Visual Impairments

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Visual Impairments
Margie A.Wiersma
January 22, 2002
On Tuesday morning, I walked across campus to my 8:00a.m.class in my usual manner. I
briskly strolled pondering my typical morning thoughts. What was on the syllabus for today?
Did I have homework for today’s class? I then remembered that I read the chapter for the day,
the visual impairments section and that the class was having a guest speaker. What was the
chapter about again? Questions and answers bounced around in my head. Still deep in my own
world, I looked up and my thoughts were suddenly interrupted. My thoughts had suddenly
changed because as I looked up I saw Louise Shumaker, Director of Disabled Student Services,
and her guide dog Willey coming down the sidewalk parallel to mine. I knew she was on her
way to my class to make a presentation on visual impairments. Oh no! What should I do? If I
keep walking at the same pace, we will meet at the corner and then what? I could slow down,
speed up or walk quietly past her. She would never know the difference. Suddenly I realized that
she is not someone to be afraid of so I took a deep breath and stepped along side of her. I
introduced myself and reminded Louise that we had previously met while attending a
nontraditional student lunch. She said she remembered me. I told her I was walking to the class
where she was making her presentation. Soon we became engaged in the typical woman-towoman conversation helping me realize that our lives are really quite similar. Being a
grandmother seemed to be her favorite topic of conversation so I naturally boasted about my new
grandson. We quickly reached Van Zoeren Hall where our class was meeting. I wish our walk
could have been extended so that we had time to continue our conversation.
Louise Shumaker’s presentation on visual impairments was interesting. She captivated
my interest as she explained how she longed to be seen as just an ordinary person. She stated that
the person with visual impairments has the same needs and feelings as I do. The question that
immediately came to my mind was how could I help facilitate her need to fit into society? If I
have a child with visual impairments in my class, what could I do to help my student to feel
ordinary? Louise’s portrayal of her Guide dog Willie also peaked my interest. I wondered, who
decides what aid is best for the person who is visually impaired? How is it determined that a
person with visual impairments would be best serviced by the use of a cane or a guide dog? It
was transparent from Louise’s speech and her actions that Willie was an interracial part of her
ability to participate in day-to-day activities independently. I appreciated how the Holland
Sentinel recently informed its readers about adults with visual impairments and the contributions
of others by writing an article about Louise and Willie.
Willie takes a rest while Louise
makes her presentation
Louise and Willie
downtown Holland
If I were to have a student with a visual impairment in my class, what would be the appropriate
evaluations to help this student to be as mobile and independent as possible? Is there research
that supports one method of mobility more than the other? While thinking about independence,
my thoughts turned to how confidence and self-esteem play such a large role in a young
children’s success. How is confidence and self- esteem established in a child with visual
impairments? A study entitled Parenting styles and self-esteem: a study of young adults with
visual impairments written by Gina Cardinali and Tana D’Allura (May 2001) describes different
parenting styles and their effect on the young adult with a visual impairment. This article
explores three types of styles: permissive, authoritative and authoritarian. This research-based
study broadened my knowledge and helped me to begin to understand how to teach a student
with a visual impairment.
Louise’s explanation of the different teaching tools was also enlightening. The role that
technology plays in the education process of the student who is visually impaired is vital. It is
important that these resources are offered to all students. As technology advances, so will the
resources for the student with visual impairments.
To enhance my understanding of the area of visual impairment I located the Michigan
determination of visually impaired. It reads as follows:
To be considered a person who is visually impaired one must meet both of the following criteria:
First, the visual impairment must interfere with either the person’s development or educational
performance in a negative way. Second, a person must have in their better eye, a central visual
acuity for near or far point vision of 20/70 or less with regular refractive correction, their
peripheral vision must be less than 20 degrees, or they must be diagnosed with a progressively
deteriorating eye condition. In addition to meeting these criteria, the determination of whether a
person has a visual impairment must be based on a comprehensive evaluation done by an
ophthalmologist or optometrist who is part of a multidisciplinary team. Finally, determination of
impairment must include more than environmental, cultural, or economic differences.
Louise’s presentation was informative and challenged me to explore about the entire
experience of the student who is visually impaired. It challenged me be aware that there are
underlying issues that need to be addressed when teaching students with a visual impairment.
Her presentation also opened my eyes to the personal needs of the student with visual
impairments, which also helps me see things differently.
Louise Shoemaker
presenting in ED 225