If you are peeking into our adventures at Wellspring Community, on any given day you may see some of our STARs navigating the halls with the aid of a white cane. Actually, about half of our STARS have some form of vision loss, which can range from those who wear corrective lens, to conditions such as low-light blindness, legal blindness, or total blindness. What is the difference in these conditions, and what does Wellspring do to bring inclusion and success to our STARS with visual impairments?
Legal Blindness is categorized as 20/200 (or less) vision. This means that a person with legal blindness can see at 20 feet (or less) what the normal eye can see at 200 feet. Total Blindness is categorized as the inability to recognize a strong light that is shown directly into the eye. Additional factors that can impact visual disabilities are light sensitivity, glare sensitivity, contrast sensitivity and light/dark adaptation. A person with visual disabilities may have a difficult time in social situations. This can lead to isolation and lack of opportunities for quality peer interaction. Physically, a person with low vision may also be affected with balance issues which can lead to excessive falls.
Our staff and volunteers work very hard to create an inclusive environment for all of the STARS at Wellspring. From the beginning, our relationship with each STAR helps us to navigate in a forward direction as we listen for their personal voice. In this way, we can learn about a STAR’s likes, dislikes, choices and needs, all of which can help us to create a fully participatory environment where each STAR can get the most out of their experience in the Wellspring program.
There are many ways the Wellspring staff can make efforts to personalize their classes to better meet the needs of program participants with low vision. Simple adaptations such as controlling the amount of light in the classroom, offering appropriate seating, and using adaptive technology are great places to initiate a supportive learning environment. Peer training/tutoring, using multi-sensory teaching approaches and offering demonstration techniques or tactile modeling can also be beneficial. Finally, being aware of community resources that are available, allows our STARS with low vision to fully participate in a stimulating educational experience. This list is only an example of the kinds of adaptations our teachers are implementing on a regular basis here at Wellspring. The staff do this to help our STARS to overcome their personal challenges, to bring intellectual stimulation, to cultivate meaningful social relationships and to bring self-confidence to all of our STARS including those with visual disabilities.
By, Michele Richmond, Social Work Intern, MSW Candidate 2020, MSU Denver
A Guide to Visual Disabilities: How Colleges Help Visually Impaired Students Succeed. (2020). Retrieved March 02, 2020, from https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/colleges-helping-blind-partially-sighted-students/
Mushkin, J., Baranowski, M., Williston, B. J., Lukshaitis, G., & Hengstman, J. (2017). Spark Inclusive PE. San Diego, CA: San Diego State University Foundation.