Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Current Size: 100%

Current Style: Standard

  • Young girl wearing hearing aids points to picture symbols with her teacher.Multiple Disabilities and Deafblindness

    Literacy includes more than just reading and writing print or braille.  According to a definition by Wright (1997), it is an integrated process, which encompasses "proficiency in understanding and using written as well as spoken language as a reader, writer, speaker, and listener."  With this broader focus on language, literacy includes recognizing objects, pictures, or other symbols, and using them to communicate.  Making choices, anticipating events, following simple recipes, creating or "reading" lists, and other forms of self-expression are all part of functional literacy.
  • Emergent LiteracyMother with young girl looking at a picture book together.

    Emergent Literacy is a process involving the development of language and concepts, especially as they begin to be linked together.  This begins at birth, long before any formal instruction in braille or print.  Communication and literacy are interrelated, and the expression and comprehension of ideas is an essential first step on the path to literacy.  This may include listening and speaking, signing, using objects, pictures, gestures, or any combination of ways in which a child understands and interprets experiences.

  • General LiteracyGirl with glasses uses a communication book with her teacher.

    In the past, the term literacy focused specifically on the ability to read and write, whereas now a broader definition is becoming increasingly accepted.  Speaking, listening, object communication, sign language, concept development, and an understanding of one's environment and experiences are all part of a more inclusive view of literacy.

  • Learning Media Assessment (LMA)Young child with curly hair turns the page of a book with a picture of a duck and the letter "D".

    The Learning Media Assessment (LMA) offers a framework for selecting appropriate literacy media for a student who is visually impaired.  A Functional Vision Assessment (FVA) should be done first, in order to determine what the student is able to see and how he or she is using his or her vision. These two assessments should be used together to help to guide the team decision about the best instructional medium for a given student, such as braille, print, dual media (both print and braille), auditory, tactile or some combination.

  • BrailleHands reading a braille book with another text book and reader in the background.

    Braille is a code used by people who are blind or visually impaired to read and write. It is a tactile system through which letters and words are represented using raised dots, and it is not a separate language. In fact, there are different braille codes for different languages. Unified English Braille is a code used by English-speaking people throughout the world.

    Braille uses sets of six dots, called cells, in various combinations to represent letters of the alphabet, punctuation, numbers, and whole words.

  • PrintTeenage boy wearing glasses uses a reading guide to read large print with his teacher.

    All children who are blind or visually impaired should have a Functional Vision Assessment to determine how much vision they have, and a Learning Media Assessment to determine what type of learning media is the most appropriate.  This may be large print or braille or a combination (dual media), as well as auditory or tactile media.  These assessments are done by a Teacher of the Visually Impaired in collaboration with the family and other members of the team.

  • WritingTeenage girl leans over a paper with bold lines holding a thick black marker.

    Writing is a means of expression that includes manipulating the tools used to write, as well as creating the content of an encoded message.  Traditionally writing includes braille and print formats, and the use of a keyboard has expanded the forms of expression with voice output, print, and braille displays. Writing can also be interpreted more broadly for students with significant multiple disabilities to include the use of tactile representations, objects, or other symbols. 

  • Dual MediaGirl with glasses types on a keyboard in front of a computer screen with a refreshable braille display to her left.

    Dual Media refers to the use of both print and braille simultaneously as modes for reading and writing.  This decision is usually made by a student's team after a Learning Media Assessment has been completed.  Some eye conditions in which there is a gradual loss of vision may be a factor in choosing this option. In some cases, print and braille are both taught from the beginning, while in other cases print readers are taught braille later in their educational careers.

  • Struggling ReadersTwo people sit side by side reading braille books.

    There are many factors that may contribute to an individual student having difficulty learning to read, and it is important for the educational team to look at each during assessment and planning. It is important to consider visual challenges, as well as any health issues, and it is possible that specific learning or cognitive disabilities may be present. In addition, hearing loss, attention difficulties, language development, understanding of English, and motor skills should also be evaluated for any role they may play for a particular student.

  • English Language Learners (ELL)Young girl faces instructor grasping her hands and standing close together

    Students with limited English proficiency may need additional support to develop English language literacy. Instructional strategies will depend on whether or not the student is proficient in another language already.  For example, if a student is able to read and write in Spanish (large print or braille), he or she will have different needs than a student who is not yet literate in any language.  In addition, students with deafblindness whose first language is ASL (American Sign Language) will have different requirements.

  • Auditory StrategiesTeenage boy uses headphones in a busy snack bar with others at tables in the background.

    While it is important for all students to develop strong auditory strategies, this area is crucial for those who are blind or visually impaired. Definitions of literacy have expanded to include auditory skills as another type of literacy. There is controversy about whether or not accessing text through the hearing is reading or not.  Dr. Phil Hatlen gives his thoughts about this in Literacy According to Phil. Whether or not it is truly reading, many students with visual impairments access information from text through auditory means.

  • Math LiteracyBoy with glasses counts dollar bills.

    Mathematical Literacy includes numeracy (the ability to recognize numerals), a basic number sense, and a grasp of simple mathematical concepts.  Students who are blind or visually impaired often do not have the same exposure to numbers or mathematical concepts as their sighted peers and, as a result, they may be behind their age level peers in school.

What People Are Talking About

Shared by: Liamsmom
Thank you Charlotte for posting, especially information... read more
Shared by: gwyn52
This is a very interesting blog, thoughtful and shows the... read more

Featured Blog Post

girl holding a stuffed kitten
Adaptations for a child who has a combined vision and hearing loss will depend on many factors, such as the amount of vision and hearing the child has, age, cognitive abilities, motor skills, and personal interests.  This post is the first of... read more

Latest Strategies, Resources, Technology, and Research Posts

Below are the newest strategy, technology, research and resource posts on Paths to Literacy. You can submit posts by logging in.

Recent Blog Posts

Upcoming Events

Don't have an account?

Registering allows you to post questions, strategies, resources and more. You can also receive automatic notifications for new posts once you register.