Inclusive Education: Best Practices for the Legally Blind

Abstract

The goal of creating this report was to develop an inclusive education plan for a legally blind student based on an inclusive education framework. The inclusive education framework designed is based on national goals and standards for inclusive education, inclusion of community and parental involvement, allocation of infrastructure, curricula and equipment for legally blind and the creation of an individualized education plan. The inclusive education plan began with an assessment of the student’s disability, by making measurements from the Snellen chart and association of the results with the legal and educational definition of the legally blind. The inclusive education planning and development processes are based on four pillars identifies as: legal and policy framework, structure of service, human capacity, and performance measures.

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The education plan made an assessment that recommended the need for an individualised education plan and the development of mobility and orientation skills with the training on the use of white cane and auditory sense. This also included need to learn organization skills, editing and revision of written work in Braille, technology access skills and Nemeth cost to access science and math curricula. In the IEP plan, the student’s subjects were all taken through the modified method over the accommodated or alternative methods. It was also recommended that modifications are made to the environment to offer physical accessibility, support mobility and orientation, offer preferential locker position, strategic seating position, and increased desk and storage space. Moreover, accommodations in learning are made to include Braille for all subjects, Braille writer, and have video, tactile, illustrations and graphics, use of speech synthesizers, BrailleNote, and kurzweil.

Introduction

This purpose of this report is to detail an inclusive education plan designed for a legally blind student, in the second year of learning. The goal is to make an assessment and classification of the student’s disability, identify the difficulties and setbacks to learning caused by the disability, describe inclusive education, and prepare an inclusive education plan for the student. The inclusive education framework used is based on national goals and standards for inclusive education, community and parental involvement, and allocates infrastructure, curricula and equipment for learning, and creates an individualized education plan (IEP) for the student.

Inclusive education is defined by UNESCO (2001) as, “a strategy of addressing and responding to the diverse needs of all learners by increasing participation in learning and reducing exclusion within and from education”. This implies that an inclusive education plan for a legally blind student, should include the student in the regular education system, where they will join their peers in learning in an appropriate environment. The focus is on legal blindness as a disability within the category of special needs considerations for inclusive education. The foundation of this inclusive education plan is on legal frameworks stipulated by the government and the education system. The government as well as the educational sector have continually sought ways to include concepts and practices in the teaching and learning of the disabled through various Acts, legislations, and guidelines for teachers and learning institutions. Those to be used for this inclusive education plan are indentified as, Disability Standards for Education (2005) and Disability Discrimination Act 1992, P-12 curriculum Framework Policy and Curriculum Guidelines for Students with Disability (Queensland Government, 2006).

Research shows that the teacher plays a key role in including the legally blind learner in education. This is because they are in a position to lift the barriers identified as limitations of inclusive education. According to Pugach (2005), inclusive education is possible if the teacher and schools can support the education of the legally blind by providing resources, train teachers and strategically manage the class sizes. For this reason, this report plan identifies several resources that can be used in increasing learning and participation of Richard in the classroom. Moreover, through the development of the IEP plan designed around the lesson plan of the class, this inclusive strategy can increase Richard’s participation while effectively managing the whole class. In addition, the IEP plan requires that schools provide families and parents with information concerning the (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) IDEA standards and the inclusive standards detailed in various disability Acts. This action allows families to pursue IDEA standards for their legally blind children, reduce the number of disputes between the school and family and allow families to support their children’s education (Cheatham et al., 2012).

There is recognition that the visually impaired and legally blind are disadvantaged in the educational field, since most programs do not support universal educational plan, denying such students equal learning opportunities as those not visually impaired. The improvement of the learning process and participation in learning for such persons is of importance since blindness is a disability that has adverse effects on teaching and learning. It is realised that many students with different degrees of visual impairment attend mainstream educational institutions where, a teacher may or may not have the required skills to handle such students (Jones, 2009).

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Background and Assessment of Case Study

Assessment of the Student

  1. The first step is the assessment of the level of disability of the student, as it offers information on the disability, learning difficulties and learning needs of the student, which should be addressed in the education plan.
  2. To determine if a student is legally blind or visually impaired, the assessment is based on measurements made from the Snellen chart for measuring visual acuity. The assessment made use of rows of the letter E of the alphabet, arranged in various positions and in varied sizes. Richard could not read the rows at the standard 20 feet, and could barely read the letter at 200 feet. This indicated that he had a vision of less than 20/200.
  3. The report identifies and uses the following as definitions of being legally blind. Based on the legal definition, legally blind refers to a person “who has a visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye even with correction, or has a filed vision so narrow that the widest diameter subtends an angular distance no more than 20 degrees ” (O’Hare, 2009).
  4. Since the goal is to seek an educational purpose for the student, the educational definition for the legally blind is used. The definition indicates that persons that are blind are severely impaired that they need to learn the Braille, where acuity on the other hand, is the probability that a person is unable to read print (O’Hare, 2009).
  5. Before developing the inclusive education plan, an assessment of Richard was carried out based on the two definitions. Results indicate that Richard in legally blind since he does not have vision in the left eye, while the right eye has a visual acuity of less than 20/200, or in educational terms he cannot read print text.

Identified Effects on Learning and Characteristic Identifiers

  1. Richard has a problem reading print text. This problem is heightened when learning processes use print and online texts, which are based on enhancing learning through texts and images. It is realised that the visually impaired student is at a disadvantage when using these teaching aids, especially where the content is purely textual. In the process, Richard is spending more time and effort going through learning materials, navigating through learning materials, which cause delays and lack of completion of tasks in time.
  2. The other challenge is that Richard exhibits serious difficulties with his mobility skills. This is an indication that Richard does not have a sense of where he is in relation to objects, landmarks and other students. The lack of mobility skills is a clear indicator that Richard has very poor spatial skills and spatial information (O’Hare, 2009). Mobility skills are important since they determine a person’s exploration and awareness, which is made possible by their spatial, auditory, visual and other sensory skills.

Inclusive Education Framework

  1. This report is developed on the basis of the best practices developed for an inclusive education framework, presented by USAID (2005) report. The framework is based on four pillars, which are used to identify the entry points through which change towards inclusive education will occur. The four pillars that assist in changing a regular education context to an inclusive education set up are, legal and policy frameworks which are mandates for developing an inclusive education plan. The second framework is structure of service, which identifies programs, factors, outreach programs. The third framework is human capacity which details the values, skills and knowledge that the teacher requires to develop the inclusive education. The forth framework is the performance measure framework that indicates the outcomes of the inclusive education. The inclusive education assessment procedure developed for Richard was made to identify a change process from a bottom up approach, from the school, parents and community, to a top down approach from national, disability legislations and educational policies, standards, and accountability levels. The assessment framework is indicated in table 1 Appendix I.
  2. The four pillars in the framework were used to make a map of the planning and development processes for all the activities and processes of the inclusive education plan for Richard. The detailed framework for inclusive education is detailed in table 2, Appendix I, and shows the relationships and factors in an inclusive education framework.
  3. The frame work is used to develop and assess the inclusive education plan for Richard, and indentified the following teaching and learning classroom activities.
  1. Creation of substantial time with the student to share information and offer specialized instruction, in addition to the regular classroom practices (Jones, 2009). This is to allow the student to have more contact time with the teacher and the content, since Richard needs more time to access and explore text.
  2. Improve mobility skills through, the use of the long cane, to offer Richard auditory and tactual information of the environment. This approach makes use of teaching of proper touch techniques, and the coordination between the sweeping of the cane and the movement of their feet (O’Hare, 2009).
  3. Determine and select specific learning and teaching activities for Richard, which increase class participation and collaboration with teacher, content, and fellow learners.
  4. The universal design/inclusive classroom design for Richard, integrates activities that elicit multiple sensory (auditory & tactile), through communal constructivist theory, in order for the legally blind student to develop their own knowledge from interactions with others and their environment (Kaptelin & Cole, 2002). Such activities are like group discussions and forums that allow the students to explore, discuss, and research problems and content, with the hope of assisting them in creating knowledge.
  5. Through group work and collaborative support in the classroom, Richard will interact and share information with the teacher, fellow learners and the content. This is founded on the social interaction theory, where interaction will be between Richard and their external modifiers. These external modifiers in this case are the teachers, students, and content (Kaptelin & Cole, 2002). The goal of this activity is to create an active and interactive classroom environment for Richard, where he feels part and parcel of learning, his classroom peers and the content.
  6. Adapted curriculum to meet individualised needs
    1. Apply the principle of standards-based education where Richard is taught how to access skills like communication and mobility, and daily life skills in addition to the general academic content (Bentley, 2008). This is through training orientation and mobility skills by teaching them how to use the white cane in the class, school environment and familiar neighbourhood set up.
    2. Allow Richard to access general curriculum while achieving their highest achievement and development of mobility skills. This is by assisting them to access content in Braille or auditory format from the library and outside sources to enrich his learning environment.
    3. constantly adjust the learning content and plans, by introducing added activities like play, reading assignments, and games, and the use of materials like audio technology.
    4. Adapting of learning materials to Richard’s best learning channels, identified as auditory and tactile. Modifications made to their learning materials include enlarging texts (Sans serif font), using large worksheets, dark pens and markers for writing, use of tactile cues for the objects, and the use of sound cues.
    5. Addition of texture to learning materials, reduction of glare, reducing unnecessary details in the content, use of three-dimensional models over two-dimensional.
    6. Update technology and appropriate supports like using oral, video tapes, graphics and verbal instruction (Bishop, 2004).
    7. Use several active teaching methods: collaboration, understanding, synthesis, application, analysis, discussion, exploration, promotion, creation, selection, and testing, to create a rich learning environment.
    8. Focus teaching practices and approaches on the strengths and characteristics of Richard.
  7. Adapt environment to meet Richard’s individualised needs, based on expert knowledge, national special education policies and curriculum for the legally blind and visually impaired
    1. The legally blind student should experience low incident population with distinct social and educational needs to reduce the complexity of their learning process.
    2. Offer the legally blind especially the visually impaired student preferential seating position in the classroom to maximise available vision (Bishop, 2004). In addition, this gives him access to hear the teacher’s voice, and presents him with a clear path to exit points improve mobility.
    3. The environment should encourage best work from the visually impaired and the legally blind student as that required of the students with normal vision.
    4. The classroom is fitted with lighting facilities that are easily monitored and controlled, to reduce glare and increase the potential of their sight.
  8. Provision of all equipment needed to aid Richard’s learning, like technology aids for communication and information access and mobility and orientation (O’Hare, 2009). Computer and software to convert print media to synthesised Braille or speech. An example is Kurzweil 1000TM, which allows a user to scan print material and read it via an electronic voice or in Braille, the material can be played back on students’ portable MP3 or Braille NoteTakers (O’Hare, 2009). Legally blind students should be introduced and trained in using portable Braille Note Takers, which have an additional voice synthesizer over the traditional Perkins Braille (O’Hare 2009). Portable devices also include Personal Data Assistants (PDAs) and cell phones with software for the blind. The legally blind student can also be introduced to services like Newsline and Descriptive Video Service, provided by the national Federation of the Blind to access magazines and newspapers online (O’Hare 2009). Screens readers that converts print text to speech (O’Hare 2009). Introduce the legally blind to technology to improve mobility like laser cane and mini-guide that use echoes to locate objects. The laser cane is used in the same manner as the long cane.The BrailleNote Global Satellite Positioning System that converts GPS signals to Braille (O’Hare 2009).
  9. Create a safe and supportive classroom environment under universal design, where the development of the educational environment is in such a manner to:
    1. Allow the legally blind student gain skills, knowledge and enthusiasm for learning (Cohen, Mondor & Trabucco, 2009).
    2. Improve learning activities along with the reduction of barriers to curriculum and support for learning, as recommended by Cohen, Mondor & Trabucco (2009).
    3. Allow accommodations for the legally blind student and other students who are visually impaired, so that learning activities and assignments are accessible (Cohen, Mondor & Trabucco, 2009).
    4. The teacher will increase learning activities and approaches for the legally blind.
    5. Offer the legally blind student classroom materials and learning materials prior to classes to give them a chance to prepare in advance for class (Cohen, Mondor & Trabucco, 2009).
  1. The creation of an ongoing sharing of information with other staff, students, and families, creating a collaborative supporting learning environment for the legally blind student.
    1. Exercise best practices and include other students, to make the learning environment conducive for the legally blind student.
    2. Address the legally blind student by name and introduce themselves by name
    3. The legally blind student must be addressed, as a speaker faces them face-to-face, and uses a normal and clear voice.
    4. A verbal indication should be used to indicate that a person is leaving or within their presences, and all obstacles like chairs, should be removed from paths.
  2. The development of the inclusive education plan outlined requires the teacher of the legally blind student to collaborate with an itinerant special education teacher. This is because, the special education teacher will offer skills in:
    1. Strategies for teaching compensatory and listening auditory skills.
    2. Methods of modifying instructional methods and materials.
    3. Create a multisensory learning environment for encouraging the active participation of the student.
    4. Techniques of teaching basic concepts.
    5. Techniques of teaching study skills and organization.
    6. Techniques of teaching legally blind student’s problem solving, cognitive and thinking strategies (O’Hare, 2009).
  3. Create an Individualised Education Plan (IEP) for the legally blind student as explained in the next section and outline in appendix II

Individualised Education Plan (IEP)

  1. The goal of this program is to offer the teaching and learning process collaborative planning to meet the needs of the legally blind student in alignment with the Disability Standards for Education (2005) and Disability Discrimination Act 1992, P-12 curriculum Framework Policy and Curriculum Guidelines for Students with Disability (Queensland Government, 2006).
  2. The IEP process is used for this educational plan with the objective of bringing together stakeholders who include parents, educators, students and support staff to develop the legally blind student’s classroom and social environment and improve their performance. These parties are important in the meeting the educational needs of a disabled student as they assist in determining his needs and align them with future learning needs.
  3. The Individualised education plan is developed on the core principles of the Disability Education Act (IDEA), where there is:
    1. The inclusive education depicts a zero rejection, where all disabled students are entitled to appropriate and free public education
    2. Individualized and proper education, implies the provision of individualized services to students with disability
    3. Non-discriminatory evaluation implies the assessment of students suspected or with disability fairly.
    4. Parent participation.
    5. Procedural due process implies that parents and schools should hold each other mutually accountable for the disabled child, to safeguard the provision of appropriate education.
    6. Least restrictive environment, implies that disabled students to be educated in the usual setting other students without disabilities are taught (Cheatham et al., 2012).
  4. Based on the IEP assessment, the following recommendations were made for the legally blind student.
    1. The based on the medical assessment carried out, the plan indentifies a need to create an individualised education plan since the student has a history of bilateral retinal detachment, and is completely blind in one eye.
    2. Mobility and orientation are developed with the white cane and auditory travel for safe travel in school and community. Through weekly lessons within the neighbourhood, community and school environments. In addition, use role play, through the verbal and tactile prompts, verbalizations of steps of the orientation and mobility skills, and the variance of the instructor’s proximity to the learner depending on the level of their skills
    3. The student has expressive language skills, is aware of Braille codes, desires interdependence and has self-advocacy skills. Richard needs to learn organization skills, editing and revision of written work in Braille, orientation and mobility skills, technology access skills and Nemeth cost to access science and math curricula.
    4. It is recommended that the IEP plan applies to all the subjects the student is taking through the modified method for the legally blind, over the alternative or accommodated only methods. Mobility and orientation and technology and expanded core curricula are to be provided through the alternative mode.
    5. Modifications are made to the environment to offer physical accessibility, support mobility and orientation. These modifications include preferential locker position, strategic seating position, and increased desk and storage space.
    6. Accommodations in learning are made to include Braille for all subjects, Braille writer, and have video, tactile, illustrations and graphics, use of speech synthesizers, BrailleNote, and kurzweil.
    7. Assessments, tests, assignments and evaluations are also make accommodations for the inclusion of Braille, Braille writer, verbatim scribing responses and assistive technology.
    8. Since the student can use the white can in familiar a neighbourhood, mobility and orientation curricula will continually offer support to the student for the management of equipment, materials, and the use of the white cane to extend to unfamiliar environments.
    9. It is recommended that stakeholders concerned desire to see the student develop a safe and efficient mobility and orientation skills, demonstrate a high degree of independence and responsibility through the caring of and storage of his technological aids.
    10. Mobility and orientation teaching strategy should include the scheduling of weekly lessons within the neighbourhood, community and school environments. In addition, use role play, through the verbal and tactile prompts, verbalizations of steps of the orientation and mobility skills, and the variance of the instructor’s proximity to the learner depending on the level of their skills.
    11. In order for the student to use tactile and auditory methods of accessing academic and recreational print, and independently manage electronic devices and files, technology expanded skills. Teaching strategies include the review and provision of established electronic systems, practice and model access to files, relocate prompts as skills improve, offer curricula material in alternative forms, conference daily with the student to determine the areas of conceptual skills that need tactile and auditory support.
    12. Annual goals of the inclusive education plan should be determined with consultation with student, parent, orientation and mobility instructor, special education resource teacher, and the itinerant teacher.
    13. The inclusive education plan and IEP method must be agreed upon by the parent and student.

Conclusion

Overall, the report finds that the inclusion of the legally blind student requires an increase in contact time with the teacher and content. In the case mentioned above, this would also include offering specific instructions to increase his mobility and daily life skills as required of a standard-based education. Moreover, the learning content needs constant adjustments, revised continually, and enhanced with technology. Adjustments here imply the enlargement of font, larger worksheets, and use of darker pens, tactile and sound cues. The classroom environment is set up with lighting equipment that can reduce glare, organized, and obstacles removed from paths. Moreover, learning is increased through use of activity based learning, active learning, constructive learning, and collaborative or interactive learning.

References

Australian Parliament (2006). Disability discrimination act (DDA) 1992. Web.

Bentley, J.K.C. (2008). Lessons from the 1%: Children with Labels of Severe Disabilities and Their Peers as Architects of Inclusive Education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 12(5-6), 543-561.

Bishop, V. E. (2004). Teaching visually impaired children. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.

Cheatham, G.A., Hart, J.E., Malian, I., and McDonald, J. (2012). Six Things to Never Say or Hear During an IEP Meeting. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44(3).

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Cohen, J., Mondor, C. and Trabucco, S. (2009). Adapting Existing Non-Formal Education Techniques to Conform to Universal Design. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, 1-48.

Cole, M. & Kaptelin, V. (2002). Individual and Collective Activities in Educational Computer Game Playing. In: T. Kosmann, R. Hall N. Miyake (EDS), CSCL 2: Carrying Forward the Conversation (303-316). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Graeme, D. and Shirley, E. (2008). E-Learning and Blindness: A Comparative Study of the Quality of an E-Learning Experience. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 102(2).

Jones, M.O. (2009). Measures for Inclusion: Coping with the Challenge of Visual Impairment and Blindness in University Undergraduate Level Language Learning. Support for Learning, 24(1), 27-34.

O’Hare, S. (2009) Students with Diverse Abilities. Pearson, Australia.

Pugach, M. C. (2005). Research on preparing general education teachers to work with students with disabilities. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education (pp. 549-590). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Queensland Government (2006). Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for Students with Disabilities. Web.

UNESCO (2001). Understanding and Responding to Children’s Needs in Inclusive Classrooms: A guide for Teachers. Paris.

USAID (2005). Best Practices in Inclusive Education for Children with Disabilities: Applications for Program Design in the Europe & Eurasia Region. Creative Associates International, USA.

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