A practical model for lecturers of students with a visual impairment
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A Practical Model for Lecturers of Students with a Visual Impairment. By Heidi de Klerk & Hanro Lourens. Introduction.

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A practical model for lecturers of students with a visual impairment

A Practical Model for Lecturers of Students with a Visual Impairment


Heidi de Klerk & Hanro Lourens


  • “Many lecturers e-mail things directly to the Braille office. As soon as they have something electronic, they will e-mail it to the Braille office. Because I tell them and then they are like, “yes, we will do it.”

    -First year student (humanities)

Introduction continue
Introduction (continue)

  • Students with a visual impairment very dependent on lecturers’ positive attitudes;

  • Lecturers often willing to support and accommodate;

  • However, sometimes lecturers unwilling to make reasonable accommodations;

  • Based on personal experience, Hanro Lourens and I developed a model;

  • Hopefully model can be guideline to lecturers of students with a visual impairment.

Practical model
Practical model

  • Consists of 4 components:

  • Make no assumptions;

  • Get information;

  • Anticipate and apply;

  • Check-in.

Make no assumptions
Make no assumptions

  • “What I enjoyed about the Geology department is the fact that they didn’t have blind students before, so everything is new to them, you know?”

    -Third year student (computer sciences)

  • “It is difficult with the Sociology department, because they had so many blind students already. So when I ask for an extension, they are like, but no-one ever asked for an extension before. Hallo! But you don’t know Jonathan (staff member at Braille office) broke his foot last week!”

    -First year student (humanities)

Make no assumptions continue
Make no assumptions (continue)

  • Easy to assume all students with a visual impairment has same needs;

  • However, their circumstances might differ, and

  • There are differences within one category of disability

  • Even with numerous previous experiences, still necessary to make no assumptions.

Get information
Get information

  • Direct invitation (preferably face to face);

  • Get information on:

    -Study material: preferred medium for books, slides and hand-outs;

    - Transference of course material: (via e-mail, direct

    contact with Braille office etc);

    - Writing: where and how they want to write tests and exams;

    - Seating arrangements in class: e.g., do they need to sit in front;

    - How to alert them on last minute changes;

    - What is the best way of communicating with the student.

Anticipate and apply
Anticipate and apply

  • “I still remember the first test we wrote the professor forgot to get the test in an accessible format for us. So then the tutor had to read the test to us before we could write it. That alone took an hour. I remember there were two graphs and he had to describe it to us.

    -Third year student (computer sciences)

Anticipate and apply continue
Anticipate and apply (continue)

  • Lecturers might be willing, but still forget;

  • Anticipate and apply;

  • Might save time and avoid frustration.

Check in

  • “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.  The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.” 

    - George Bernard Shaw

Check in continue
Check-in (continue)

  • Responsibility of both lecturer and student to keep in contact;

  • A student’s needs might change; lecturers need to be aware of this;

  • E.g. a lecturer can send an e-mail once a term to check-in.


  • Lecturers can play major part in academic success of students;

  • We believe that this model will help lecturers to assist students with a visual impairment.


  • Fuller, M., Healey, M., Bradley, A., & Hall, T. (2004)Barriers to learning: A systematic study of the experience of disabled students in one university. Studies in Higher Education, 29(3), 304-318.

  • Grace, S., & Gravestock, P. (2009). Inclusion and Diversity: Meeting the Needs of All Students. ?

  • Roy, A. (2003). Students with visual impairment. In S. Powell (Ed.). Special teaching in higher education (pp. 77-95). London: Kogan.