Visual Disability

How does IDEA define Visual Impairments?

There are two categories of visual disabilities in IDEA. They are visual impairment and deaf-blindness. Here are the specific definitions from section 300.7(c) of the IDEA regulations.

(13) Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.

(2) Deaf-blindness means concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

Two other definitions which are not included in IDEA may also be helpful in understanding vision impairment.

  • Functionally blind: even with magnification cannot read print. Persons who are functionally blind depend on non-visual ways to receive information, e.g. Braille or audio text.
  • Functionally low vision/partially sighted: with magnification can read print. Persons who have functional low vision/partially sighted depend on magnified print, e.g. large print, in addition to audio text for ease of receiving the information.

Children who are blind or have low vision have the same range of intelligence as the general population. Some are quite gifted and others may have learning disabilities or mental retardation in addition to their vision impairments. All must rely on their other senses to compensate for the lack of visual information.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Visual Disabilities

Most commonly, assistive technology used by students with visual disabilities helps them to gain information from their environments and from print and other visual materials. Students with vision impairments may also use assistive technology for recreation and leisure. Below are some common examples of assistive technology used by students with visual disabilities.

  • Eye glasses
  • Magnifier
  • Large print books
  • CCTV (closed circuit television)
  • Screen magnifier (mounted over screen)
  • Screen magnification software
  • Screen color contrast
  • Screen reader, text reader
  • Braille translation software
  • Braille printer
  • Enlarged or Braille/tactile labels for keyboard
  • Alternate keyboard with enlarged keys
  • Braille keyboard and note taker

It is important to remember that a student with a visual disability may have trouble with other functional life skills (e.g. reading, writing, recreation and leisure).

Other Visual Disability Websites


Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

National Federation for the Blind

Special Education and Rehabilitation Internet Resources: Visual Impairments Sites