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10 tips for working with individuals with visual impairments & additional disabilities

10 tips for working with individuals with visual impairments & additional disabilities

By Jean Small

  1. When possible review the student or client’s file, noting information on the implication of the client’s vision such as working distance, size of print needed, orientation and mobility recommendations (how the client gets around) and implications of other disabilities.
  2. Whenever meeting the client, introduce yourself.  “Hello Sam, its’s Karen.”  Encourage all other providers to follow this suggestion.  Please don’t play the guessing game “Who am I?”  
  3. Describe in simple terms where you will go with the client.  “We’ll be going to the work room.  We’ll walk down this hall. Then at the end we’ll turn right.  It’s the third door on the left, room 11.” 
  4. It will be most helpful to provide a schedule for the client, either in large print, braille or with symbols to help her/him anticipate the day’s activities.  If the client uses timeframes, include those otherwise list or describe sequentially.  An example is:
    • 9:00 to 10:00 — Group “Hello” and days activities. Symbol idea: piece of cardboard representing schedule board
    • 10:00 to 10:30 — Coffee time. Symbol idea: piece of fabric napkin
    • 10:30 to 11:30 — Work sites. Symbol idea: portion of work tray or sorting tray  
    • 11:30 to noon — Clean-up and lunch prep. Symbol idea: eating utensil
  1. If the client needs assistance getting around, offer them your arm and have them hold on just above your elbow.  They should not be led around by the hand or shoulder.  If this does not work or the client file does not offer enough information on the client’s travel skills, contact an Orientation and Mobility instructor through the state services for persons with vision loss.  
  2. As much as possible have the client use the same work area or table. Once he/she becomes familiar with the facility and activity, they may be able to use new sites or seating.  
  3. Organize the workspace, such as by having a work tray with sides (see APH.org) will enable the client to keep items from rolling away from the work area.  You can orient the client to the tray by describing the items on the tray (or table) from left to right or referring to a clock face.  Example — “The pencils are at the top right side,” or,” the elastics are at 6 o’clock.”  Of course, you need to know if the client understands these directional terms. If they do not, orient them by placing your hand under theirs and saying, “Here’s the baggy and here are the toothbrushes.”   If describing a work activity does not work, you can perform the activity with your hand under theirs until they begin to master the task.
  4. Use tactile or “real” object with low vision or totally blind clients.  Unless the low vision client is a “visual learner” as indicated in their information, paper-and-pencil or crayons or paints are not useful.  Some ideas are using or gathering “same” items such as pencils, toothbrushes, etc. to be bagged, using templates for finding machine parts, collecting tools for a craft activity, using various textures for a collage, etc.
  5. Provide a workplace free of auditory distractions.  While some clients may prefer listening to music and/or audio books, these activities should be used mostly for relaxation or “break” times, especially if they disrupt or distract from other activities.
  6. Be sure to let the client know when you are leaving the area, e.g. “I’ll be right back.  I’m just going down to the office to talk on the phone” or “I’m leaving now.  See you tomorrow.” 
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