Browse MSB's resource guide, covering a wide variety of topics related to visual impairment, blindness and deaf/blindness.

Defining Visual Impairment/Blindness

Visual Impairment/Blindness Definition: an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.A child displays a visual impairment when:
  • a visual impairment or a progressive vision loss has been diagnosed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist:
  • a visual acuity has been determined to be: 
    • for visual impairment, of 20/70 to 20/200 in the better eye with best correction by glasses;
    • for blindness, of 20/200 or less in the better eye after best correction by glasses or a visual field measuring 20 degrees or less.
  • the visual impairment adversely affects the child’s educational performance.

Defining Deaf/Blindness

Deaf/Blindness Definition: concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes such severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for children with deafness or children with blindness.

A child is deafblind when:  

  1. both visual and hearing impairments are present:
  2. the impairments together cause severe communication, development, and educational needs.

There are approximately ten million people with visual impairments in the United States. Approximately 3,000 of these are students in Missouri. As noted above, the term “visual impairment” includes a wide range and variety of vision, from blindness and lack of usable vision to some level of usable vision, which cannot be corrected to normal vision with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Most persons who are considered visually impaired have some usable vision. There are many conditions that can cause people to lose their sight. A visual impairment may be present at birth or it may develop during infancy and childhood. There are three general reasons for impairment of vision. There may be damage to one or more parts of the eye that is responsible for vision and the damage interferes with the way the eye receives or processes information. The eyeball may be sized in a way that makes it harder to focus on objects. Or, the part of the brain that processes visual information may not work correctly. Persons with unimpaired vision sometimes wonder what the person with a visual impairment sees and while it is impossible to actually experience the visual impairment, there are ways to simulate the vision loss created by some eye conditions. Go to www.my-vision-simulator.com to trial a simulation experience.

Visual impairments change the way children obtain information about the world and may limit opportunities to learn by observing what goes on around them in their families and at school. This means that, in addition, to their general classroom studies, these students must also learn specialized skills from teachers and others who are specially trained to teach these skills, such as teachers certificated in the education of students with visual impairments and certified orientation and mobility specialists. The specialized skills students with visual impairments might need to learn include computer proficiency using adapted hardware and software. Literacy needs might relate to reading and writing Braille, using optical devices, such as magnifiers, and instruction in the efficient use of vision. Instruction in social skills relates to understanding body language and other visual concepts. Independent living skills include learning specialized techniques for personal grooming, food preparation, money management, and other tasks. Safety and independence in travel may depend on learning specific orientation and mobility techniques. Some persons with visual impairments receive instruction to navigate their environment on their own; others use long canes to get around. Adults may also use dog guides.

Children with visual impairments attend schools in a variety of settings. Based upon individual needs, the student may attend the neighborhood school with support from specialized personnel, they may participate in special classes, or they may attend a special school designed to provide services to students with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. It is less important where the students attend school than that they gain the essential knowledge for further education, gainful employment, and independent living. 

Sources: 

  • American Foundation for the Blind website, www.afb.org\
  • Children with Visual Impairments: A Parents’ Guide, M. Cay Holbrook, Woodbine House, 1996.