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CVI and Adaptations for Literacy

Ideas and resources for adapting books and other literacy materials for students with CVI (Cortical Visual Impairments)

A group of teachers in the Deafblind Program at Perkins School for the Blind presented an hour-long webinar on various aspects of literacy for children with deafblindness: Literacy Adaptations for Students Who Are Deafblind with Christa Hulburt, Ira Padhye, Megan Connaughton, and Marguerite Bilms.

Cortical Vision Impairment & Adaptations For Literacy

by Marguerite Bilms, M.Ed

silhouette of human head with gears in brain

CVI Overview

Neurological condition where vision impairment is caused by abnormalities in the brain and visual processing.
Coexisting ocular conditions may be present

Where Do We Start?

  1. Identify
  2. Assessment
  3. Intervention

steps of identifying assessing and intervening with a student with CVI

drawing of eye

CVI Range: Overview

1-2:  Student functions with minimal visual response.
3-4:  Student functions with more consistent visual response.
5-6:  Student uses vision for functional tasks.
7-8:  Student demonstrates visual curiosity.
9-10:  Student spontaneously uses vision for most functional activities.

Characteristics of CVI & Impact on LiteracyCVI characteristic chart


Classroom Enviornments – Accommodating a Learner with CVI

image of teaching with distracting background vs. solid black background

controlled classroom enviornment with black curtainsEnviornmental Accomodations

  • Controlled Lighting
  • Controlled Noise
  • Low Complexity
  • Be conscious of glare on materials



  • Black shower curtains
  • Black curtains
  • Black foam board
  • Velcro


Educator Accomodations

Be aware of what you wear

alternatives for clothing / jewelry for teachers of students with CVI

You can still be stylish!

alternative items of clothing

lion, lion, what do you hear?


Adapting Books

  • Main Concept of Page (lion)
  • Scan, Cut, Internet, Draw (drawn)
  • Simplify (removal of line shading on lion)
  • Low Complexity (yellow on black)
  • High Contrast (bright paper on black background)
  • Focus on Consistent Vocabulary (“lion”, “yellow”, “roar”: combinded or isolated)
  • Create a Story Box (add concrete objects and / or tactile components)




book into story box


spring flowers book



Some Suggested Materials

  • Construction Paper (Black for background, color for pictures)
  • Mylar (shiny, reflective) (Gift bags, wrapping paper etc.)
  • Lamination Sheets or Poster Board (Be aware of glare)
  • Binding Rings
  • Hole Punch
  • Hot Glue 
  • Tactile Components



Remember … Be Creative!



Roman-Lantzy, C. (2007). Cortical Vision Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention. AFB Press.


CVI literacy adaptations collage

shiny fabric on a bar

A Little Breakthrough with this TVI’s Student Who has Complex Needs Including CVI

Weaving on a large loom machine.

The Daily Workload for the Academic Student Who is Deafblind

Liam using the low tech restaurant book
Activity and strategy

Communication Tools in the Community for Students who are Deafblind