By Kathi Garza and Lisha Yochimowitz
Not all school supplies are created equal. Many tools do not fit the needs of students with visual impairments. We have done some of the work for you by assessing some of the supplies needed! Take a look at the school supplies available at local and online stores while keeping in mind that they don’t have to be too expensive and break the budget.
Know your students
With these ideas and materials, it should always be said, each student must be assessed with their own, individual needs in mind. A diagnosis is just the first step! Then, a TSVI (Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments) can collect data and assess what materials work best when learning.
Don’t assume because something is “CVI friendly” or “vision friendly” that it is best practice for your student. It is only an educated suggestion that may be worth trying.
Only pencils for math
A long time rule of math teachers is to only use pencils for math problems so you can erase if needed. For our low vision students, including CVI (cortical/cerebral visual impairment), we should have colored pencils and markers as a necessary adaptation if needed. Dark lead pencils may work as well.
This number line comes in a multi-pack which is great because then students can keep one in their desk, bag, home, etc.
A small tray on a table keeps materials from falling and is a great way to stay organized and know where things are located. Usually a solid, dark color works best.
Paper: blank and lined paper
Some students are not quite ready for store bought lined paper. Make your own if needed. Here is a link for you to use with self-made paper for print outs. You can refer to the Finding the Right Paper article. Note: There are students who may prefer a pale yellow paper over a harsh white paper.
A favorite are solid colored flashcards that already have a hole in it. These are great for putting on a ring and for correct orientation when students are reading the cards. Lakeshore has the best ones but they are expensive. You can buy cheaper cards and put your own hole in it or flip it to the unlined side and use only a single line under the word for better viewing and “grounding.”
Great for math facts, spelling, and vocabulary words.
Black backgrounds are a UDL (universal design approach). They help a majority of students in the classroom, including CVI. It helps with grounding, glare, complexity, and visual focus to name a few.
Much of the black backgrounds either on the table top, floor, or walls come from craft stores, including Dollar Tree, in classrooms.
Buy the $1.25 black plastic tablecloths to use as backgrounds for the floor, wall, or over a table. It is inexpensive and if you’re painting, it is easy clean-up.
Black poster boards, felt, construction paper, file folders are all essential materials as a TSVI.
Black velcro is a TVI favorite to use on felt boards and file folders. The picture above shows these velcro packets found at the Dollar Tree store and is preferred when using on the black file folders.
Assess as you go
If you have some general tools for easy adaptations and these recommended supplies, then you are off to a great start and can assess as you go. Good luck!