Low-tech CVI accommodations for a visually complex task

Learn how one CVI mom removed clutter, made items bigger, and used color coding to make studying maps more accessible for her daughter

Grace looking at a map with highlighted borders.

Grace, a brilliant and curious 4th grader with CVI, is competing in her school’s Globalympics. The program is like a geography bee, where students study maps and features of the world and work through increasing levels of difficulty. Not only is the content becoming more challenging as she moves through the levels, but it’s becoming more visually complex too. 

Grace looks at a map with highlighted borders and features

In Level 1, she had to point to the seven continents and five seas. She also had to identify a handful of flags. To make the materials accessible, we printed a plain map and clear, large images of the flags. We described the flags by their salient features (visual attributes). It helped that the flags are visually discrepant. Here’s an example.

In Level 2, we needed to do more for Grace to help her distinguish the features on a world map so that she could find a number of countries and name their capitals. We purchased a poster-size map without extraneous detail and outlined the points of interest in bright colors. I regret that the poster is laminated, but the glare did not seem to bother her. The plus side of the lamination was that I could adapt the map on the fly according to Grace’s requests. You’ll see some of the countries are completely colored in—that was Grace’s preference. We also had to adjust color choices for adjacent map features. For instance, a green Saudi Arabia next to a blue outline of the Persian Gulf was not easy for her to see.

A black and white map on the left and a map with color highlighted borders and features on the right.

Grace learned a very important strategy as she studied. We noticed she was struggling with the prompt to find a country on the map AND name its capital. We explained to her that, by trying to do two things at once, she was “causing a traffic jam in her brain.” Once she got the hang of naming the capital (sometimes with her eyes closed) and then looking at the map to find the country as a completely separate task, she was much more successful.

We continue to figure it out as we go!

Poster size, simple map of the United States with bold, bright colors to highlight the rivers, lakes, mountain ranges, and capital.

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