Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (2024)

By: Carmen Willings
​Updated April 9, 2020

A Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (also called a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, a vision specialist, VI teacher, vision itinerant teacher, etc.) is typically a licensed special education teacher who has received certification and specialized training, in meeting the educational needs of students who are blind or have visual impairments ages birth through 21 (states vary on the criteria for certification as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments). This is an instructional position, as opposed to a related service or vision therapy.

The role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) is to provide direct and/or consultative special education services specific to vision loss. The TVI provides support to students, teachers, and parents and acts as a liaison with community services. The TVI works with the educational team by advising the team about ways of enhancing the student’s learning by adapting activities and materials to the student’s abilities. Although the TVI is not an academic tutor, they may spend some time ensuring that the student understands concepts introduced in academic courses.

The TVI may help choose appropriate educational materials, and may brainstorm with teachers and therapists about effective adaptations. By working together, classroom teachers, therapists, and the TVI can create a classroom environment that encourages independence, academic success, and prepare the student to be the most productive member of society they can be. The following is a list of what to expect from the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.

Interpret Medical Reports

As part of determining a student's eligibility and the impact of the visual impairment, the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments will need to have the skills and training to read and interpretmedical eye reports. The TVI will determine the implications thereof for educational and home environments.

Conduct Specialized Assessments and Make Recommendations

The TVI will conductFunctional Vision Assessmentsto determine how much usable vision a student has to perform visual tasks. This assessment is initially conducted to determine the need for services from a teacher of students with visual impairments and to determineappropriate goalsand level of support needed.This evaluation is updated at a minimum, every three years to determine ongoing eligibility and need for school based vision services. The TVI may also recommend appropriate specialized evaluations as needed, particularly in low vision, orientation and mobility, and adaptive physical education. This evaluation is conducted even if the student has no usable vision.

Actively Participate in the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The TVI will need to communicate with the team members on how the student's performance may affect their school performance by providing information on the student's learning style, utilization of visual information, and other strengths unique to individual students who are visually impaired. The TVI will identify any goals and objectives in specialized areas related to the visual needs of the student. The TVI will also identify instructional methods and materials for meeting goals and objectives. Finally, the TVI will recommend appropriate service delivery options, including class placement, physical education, related services,specialized equipment, adaptations in testing procedures, and time frames for implementation. Consideration will be taken as to the current and future reading and writing media for the student with a visual impairment based on reading distance, reading rates and accuracy, portability of reading skills, visual fatigue, and tactual sensitivity.

Recommend Educational & Instructional Strategies

The TVI will assist in determining and procuring classroom equipment and materials necessary for the student with visual impairments to learn (brailler, low vision devices, assistive technology, computer) including ensuring necessary room modifications and lighting changes. The TVI will provide the classroom teacher with information regarding the specialized strategies needed to teach a student who is blind or visually impaired. The TVI will also assist in obtaining specialized materials, including procuring materials from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), providing braille, recorded/enlarged materials, and other needed materials.

Ongoing Observations

The TVI conducts ongoing observations of the student in a variety of familiar situations performing routine tasks or activities to assess how the student is using their vision. In doing this, the TVI can find out what motivates the student to look. The TVI will then use objects and activities similar to those that have been motivating in the past. It is also beneficial to get an understanding of how the student spendstheir time. What does the student do? How does the student play and with what? Where do they go? Who do they play or interact with? This is a process to identify the student’s existing (and desired) activity setting.These observations will assist the TVI in ensuring the goals and accommodations as well as level of service continue to be appropriate.

Use of Natural Environments to Address Goals

Teaching techniques to enhance vision should not be taught in isolation. It is important to look at what the needs and activities of the student are in school and in their everyday life that are affected by their visual performance, and teach to those tasks. If the family/teachers are interested in obtaining other objects for the student to play with, then the TVI can assist the family and/or teacher in obtaining such items.

The responsibility of the TVI is to support the student with what he/she has everyday access to, where he/she is, and sharing information that matches the student’s/families/classroom priorities (watching television, playing on the computer, playing with toys or games). These activities provide multiple learning opportunities. It is easy to take in a bag of toys, but more challenging and appropriate to explore existing toys that the student will have daily access to, for continued exposure/practice. Learning takes place at all times, so it is best to use what is available/accessible to give the student more practice in using existing skills and developing new abilities. “Toy bag treatment sessions” typically do not promote functional skill use and learning in natural settings.

Some skills are best addressed outside of the regular classroom to avoid visual and auditory distractions. The goal should be to learn the skills and then begin to transfer those skills during classroom activities.

Communication with Caregivers and Classroom Teachers

The TVI will want to have ongoing communication with the caregivers and classroom teachers in order to try to develop a better understanding of the student. An itinerant teacher will not have the same rapport with the student as they do not spend as much time with them. For that reason, it is helpful to talk with parents and classroom teachers who do have this rapport about how they feel the student is doing, if they are addressing the goals and how the student is functioning. The TVI may ask to observe the teacher working with the student to observe how the student is functioning within the normal routine and with familiar adults.

Direct Instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum

The TVI will determine which areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), a unique curriculum that addresses needs a student who is blind or visually impaired may have that are not addressed within the standard curriculum. Although not all students will have needs in all areas of the ECC, the areas of the ECC include: Compensatory, Functional and Communication Skills; Sensory Efficiency; Orientation & Mobility; Social; Independent Living; Recreation & Leisure; Use of Technology; Career & vocational; and Self Determination.

History of Visual Impairments

  • Timeline of Visual Impairments
  • Biblical Passages Concerning Blindness
  • Notable People Who Were Blind
  • Helen Keller
  • History of Braillewriters
  • The APH Museum

Professional Practice

  • National Agenda
  • Legislation Related to Vision Services
  • IDEA and Vision
  • Federal Quota Funds
  • Deaf-Blind Child Count

Vision Professionals

  • Become a Vision Professional
  • Professional Preparation Program
  • Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
  • Low Vision Specialist
  • Rehabilitation Specialist


  • Professional Development
  • Teacher Standards
  • Professional Ethics
  • APH Scholar Program
  • Professional Organizations
  • Certification Organizations
  • Dealing with Challenges

Teacher Resources

  • Program Printables
  • Itinerant Teaching Tips
  • Year at a Glance
  • VI Program Handbook
  • Caseload Analysis
  • VI Organizations
  • Vendors

Professional Publications

  • VI Resource Books
  • Braille Resource Books
  • Early Intervention Resource Books
  • Journal Resources

VI Book Resources

  • Children's Books
  • Young Reader Books
  • Books about Dog Guides
  • Non-Fiction Books

Family Resources

  • US Government Agencies
  • State SpEd Agencies
  • Online Family Resources
  • Support Networks
  • Financial Assistance
  • Parent Resource Books
The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my Teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me."-Helen Keller
Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (2024)


What is the role of the teacher of students with visual impairments? ›

Instruct the student in developmental skills, academic strategies, and other activities that require modification, adaptation, or reinforcement as a direct result of the visual impairment.

How to teach students who are visually impaired? ›

Visual Impairment

Permit lecture notes to be taped and/or provide enlarged copies of lecture notes where appropriate. Make available large print copies of classroom materials by enlarging them on a photocopier. Convey in spoken words whatever you write on the chalkboard. Read aloud subtitles when using media resources.

What is a visually impaired teacher called? ›

What is a Vision Teacher? Vision teachers are educators who have received specialized training to work with visually impaired students. They have all the skills of an ordinary teacher, but have also been taught how to meet the unique needs of students with visual impairments.

Can a visually impaired person be a teacher? ›

Second, and much more important, was that many blind people suddenly realized that they, too, could pursue careers in teaching. The major difference between California and other states is that the blind in California knew they could teach in every conceivable setting.

How can teachers help visual learners? ›

Visual aids involve any visual material that can simplify learning for visual learners. Teachers can use diagrams and maps to show how different concepts relate. Images and photographs, and videos are visual aids that illustrate concepts and provide examples. Charts and graphs help kids understand how numbers work.

How do teachers handle students with disabilities? ›

Teachers who apply those kinds of intervention:

use diagrams, graphics and pictures to augment what they say in words; provide ample independent, well-designed intensive practice; model instructional practices that they want students to follow; provide prompts of strategies to use; and.

How do you set up a classroom for visually impaired students? ›

Students with impaired vision struggle with light sensitivity. Seating them away from windows and glaring lights will help them to see the board and increase concentration. Another adaptation is to provide ample space around the classroom. Leave extra space between desks, tables, cabinets and other classroom objects.

What do visually impaired students need? ›

Students with vision impairment may access information in a variety of ways, for example Braille, audio-tape, or enlarged print. Braille readers cannot skim read and may take up to three times as long as other students to read a text. Students with some vision may be large-print readers.

What teaching materials should be used in teaching for visually impaired students? ›

Students may use readers, Braille books, tape-recorders and computer equipment that give them access to required course material. In addition, some students may be able to use large print books, electronic visual aids or other magnifying devices for readings, and/or a large print typewriter for writing papers.

What are the learning styles of visually impaired students? ›

For visually impaired individuals, tactile learning becomes a crucial modality to gather information and understand the world around them. On the other hand, individuals without visual impairments can benefit from a combination of motion and tactile learning.

What are the three general classifications of visual impairments used by educators? ›

Visual Impairments
  • Low vision – students use their vision as their primary sensory channel.
  • Functionally blind – students can use limited vision for functional tasks but need their tactile and auditory channels for learning.
  • Totally blind – students use tactile and auditory channels for learning and functional tasks.

What is the expanded core curriculum for students with visual impairments? ›

The ECC is a nine-area curriculum to help bridge the gap between a standard school curriculum and what an individual who is blind or visually impaired would miss due to lack of visual access—to instruction, the environment, activities, social interactions, and incidental learning.

What is the job description of a teacher of students with visual impairments? ›

Essential Duties and Responsibilities include the following

1. Instructs students in reading and writing skills, using magnification equipment and large print material and/or Braille. 2. Instructs students with VI in various assistive technology devices (CCTV, iPad), equipment, and software (JAWS, MAGic, etc.)

What is a blind teacher called? ›

A Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (also called a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, a vision specialist, VI teacher, vision itinerant teacher, etc.) is typically a licensed special education teacher who has received certification and specialized training, in meeting the educational needs of students who are ...

What adaptations can a teacher make for students with visual impairments? ›

'Accommodation' usually means changing teaching or testing methods. This doesn't alter learning standards or requirements. Examples include extra time for assignments, braille or large-print materials, breaking down tasks, or quiet workspaces. 'Modification' often means changing the learning content or testing.

How can we manage children with visual impairment in the classroom? ›

Keeping student materials in a consistent location and notifying students with low vision of any changes in the classroom layout. Informing students of the importance of keeping classroom floors clear and furniture in a consistent place, and asking the entire class to help keep the classroom safe from obstructions.

How can teachers support students with visual impairments in social development? ›

Provide Contextual Information: Help the student understand social situations by providing detailed information about who is involved, what they are doing, and why. This can enhance their understanding of social dynamics and help them navigate interactions more effectively.

How can teachers assist students in developing visual literacy? ›

Classroom practices can include computer games, film criticism, visual inquiry through mass media, contemporary art practices, and online websites. In cooperation with online museums or galleries, visual literacy skills can be developed with questions about different ways of looking at visuals.

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