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ChatGPT: Exploring the impact on educators of students with blindness and low vision

Interested in getting ideas for goals and lessons and/or help with never-ending paperwork? Try ChatGPT!

The introduction of generative artificial intelligence (AI) systems such as ChatGPT have had a significant impact on various industries worldwide, including education. The incorporation of AI-driven tools into the educational sphere presents both opportunities and challenges for educators. As an education professional working with blind and low vision students, I find myself both intrigued and apprehensive about the potential effects of these technologies on our field. In this discussion, we will delve into the implications of generative AI, exploring how it can offer our field support and assessing the possible disadvantages.

What is Generative AI?

For a long time, the phrase “artificial intelligence” has been commonplace, often referring to cutting-edge technologies. In the 1970’s, for instance, a calculator could have been considered a type of AI. Nowadays, the term is typically associated with innovations such as virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa or self-driving vehicles. However, a new category of AI called “generative AI” has emerged. These technologies are “trained” using internet content and rely on text prompts to generate text, images, or speech. ChatGPT, a generative AI technology, was launched in November 2022 and has since garnered significant media attention.

Using ChatGPT

ChatGPT can be accessed through the OpenAI website or via multiple applications integrated with the technology. For example, Microsoft will soon incorporate it into the toolbar of various Office applications, including Word and Excel. When using an app connected to ChatGPT, users are presented with an input field to compose a prompt, such as, “Provide a list of suggestions for a 4th-grade teacher who will have a student with 20/200 vision in their classroom.” The system will then generate a list in response. Be sure you are sitting down.  The precision and depth of the responses can often be astonishing.

The Impact: Advantages

The potential of this technology is immense, and we are merely at the starting point. If you were amazed by the response generated from the previous prompt, it could be mind-blowing to envision what this tool might achieve after several more years of refinement.  It’s important we examine such a powerful tool with a balanced approach, so let’s first explore the benefits before discussing potential drawbacks.


Working as a professional in our field, particularly as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI), comes with a significant amount of paperwork responsibilities. Our assessment processes are among the most complex and time-consuming in the realm of special education. Teachers are often tasked with conducting assessments in Functional Vision, Learning Media, Expanded Core Curriculum, Orientation and Mobility, and Assistive Technology for each student. As a result, educators invest substantial time and effort in researching information and drafting these documents. Additionally, they are responsible for creating numerous IEP goals, present level statements, emails, and collaborative materials. This valuable time could be better utilized in delivering instruction or adapting resources, a critical consideration in areas facing teacher shortages, which, unfortunately, are all too common.

This is where ChatGPT truly excels. Use it to request examples on how to articulate your assessment observations. Provide it descriptions of student attributes and let it generate a concise summary. Ask it to create a SMART goal tailored to a specific skill or adjust the tone of your email from concerned to friendly. ChatGPT can accomplish all this and more, potentially exceeding your expectations in terms of accuracy and nuance. 

I put ChatGPT to the test with a hypothetical orientation and mobility assessment. Surprisingly, a task that typically takes me around 3-4 hours was completed in half the time by prompting ChatGPT for ideas. For a functional vision assessment, I dropped in bullet-pointed observations and it drew up a stunningly-worded summary.  I also asked it to compose an IEP goal, and it not only delivered but also provided an in-depth explanation of each aspect that made the goal effective.  The whole process proved to be both straightforward and highly effective.

Personalizing Activities

The field of vision education draws individuals with diverse backgrounds, but a common characteristic among many vision teachers is a passion for creativity. Given the wide-ranging needs of our students, embracing innovation is essential to address their unique requirements. Turning to ChatGPT for ideas can serve as an invaluable catalyst for creative inspiration.

Consider prompting ChatGPT to offer strategies and a data tracking sheet for encouraging classroom staff to utilize hand-under-hand prompting for a student with CVI. Make the request more specific by mentioning that the student exhibits a significant latency in their reactions, taking 30-45 seconds to respond. Also, include the detail that the student seems to visually fixate best on the color purple. By doing so, you’ll likely receive a range of intriguing suggestions and insights to address the unique needs of your student.

Access to this resource can be particularly valuable for teachers who serve as the sole vision professional in their district or region. While some of us work in teams which facilitate the easy exchange of ideas, many others work independently, with limited contact with fellow professionals in the field. Simply input a task you’d like to teach your student, along with their unique needs, and ChatGPT can help generate a starting point for innovative ideas and solutions.

Data Insights

Maintaining accurate student data is essential for achieving goals and effectively communicating progress. Many educators keep written records and organize data in tabular formats. By prompting ChatGPT with this information and requesting insights, teachers can identify trends and uncover patterns in student performance that might have gone unnoticed. This enables educators to make data-driven decisions, customize instruction to meet individual needs, and monitor progress more efficiently.

The Impact – Drawbacks

While it’s natural to be excited about a new technology that promises to simplify your life, decrease paperwork, and enable you to be a more effective educator, it’s important to approach it with caution. Alongside the benefits, there may also be considerable downsides. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable.


ChatGPT creates responses by identifying patterns and relationships in its extensive training data. Although its output is generally reasonable, it may not always be factual, as it cannot verify the accuracy of the information it generates. Unfortunately, humans are prone to a phenomenon known as automation bias, where we tend to overly rely on automated systems’ output and assume their accuracy, even when presented with accurate but conflicting information. This can result in misguided decisions. In a world already struggling with widespread internet misinformation, this has the potential to create disastrous consequences. It is probable that as this technology advances, we will devote considerable effort to confirming the accuracy of our own work and that of our students.

Perpetuation of biases and stereotypes

When I first began prompting ChatGPT for information about our field, it did not take long to find output hinting at blind and low vision individuals being dependent, objects of pity, or sources of inspiration for performing otherwise routine tasks.  If ChatGPT consistently generates these types of responses it could become a vehicle for reinforcing harmful or negative stereotypes.  This could snowball into our students developing negative self-images and limit their opportunities and potential.  It could also hinder efforts to promote inclusivity and diversity.  As educators of a community, we will be tasked to evaluate AI output to ensure it aligns with promoting equality and respect for all individuals.  

Reliance on Technology

ChatGPT relies on pre-existing work for its training. Imagine a scenario where this highly efficient method of creating materials becomes so widespread that it dominates content creation. If we ceased producing original content, our field might find itself trapped in a continuous feedback loop, perpetuating existing knowledge, biases, and limitations without making progress or adapting to change. Such adaptation is vital for addressing new challenges and evolving with the ever-changing landscape of education and technology.

Widespread Access to Expertise

With generative AI, we are likely to witness a future where our specialized expertise becomes readily accessible to all. This may just as well be considered an advantage to AI—IEP team members, parents, and students will have immediate access to insights that required us years of training and experience to acquire. Consequently, the expert’s role may need to be re-imagined, and we will need to adapt to engage in communication with others possessing comparable knowledge.  

Unintended Consequences

In today’s news, AI-related issues often make headlines, including concerns over deepfakes, the potential for job losses due to automation, intellectual property rights, and the misuse of technology by malicious actors for harmful purposes. These challenges and potentially many more underscore the complexities and risks that come with the rapid advancement of AI technologies.

Looking Ahead

The future, with all its advancements and challenges, is upon us. It’s likely that ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies will become increasingly integrated into the professional activities of all educators, including those of us working with students who are blind or have low vision. To ensure the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, it’s crucial to initiate discussions about the appropriate applications of these technologies and identify the skills teachers need to use them effectively while mitigating potential risks. We are fortunate to work in an intriguing field that attracts brilliant individuals committed to educating a diverse range of students. This privilege brings with it the immense responsibility to utilize these tools in a manner that enhances our productivity, upholds our values, and fulfills our obligations to our students.

By Joe Dlugo

Joe Dlugo is a Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialist, Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  He currently works for the Washington State School for the Blind as the State Mentor for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments.  

This article was proofread using ChatGPT.  The content is original to the author but some grammar and word choice was changed based on ideas gained from using the technology. 

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