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Visual impairments include a range of disabilities that involve a decreased ability to see. Some visual impairments may be correctable by solutions such as glasses or contact lenses. Other visual impairments may result in a disability, such as blindness or low vision. In those situations, adaptive technologies can be used to help people with disabilities overcome these challenges.

Materials Needed

  • http://www.nbp.org/alphcard.pdf
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Glue sticks
  • Construction paper
  • Television
  • Audio-described movie
  • Books on CD
  • Screen-reading computer software (if available)


Start by talking about visual impairments and disabilities. Does anyone in the class wear glasses? People with visual impairments need much stronger glasses and other devices to help them see.

Introduce students to the Braille alphabet. Ask them if they have seen or felt Braille anywhere, and ask them for examples (elevators, menus at restaurants, telephones, etc). Introduce a Braille activity: hand out glue sticks, mini marshmallows and construction paper. Ask children to write their name in Braille by gluing marshmallows to the paper.

Tell students that not all people who are visually impaired use Braille. Discuss other technologies that can help people read in a non-visual way. If possible, ask students to use classroom computers to research alternatives to Braille, such as screen-reading computer software, books on CD, books that can be downloaded to a computer or digital music player.

Play a clip of an audio-described movie on a television with the screen turned off. This technology describes what is happening on the screen for viewers who are visually impaired. Ask the students what it is like to experience a movie in this way. How is this technology beneficial?

Next, listen to part of an audio book. Do students enjoy listening to books in this way? What are some advantages of audio books? Can people without disabilities use them as well?

Finally, if available, show students how screen-reading computer software works. This type of technology can be used to allow people with visual impairments to work and otherwise use computers. Talk about the barriers to getting this type of software. Is it expensive? Difficult to install?

Spotlight: Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli is an Italian singer, songwriter and record producer who has been described as having the most beautiful voice in the world. Born with poor eyesight, he became completely blind at the age of 12 after a soccer accident.

Bocelli loved music from a young age, and won his first song competition at the age of 14. He became a lawyer, but soon returned to the world of music. He has produced 16 studio albums, 4 compilation albums, 4 live albums, 1 extended play, 1 digital album, 4 collaborative albums, 13 complete operas, and 11 video albums. He has also written 5 books. He is one of the most celebrated musicians in the world, with honors including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and being deemed a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

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