Boy at school typing on an adapted keyboard
Guide

A guide to common CVI IEP accommodations

Find examples of CVI accommodations to support access to learning and the environment

Accommodations are an essential part of your child’s IEP. They’re supports and changes that remove barriers to learning, and outline how educators will adjust your child’s environment to maximize learning and reduce fatigue. Accommodations allow for equal access to the curriculum and learning environment. 

No two kids with CVI are alike. Accommodations are specific to each child, but they should always be targeted to CVI and should always address: How will your child use visual and compensatory skills to access learning and engage in specific activities throughout the day?

Assessment data drives the development of accommodations and supports for your child’s IEP.

Accommodations should reflect need areas identified by assessment and integrate your child’s CVI visual behaviors. It’s helpful to organize your child’s accommodations by type. For example, how learning is presented (presentation), how your student shows what they know (response), changes in their learning environment (setting), and time for task completion or timing of the day (timing and scheduling). You’ll notice a more detailed organizational structure of CVI accommodations below.

Here’s an overview of general CVI accommodations created by the Perkins CVI Assessment Team and based on multiple perspectives in the field. Your list might differ, compiled in conjunction with your child’s learning team. That’s OK! 

CVI accommodation categories

Click on the links below to find examples of accommodations and supports for each category.

Foundations for an accessible school day

Boy pointing to his visual/tactile calendar system

Create an accessible school day by evaluating each activity in your child’s day, consider CVI strategies and interventions embedded in each activity, and take into account each visual behavior. Your child’s school day should:

  • be built collaboratively by all team members to reflect needs across the entire school day with guidance by the TVI.
  • provide opportunities to use visual and compensatory skills in an accessible way, so that they can engage in their learning and the environment. 
  • ensure that visually taxing activities are not sequential, and build breaks into the schedule to prevent fatigue.
  • use proactive breaks throughout the school day that allow your child a chance to reset and calm down, and/or use other sensory channels to engage in their learning. 
  • incorporate a multisensory approach to learning that allows your child to have full access to their education, even when experiencing visual fatigue. 
  • develop a calendar system that considers physical ability and primary sensory channels to ensure it’s within the comfortable range of visual and sensory processing, accessible visual media (3D/2D and description), color for materials and highlighting, and reduced clutter and crowding (number of items and organization).

Physical positioning

Boy plays with shiny material with a Perkins TVI

Supportive seating and positioning are likely to increase your child’s visual attentiveness and sensory skill use, as well as engagement in the learning process. Where and how is your child positioned during learning activities? What’s the most optimal seat in the classroom during whole-class instruction, lunchtime, and specials to support access to instruction?

Visual Attention, Sensory Integration

Your child should be fully physically supported for vision-based activities. This may include wheelchair, stander, or any other equipment adaptations required (armrests, footrests, stool) as well as in any other position deemed safe by your physical therapist and occupational therapist.

Visual Field Abilities

Learning materials should be positioned in your child’s most accessible visual field (right, left, upper, lower). Your child must be permitted to alter their seating position to accommodate their visual field.

Impact of Light

Your child may need to face away from light sources during visual tasks: side lighting from windows and lamps, overhead lighting from ceiling and skylights. Reflected light on learning materials and devices may need to be controlled. 

Impact of Motion

Your child may need to face away from distracting motion (people or objects) in their central and peripheral visual fields.

Clutter

Your child may need to face away from visual clutter (wall decorations, bulletin boards, bookshelves, messy stacks of items) and face a simple, plain background during learning activities. 

Access to people

Two boys reading a book together

Many kids with CVI have face blindness, difficulty looking at faces and facial recognition, and interpretation of facial expressions. There must be accommodations that provide your child access to both adults and peers in the school setting. 

Visual Recognition

  • Your child may need a voice cue or verbal confirmation to identify others.
  • When first approached in a busy environment, your child may need a verbal cue to know who is coming near them. For example, “Hi Harry, it’s Mr. Sean, I’m walking toward you on your right side [preferred visual field].”
  • Your child may need to receive a consistent alert to show that an educator wants to speak with them. For example, “Hi Mason, it’s Ms. Edwards. I would like to talk to you about ____.” 

Visible features may need to be pointed out to your child (for example, glasses, hair color, and shape). For example, “Today ___ is wearing a red shirt.” The visual attributes of others, including peers, should be pointed out, too. For example, “Carmen, join Zoe, who’s wearing a bright pink shirt today.”

Visual Curiosity

Your child should be informed who’s in the room with them (especially if others are at a distance) and what they are doing.

Your child should be provided with verbal information during social situations. For example, “Your friend is waiting outside the classroom in her green coat.”

Form Accessibility

If photographs of people are accessible, your child’s educator might: 

  • pair photographs of people presented on a plain background with a tactile symbol or written name to support recognition.
  • use photographs of faces to support emotion identification and expressions.

Environment/Setting 

For many kids with CVI, a quiet and visually simple environment is optimal for learning. Distracting light, movement, noise, even temperature can overload their brain and make learning and vision use inaccessible. How can their learning environment be made fully accessible? What’s required to ensure safe navigation in all settings across the school day? 

Impact of Color

Your child’s educator might:

  • use bright color (and high contrast) to highlight and alert them to important areas and landmarks, and parts of a structure/item to touch or grasp.
  • use bright color (and high contrast) to highlight targets at a distance or changes in depth (for example, top and bottom of staircases, at the beginning and end of a railing).
  • place bright color tape or stickers on small details in environments to support visual motor skills and visual attention and recognition. 

Visual Field Abilities

Your child should be monitored at all times for safety and changes of depth. An educator might:

  • clear materials from the floor for safe travel. 
  • highlight the top and bottom of stair rails, as well as the edges of the step (with a saturated color).  
  • allow time on stairs at the beginning, during, and end for visual processing.

Impact of Motion

A school team might:

  • use learning spaces and positioning that minimize movement of people and materials around your child, in their peripheral visual fields, to reduce visual and auditory distraction, so they can visually attend—for example, sitting facing two walls to block excess movement.
  • allow self-motion that’s safe and is linked to support looking/vision. 

If your child has difficulty with the perception of movement toward them (speed, direction, distance), educators should ensure safety in activities such as gym class, out-of-class activities, or travel through the community.

Visual Clutter

Your child needs a learning environment with reduced visual clutter: plain walls and minimal decor; solid-color carpet or floor; reduced number of items on shelves, bookcases, or shared surfaces. Storage and organizational systems in the classroom can help reduce clutter.

A classroom should have predictable places for personal items, resources, and learning materials so your child knows where to find and return things.

Educators should wear dark, plain-colored shirts so their clothing doesn’t create visual clutter for your child. 

Sensory Integration

Your child’s learning environment may need to be quiet with low levels of background noise.

Your child should be allowed separate/early arrival to destinations when environments are quieter. They should be allowed to visit busy places at quieter times and transition between classes shortly before or following the bell to avoid navigation in highly busy environments.

Impact of light

Your child’s learning environments may need controlled sources of light; this includes natural and artificial lighting positioned overhead or laterally. This will allow light input to be increased or reduced when necessary.

Visual Recognition

Educators should pay attention to orientation and mobility. For example, they may use an object (or photograph of the object, if it’s familiar) of one aspect of a destination or activity. So, if they’re heading to the lunchroom, they could represent it with a photo of the exact spoon your child uses there.

Visual Curiosity

When there are sounds within the environment, an educator should tell your child what they are and, if possible, bring them to the source to build upon their visual and auditory memory. 

They might also use large, shiny, colored, and consistent destination indicators on locations that can be seen at certain distances.

Materials

Learning media (or the material used for learning tasks) is critical for educational access. Results from your child’s learning media assessment (LMA) and CVI assessments will show the most accessible learning media for literacy, numeracy, and writing. Depending on assessment results, accommodations should include considerations for 3D/real objects, 2D (photographs versus illustrations; color versus black and white), font style, size, color, contrast, and spacing (between letters, words, sentences).

Form Accessibility and Visual Recognition

Depending on your child’s learning needs, educators might:

  • use familiar 3D and 2D items for learning concepts and tasks. 
  • use 3D/real objects to pair with written material and learning concepts. 
  • when planning a unit, use 3D/real objects related to key concepts and learning goals of the unit. 
  • pair 3D objects with a high-quality color photograph of that exact object to help your child comprehend the learning goals, tasks, activities, and literacy materials.
  • introduce new 3D/2D objects with similar elements to familiar 3D/2D objects.
  • use real photographs.
  • avoid illustrations and black and white drawings. 
  • print words in [color] [font ] [font size] against [color] background (these details will need to be specified and vary by child).

Impact of Color

Your child’s materials should contrast in color with the surface area; for example, a brightly saturated color against a plain, dark background. 

Educators should use highly saturated colors to draw and sustain your child’s visual attention. They may also use color to highlight areas of importance on 3D/2D materials for instruction in visual attributes.

Edges of bins, containers, and work surfaces may need to be colored to show boundaries and support visual-motor skills.

Impact of Light

Educators should avoid glare on learning materials and tech devices. Glare may disrupt your child’s visual attention and recognition. Using matte or non-glossy laminate is preferable.

Backlit 3D and 2D materials might also support visual attention and recognition, as do objects that have an element of light.

Clutter, Impact of Spacing, Object Arrangement

Educators should: 

  • remove the background of photographs and place them on a plain background.
  • use spacing between photographs/letters/words/sentences [note inch/cm needed between items].
  • use individualized, adapted books that consider clutter (text size/color, simplification of pictures, and spacing).

Impact of Motion

Your child may need to use shiny materials to draw and sustain their visual attention.

Presentation of materials/instruction 

Boy uses slant board with female teacher

Meaningful and systematic instruction must go along with accessible learning materials. Many kids with CVI don’t have access to incidental learning, which must be directly taught and incorporated into all learning tasks. Presentation of materials should consider reduced clutter, increased spacing, use of color and light, sensory inputs, visual field abilities, and visual-motor skills.

Impact of Color and Contrast Sensitivity

Your child’s educator should:

  • use materials that contrast in color with the surface area; for example, a brightly saturated color against a plain, dark background.
  • conceptually link colors to objects/concepts (grass green).
  • use color to support visual motor (reaching, grabbing, placing, taking out, eating skills, riding, or walking) and serve as a support for viewing targets at a distance.
  • use color-cueing and color-coding to help recognize and locate items in both near and at a distance.
  • conduct an ongoing assessment of appropriate use of color when introducing symbols, letters, and words.

Visual Attention

Visual information should be reinforced and integrated into meaningful routines and activities for your child. Visual experiences that are motivating and paired with reinforcement are more likely to increase learning and engagement. Your child’s educator should present tasks or demands one at a time.

Response Interval

Your child’s educator should:

  • allow time [based on assessment results and task demand] for your child to engage in a warm-up activity [individual to each child].
  • allow increased time for your child to establish visual attention, to visually recognize, and to physically respond. 
  • recognize that your child requires additional time to process visual information in complex environments; the degree of required pause time for response will directly correlate to the visual demands of the task, materials, and/or the environment.
  • provide your child with extended time to visually process information and to respond.
  • be methodical and intentional with prompting as to not overwhelm or disrupt.

Sensory Integration 

Your child’s school team may need to:

  • allow your child to focus on one task at a time (i.e. writing, listening, or speaking).
  • incorporate learning activities that allow for variety in participation (standing, moving, listening, speaking, looking). 
  • allow for frequent movement breaks or gross motor activities.
  • pace instruction to provide multisensory learning with one sense challenged at a time. 
  • allow for use of non-visual sensory channels to support learning and concept attainment. 

Clutter, Impact of Spacing, Object Arrangement

School teams may need to:

  • use dark, plain backgrounds for learning and presentations.
  • present 3D items against a dark, plain background.
  • present real photographs against a dark, plain background.
  • remove all extraneous information from the photograph (i.e. a picture of only a character from a story without the background scene).
  • space out objects or materials so that they are easily recognizable. 
  • present items in a field of [number dependent on child’s assessment results] against black background with [dependent on assessment results] inch spacing between materials. 
  • increase spacing between items for visual access and for optimal successful visual-motor skills.
  • mask/block non-essential visual information from your child’s view (textbooks, worksheets etc.)
  • use plates with dividers or clearly separate food items.
  • standardize presentation methods for learning, choice-making, communication systems, literacy, and ADL sequences.
  • use predictable routines so that your child becomes more visually aware of materials and links the material to the activity.
  • allow for close-range examination of materials.

Visual Field Abilities

School teams may need to:

  • present materials in your child’s strongest visual field using assistive items (i.e. slant board, book stand, tablet stand, All-In-One board). 
  • favor your child’s stronger visual field during the instruction and use of communication systems.
  • draw your child’s attention to the identified inaccessible field visual field through auditory cue or gesture. 
  • challenge the field they aren’t using with movement, sound, and saturated/bold colors.
  • encourage your child to reach and explore objects that are presented in their less accessible visual field.

Impact of Light

School teams may need to:

  • use task lighting and/or backlighting for 2D learning media to draw visual attention and support visual recognition during learning activities.
  • use task lighting and/or backlighting for the presentation of new and familiar items to improve initial visual access.
  • use backlighting on a lightbox, iPad, or backlit surfaces in learning activities and activities that require visual motor activities.

Impact of Motion

When using movement to draw visual attention to an object or smaller details, educators may need to place the object slightly in front and off to the side and slowly move it, without noise, in a small area of space. They should allow time for your child to visually fixate.   

Visual-Motor

Educators may need to use reduced visual clutter, movement of objects, lighted objects, or shiny elements to gain your child’s visual attention and increase the ability of controlled visual-motor skills.

If your child uses an AAC device, their team should standardize locations of photographs/words so that your home device looks exactly the same as their school device.

Access is individual

This list is meant to inspire discussion and inquiry about the best accommodations for your child. Access is individual. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for children with CVI. Accommodations must be individualized based on comprehensive assessment results and meet the needs of the whole child.