners with visual disabilities had various shortcomings when leaving secondary school. The learners lacked major skills to be able to take advantage of education, training, employment and other after-school opportunities. In this regard, there was a need for change in regard to transition services. Over the years, transition services have undergone major changes. The section highlights the current trends in transition services for visually impaired students. In the conventional times, transition services aimed at supporting visually impaired learners to move from one stage to another. However, the recent times have seen key changes in the transition services trends. Transition services tend to help learners develop self-determination and encourage them to set goals for the future. Like other students, visually impaired learners need to develop a plan to attain their goals, make choices about daily activities, and be conversant of their rights and responsibilities. The trends have moved to be learner-centered with the major focus on learners’ ability to adapt to the modern world. Since the employment sector is accommodative in regard to the disabled population, transition services aim at preparing the visually impaired for employment opportunities. For instance, the approaches used in the current transition services help the visually impaired in the development of career awareness, completion of career interest inventories and provision of information to help them evaluate their academic skills and career interests. 

 

The current trends have moved from the belief that transition services are provided by schools. There is a shift to transition services being delivered at home and throughout the community. The change in the approach is supported by the fact that after school, visually impaired learners get back to the community where it is expected they compete with other people for the same resources and opportunities. In essence, the transition services equip the learners with necessary skills and knowledge to live in the modern society. 

 

According to statistics regarding current trends in transition services, preparation for employment includes career awareness activities, attendance of conferences, job sampling and contact with adults who have similar disabilities. Another aspect of the current trends is health. Visually impaired learners now fully understand need for proper health, hygiene, nutrition and reproductive education.   

Assessment and Evaluation of Eligibility for Transition and Accommodation Services

Before learners with disabilities get access to transition services and accommodations, it is important that relevant authorities oversee assessment and evaluation. There are recognized standards which can qualify a learner as being visually impaired hence in need of transition and accommodation services. As identified earlier in the paper, there are two aspects of visually impaired learners. A school can have learners who are partially blind and those who are totally blind. The needs of people with various types of blindness vary hence there is a need for assessment and evaluation. Before the implementation of the services, it is important to understand the needs of each learner. 

 

Eligibility for transition and accommodation services varies from institution to institution. Assessment and evaluation help educators design and meet individual needs of the learners, both on the academic and non-academic platform. Evaluation implies the procedures employed to determine whether a learner has a disability, the nature and extent of special education and related services that he/she needs. Assessment and evaluation in pertinent areas is necessary in order to sufficiently identify all of the learners’ needs in relation to special education and related services. There are a variety of assessment tools that are applicable in the process of evaluation. The tools are instrumental in gathering information about a learner in the functional, developmental, and academic areas. Assessment and evaluation should be administered by qualified professionals. The initial and subsequent evaluations for the visually impaired help provide input that will help ensure that the proper evaluation tools and methods are used. Qualified professionals can collaborate with other organizations to assess the learners` needs.

 

Other necessary evaluations include functional vision assessment, clinical low vision evaluation, and learning media assessment. It is also advisable that schools carry out re-evaluation at least every three years. Re-evaluation helps identify progress in the learners’ abilities. In regard to visually impaired learners, there can be significant changes in demands regarding visual and sensory functioning as they grow older. After evaluation, a decision is made to determine whether a learner is in need of special education and other related services.    

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Current System in Place for Blind Students

The issue of blindness in schools requires the implementation of a system to ensure that visually impaired learners can easily access the necessary help and facilities needed to acquire education. The system has been in place for several decades. During this period, it has been possible to identify its strengths and weaknesses. The main strengths of the current system are evident. Unlike traditional approaches, the current systems aim at developing individual educational objectives. The student-centered approach ensures all the issues regarding learners’ abilities remain covered. The current system also obtains major support from teachers, learners, community and other relevant groups. 

 

However, the system has notable weaknesses. The implementation of the system is procedural and requires key resources. In order for the institutions to provide transition services and accommodations, they need to meet several requirements. In some cases, the institutions fail to adhere to the set standards hence fail to provide the services. For instance, the transition plans are a pro-forma exercise in that they are weak and lack a serious substantive content. Another notable weakness is that learners with disabilities and their parents are not well-informed about the substantial differences in the rights and responsibilities of middle school and high school and students attending such schools. The system also focuses on one level of education, forgetting the need for these services on higher education level. 

Conclusion

Visual impairment and total blindness comprise a major issue in the modern day school setting. The presence of learners with visual impairment calls for provision of services and tools which will allow them to excel in their academics. One major approach is the provision of transition services and accommodations. Transition services help the learners to make plans and set goals for their lives outside the school setting. Transition services majorly help the visually impaired learners to adapt to the outside world, acquire employment, and have self-independence. The services remain instrumental in the development of the learners’ personality, abilities and academic performance. On the other hand, accommodations refer to the approaches and measures employed by instructors to ensure visually impaired learners go through the education system comfortably. The main significance of applying accommodations to visually impaired learners is to offer support through the learning process. The two approaches help in supporting the learning process.   

 

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