How do I determine the needs of a student with low vision?
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.
What does it mean to have "low vision"?
Students with a visual impairment or low vision may have many different types of vision loss, and their ability to use their residual or remaining vision will vary from one student to the next. In general, students are considered to have low vision when their visual acuity measures 20/70 or worse in the best eye after correction. This means that when they are wearing their glasses, they are able to see at 20 feet what an average person can see at 70 feet using their better eye. Another measurement of vision loss is the visual field, meaning the ability to see straight ahead, to the left and right, and up and down in a continuous way. A field loss may be peripheral or to the sides, or it may be central or straight ahead. The specific type of loss will be important to observe and measure in order to determine optimal conditions for the student's educational program.
To learn more about Low Vision, see this section of Scout, from Perkins School for the Blind.
For students with low vision, it is essential to work closely with a teacher of the blind and visually impaired or a low vision specialist to determine what adaptations will be most helpful for a specific student. Lighting, contrast, size of print, and other environmental factors can make a great deal of difference for each individual student. See Considerations for Low Vision Students in a Classroom by Elsie Rao.