two female students dissecting a frog with a female teacher

Adapting Dissection for Students with Visual Impairments

Tips to adapt animal dissection for students who are visually impaired.

Dissection is a much loved or much hated lab activity depending on which student you ask.  Students with visual impairment will face barriers to experiencing the same benefit from dissection that other students receive.  Our goal as TVIs, however, should be to make the experience as meaningful as possible.  The first student that I worked with on dissection had no usable vision, but was more excited than most of the general education class to dissect.  The following simple suggestions will make dissection a more valuable experience for a student with a visual impairment.

Before the dissection

Prior to the dissection, the student should become completely familiar with the structures that will be part of the dissection.  These structures will, of course, depend on what is being dissected.  If at all possible, I would recommend allotting an extra 30 minutes to an hour of instruction prior to the dissection toward this end.  The more familiar the student is with the structures prior to the dissection, the more interesting the dissection will be.  

In addition, the more familiar the TVI is with the dissection, the better able he/she will be to properly describe it.  To this end, watch a video on the particular dissection to be performed so as to familiarize yourself with it.   

For some dissection, it may be possible to request a larger specimen for the student with a visual impairment.  For instance, I purchase bull frogs for my students when they perform dissections as they are larger than the frogs normally dissected in high school

For students with blindness:  

For students with low vision:

During the dissection

Much description will be necessary, and thus plan to attend and assist in class for each day that dissection is on the agenda.  Let the instructor know that you will be assisting so that seating can be properly arranged for you.  


After the dissection

The student should, of course, be expected to help clean up and either discard or properly store the specimen as per the teacher’s instructions.  

After the dissection, discuss the structures that were dissected.  What did the student learn?  Discuss the dissection with the student. What went well?  What was frustrating?

dissection collage

By Laura Hospitál

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