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By Edgenie Bellah, Family Support, Texas Deafblind Project

Abstract: This article provides a brief overview of person-centered planning and shares three parents' stories about how they are using the tool to plan for their child's future.

When children have disabilities such as deafblindness, sometimes it is hard to envision their long-term future. Having information and connections to individuals who can serve as role models is helpful, but ultimately each family must create a personal dream for the future that is based on their loved-one's interests, talents and available community supports. There are a number of tools that have been developed to help families and significant people influencing the individual's life create a positive vision for the future. One such tool is person-centered planning as process often referred to as mapping because it creates visual images to reflect the person's life experience and path.

On September 18-20, 2003, I joined three other parents from Texas in Tampa, Florida for the annual parent workshop sponsored by The National Technical Assistance Consortium for Children and Young Adults who are Deaf-Blind (NTAC) and National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (NFADB). This year's training focused on person-centered planning as a tool to help parents plan for all the transitions their child with deaf-blindness might experience from birth through adulthood. Person-centered planning is not new. As Keith Fansler, one of the parents from Texas, pointed out to me in a later conversation, parents create maps for all of their children's futures.

According to Dr. Beth Mount (1991), person-centered planning:

  • Works to support the contribution of each person in local community life
  • Finds and develops the gifts, strengths and talents of each person
  • Develops a vision that expresses these gifts
  • Builds a support group to make these ideals happen
  • Builds a community network of acceptance
  • Changes services to be more responsive to the interests of people

While there is much written about the benefits of person-centered planning, the most meaningful way to gain a true picture is through the words of parents who have already experienced this process. The first story below is written by Corry Hill, who is the Family Specialist for the Utah Deafblind Project and NFADB Region 8 Regional Director. Corry shared her story, written in 1994 after her family's initial experience, at the kickoff of the training. Her story inspired me to ask the parents from Texas who went through the training to share their experiences. Two of these parents are Keith Fansler of Amarillo and Melanie Knapp of Missouri City.

Corry's Story

I am the mother of an adorable six-year-old daughter, Laurie Lynn Hill, who just so happens to have a dual sensory impairment and is multiply handicapped. Before I had experiences with mapping, I would introduce Laurie as someone who couldn't talk, walk, eat and who couldn't hear or see very well. Futures Planning helped everyone who works with Laurie and myself view her as a whole person with strengths as well as weaknesses.

Those people who have worked with Laurie have always been good, but prior to Personal Futures Planning (Maps), it felt like a disjointed effort. Each person was concentrating on what Laurie couldn't do or what she needed to learn in their own specific fields. For example, the OT's goals were written before she had met Laurie, written directly from a text book, not changed for two years, and not incorporated with anything else in Laurie's school day.

We were first introduced to futures planning at a deaf-blind conference in 1992. Our family attended a session learning about Maps and then the conference broke into small groups to actually make some maps. We had the privilege of using Laurie as the example. In attendance at that group were several people who worked with Laurie, both directly and indirectly, including her teacher, intervener and several service providers. We began by creating a Background Map. Laurie's intervener, her father and I were the major contributors because we had known her all her life. By the time that map was finished I felt the group begin to have some cohesiveness. We were at a common starting point. Everyone in the room knew of Laurie's struggle to live and we all looked at her with the "same eyes." While creating the Relationship Map we were all pleased to discover the many people who worked with and cared for Laurie. I was especially pleased while the Preferences Map was being created to see everyone giving input. They knew Laurie better than I thought they did, and we came up with even more "things that work" than "things that don't." Service providers wrote down specific ideas to try that they didn't know about before, things that someone else had success with. The Dream for the Future Map was the hardest for me to work on. It is difficult for me to dream for an uncertain future. Everyone in the room was very encouraging and urged us to dream high. We were very proud of our accomplishments as a group. Three years later a speech therapist commented that mapping session helped her greatly and was the best thing she had ever seen. Even though Laurie's maps have been updated many times, I still have those original maps and cherish them.

After the mapping session, I noticed a change in all those who had been part of the process. Fences were down - it was no longer us against them, but a team with everybody an equal partner. The attitude toward Laurie was positive. That is, everyone treating her as a whole person and sharing ideas about how to achieve goals together.

Keith's story

The Fansler family has been in the deafblind business going on sixteen years now. My wife, Leslie, and I have been together for a little more than seventeen years. We have two sons. Our oldest son, Chance, is a junior in high school. Chance is a ranked fencer and on the varsity wrestling team. Preston, our youngest son, was born blind and is now carrying the deafblind label. Labels — you've got to love them. Preston loves the water and is a gold medalist bowler in the Special Olympics. He has several jobs, one of which requires him to swim for his paycheck. We are longtime members of Deafblind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT) and NFADB. For several years, I served as Member-At-Large and Vice-President of DBMAT. I also have attended the NTAC-NFADB parent trainings since one of the earliest trainings in St. Louis.

This NTAC-NFADB parent training was a little different than the ones I attended in the past. They had me moderate our group's mapping process. I had been to a session on mapping before, but we have never done it for our son, Preston. It was amazing to see how much information our group came up with for the lady who was picked to have her child be the focus of our mapping training. This was the first time our group had met. We were total strangers. I loved the experience I had with moderating. It let me see how easy it really is to build a program on a child's strengths and not his/her weaknesses. Our group built a program for a total stranger based on her likes and dislikes. Just think of what you can do for your family member or even somebody you know. Being the moderator gave me the confidence I need to do a mapping on my son. If you think about it, we all do person-centered planning for ourselves. Leslie and I have done person-centered planning with our oldest son, Chance. To an extent, we have done it with Preston. We try to find jobs and activities that coincide with what he likes, not with things he does not like.

The only problem I see with mapping is getting everybody together at the same time, so it might take two or maybe more sessions. You might want to break it down into groups, like family and friends, professionals, church and community. Getting your person-centered planning ideas into the IEP can be a challenge, but it is a must. I hope to be starting a mapping process on Preston soon because I learned it is never too early or too late to do mapping. My advice to all parents is to map throughout your child's life so you will know where you have been and where you are going.

Melanie's Story

Christian was born in July of 1980, the second son to Gary and myself. We were told we might have a premature birth, but never in my wildest nightmares were we prepared for what was to come. After his birth at 28 weeks gestation, Christian spent his first two years in the hospital. I can't even remember how many surgeries he had or how many times we almost lost him. As a result of his prematurity and long hospitalization, Christian had numerous medical difficulties. He is now 23 years old. He is deafblind. He is incredibly strong, and has a great sense of humor (Knapp humor). He also is a really good-looking guy. Christian has a wonderful big brother, Landon...and now a sister-in-law, Christi. Christian thinks Christi is HIS girlfriend. I am the Momma, and Gary is Dad. We have had tremendous family support over the years. Christian is in his last year of school. He has made AMAZING progress over the last three years. He understands a lot of sign language. We have had many years of incredible support from his educational team.

A few years ago, David Wiley and Craig Axelrod came to our home. We went through the person-centered planning process for Christian then. It was just the four of us that night. So many events have taken place in our lives and Christian's life since then.

What did I learn from my training in Tampa? Well, I volunteered Christian to be the focus person. While I was quite proud of myself, I realized during the process that since I was the only one that knew Christian, it was a very subjective mapping. The training did give me the tools to take on a better, less subjective mapping, and it was up to me to make it happen for real.

Upon my return home, I was determined to have a person-centered planning party. Gary and I were happy with how many people were able to make it. I invited the family that was in town: Landon and Christi, Mimi, Aunt Cheryl. A few members of my family were unable to come for the first meeting, but hopefully will jump on the wagon next time. Chantel Simon (Christian's caregiver) was there as was Ann Bielert (his intervener), Mrs. Parker (his classroom teacher), and Gloria Vaughn (his vision teacher through the years). I was ecstatic that Craig Axelrod, David Wiley, and Edgenie Bellah from Texas Deafblind Outreach at TSBVI wanted to help.

I think the mapping process went great. We had so much input from everyone, not just from me. The process was also therapeutic. There were a few tears and a lot of laughs. I definitely feel like the mapping was a success.

What came out of our first meeting is a plan. We have looked at what Christian would want, what he would want to do as work, where he would want to spend his time, and who he would like to spend it with. We have determined as a team what will work for him and what won't work. We have already put our plan into action. Christian now owns a small vending machine and has started training with it at school to learn how to stock it. When he graduates, we will move this one to his Dad's office. Who knows? He may become quite the vending machine entrepreneur!

Other Resources

These stories are far from ending. Families will continue to build upon their initial dream through ongoing mapping. Just like you and I, the dream is ever evolving in response to our actual experiences and changing needs and interests. I want to thank each of the parents for sharing their personal stories about their recent learning experiences and for allowing me to tag along for the wonderful journey they are on with their families.For a more detailed description of planning for adult life for individuals with multiple disabilities such as deafblindness, be sure to read the article, When Planning for Adult Life, How is a "Life-style" Different than a "Program"? by David Wiley on page 29. Families are also welcome to call the Texas Outreach program for assistance in developing a person-centered plan. Kate Moss and David Wiley have written A Brief Guide to Personal Futures Planning, Organizing Your Community to Envision and Build a Desirable Future With You: a paper that provides an overview and step-by-step directions for the process. The Outreach Program is also available to help with individual plans.


Originally published in See/Hear Winter 2004. 

A baby plays with toys on a tray.“According to some researchers, vision is usually involved in 90% of the learning that takes place in early development” (Ferrell, 1996, p 89).

Do you know an infant or a child who appears to have difficulty seeing the world around him?  Have you noticed any unusual visual behaviors or difficulty in one of your students or patients?  Take a minute and find out how you can help put them in touch with agencies that may be of service.  Let’s help children maximize their education by maximizing their VISION!

The Statewide Leadership Services for Blind and Visually Impaired has created these brochures to share with parents, teachers, doctors, day care providers and others to make them more aware of the signs associated with vision impairment and where to go for resources and support related to intervention.

Download the Eye Find Brochure in English - PDF  DOCX

Warning Signs 

Atypical Visual Behaviors that might indicate the need for an examination and or assessment:

  • Moving closer to an object for viewing
  • Tilting of the head to view objects or face
  • Squinting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive rubbing of eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Consistent eye turn (amblyopia)
  • Rapid eye movements (Nystagmus)

Vision is not just in the structure of the eye.  These medical conditions might indicate the need for an assessment by a teacher of     students with visual impairments.

  • Prematurity (i.e. ROP)
  • Syndromes: (i.e. Down, Charge)
  • Stroke
  • Anoxia (oxygen deprivation)
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Albinism
  • Optic Nerve Hypoplasia
  • Cerebral Palsy 

Typical Visual Behaviors:


  • Focus on objects 8-10 inches away
  • Eyes have difficulty working together

3 months

  • Tracks moving objects
  • Eyes are beginning to work together
  • Beginning of a directed reach

6 months

  • Turns head to see objects
  • Accurate reach (depth perception)
  • Good color vision/favorite color
  • Sees at greater distances
  • Picks up dropped toys

12 months

  •  Shows interest in pictures
  • Points and gestures
  • Places shapes in board
  •  Judges distances
  •  Recognizes own face in mirror.

18 months

  • Recognizes familiar objects
  • Scribbles with crayons or pens
  • Shows interest in exploring


Below are a list of website resources related to various types of progressive vision loss or progressive eye conditions.

Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)

Batten Disease

Best Disease


Cone Dystrophy

Cone-Rod Dystrophy


Leber's Congenital Amaurosis

Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

Retinitis Pigmentosa



Stargardt Syndrome

Usher Syndrome


Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)

United Leukodystrophy Association

ALD Database


Batten Disease Support and Research Association

Beyond Batten Disease Foundation

Noah’s Hope

U.S. National Library of Medicine

Batten Disease: The Story of Jake (YouTube)

Best Disease

Fighting Blindness

Royal National Institute of Blind People

Macular Disease Foundation Australia




Choroidermia Research Foundation

Fighting Blindness

Cone Dystrophy

The cone dysfunction syndromes

The National Center for Biotechnical Information

National Organization of Rare Diseases (NORD)

Cone-Rod Dystrophy

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Fighting Blindness

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases

Cone rod dystrophies


American Academy of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus


American Academy of Ophthalmology

Glaucoma: Definitions and Classification

Glaucoma Research Center

Childhood Glaucoma: Parents are the First Line of Defense

Digital Journal of Ophthalmology

Congenital Glaucoma (childhood)

Bright Focus Foundation

Childhood Glaucoma

Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis

Fighting Blindness

Scottish Sensory Centre

Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

Fighting Blindness 

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)


NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)


Retinitis Pigmentosa - CRASH! Medical Review Series

National Eye Institute

National Organization for Rare Disorders


Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

American Cancer Society

New York Eye Cancer Center


Fighting Blindness

NORD National Organization for Rare Diseases

U.S. National Library of Science

Stargardt Disease

Fighting Blindness

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF)

Facebook Pages for Stargardt

Contact a Family website

Usher Syndrome

American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association

Boys’ Town National Research Hospital

Usher Syndrome Coalition

Medicine Net



See Videos explaining The Tactile Symbols Directory

Click here to view and/or download an updated Tactile Symbol Directory that includes items not available online.

Meaning Category

For additional information please contact TSBVI's Speech Language Pathology Department at .

Meaning Category: TIME (Background Shape: Pentagon)

Days of the week

Background Texture: Netting

Day of the WeekSymbolPicture
Monday brad Monday.jpg
Tuesday fat rubber band Tuesday.jpg
Wednesday button Wednesday.jpg
Thursday lego Thursday.jpg
Friday horizontal popsicle stick Friday.jpg
Saturday horizontal pipe cleaner Saturday.jpg
Sunday coiled rope Sunday.jpg


Background Texture: Foil with shiny side showing

January "J" made from pipe cleaner January.jpg
February heart made from pipe cleaner February.jpg
March clover shape made from pipe cleaner March.jpg
April "A" made from pipe cleaner April.jpg
May four brads in square configuration May.jpg
June circle made from pipe cleaner June.jpg
July square made from pipe cleaner July.jpg
August vertical piece of popsicle stick August.jpg
September 1 horizontal paper clip September.jpg
October "X" made from pipe cleaner October.jpg
November triangle made from pipe cleaner November.jpg
December sequins, face down, in a circle December.jpg

Miscellaneous time

Background Texture: Plain poster board

Afternoon nickel-sized circle made from 1/8" thick foam afternoon.jpg
Morning rectangle made from 1/8" thick foam  
Payday penny to left of two crossed paper clips  

Background Texture: Netting

Today ½" piece of Pencil grip glued in center today.jpg
Tomorrow ½" piece of Pencil grip, puff Paint arrow on right side --> tomorrow.jpg
Yesterday ½" piece of Pencil grip, puff Paint arrow on left side <-- yesterday.jpg

Background texture: Contact Paper

Second 1 small Bead glued in center second.jpg
Minute 2 small Beads glued in center  
Hour 3 small Beads glued in center in a vertical row hour.jpg

Meaning Category:  EVENTS (Background Shape: Rectangle)

Background Texture: Acetate (satin)

Astroworld star-shaped plastic bead with pipe cleaner circle around astroworld.jpg
Beach trip small scallop shell beach.jpg
Birthday birthday candle birthday.jpg
Camping trip tent made with braille paper camping.jpg
Carnival star-shaped plastic bead carnival.jpg
Christmas small Christmas light (old fashioned type) glued horizontally christmas.jpg
Cinco de Mayo balloon with tinsel pipe cleaner in zig-zag on it with a bean underneath cincodemayo.jpg
Community Outing rectangle piece of Lawn chair webbing with rectangle piece of Vinyl grid glued below webbing  
Concert Bell  
Easter a bunch of Easter grass with wood Bead in center  
Field Day laminated cardboard circle with 3 ribbons around it (size of a quarter, get from food blanks) fieldday.jpg
Graduation scroll of paper (use any scrap of paper) graduation.jpg
Halloween 1/8" Foam cut in jack0o-lantern shape with Stick stem, Dental Floss coming out eyes, mouth, to give feel of stringy stuff  
Mother's Day crossed ribbons (like on a present) with mini bow at intersection and "home foam" (foam peanut) to right mothersday.jpg
Music Mania 3 little Balloons glued on top of one another and a Bell glued to the left of the balloons  
Party balloon party.jpg
Period piece of sanitary napkin period.jpg
Picnic textured piece of Styrofoam plate picnic.jpg
Schlitterbahn chamois "W" with star-shaped bead in middle of it schlitterbahn.jpg
Special Olympics 5 interlocking circles from puff paint specialolympics.jpg
Thanksgiving Feather with Balloon stapled in center  
Vacation 2 Sequins with Pipe cleaner "V" below sequins  

Meaning Category: PLACES (Background: Square Needlepoint backing (vinyl grid))

School-Based Locations

Auditorium square of textured Milk jug plastic, 1 side curled under auditorium.jpg
Bathroom blank square with hole punched in top middle with yarn loop through hole bathroom.jpg
Bedroom piece of bedspread or fabric swatch bedroom.jpg
Bowling Alley Felt square with Cork circle on top  
Cafeteria X made from popsicle sticks cafeteria.jpg
Classroom rubber bands strung across square in a cross (with each teacher's name symbol) classroom.jpg
Computer Room felt square with cork circle on top computerroom.jpg
Dorm 2 3/4" ceramic tiles, one in upper left and one in lower right corner dorm.jpg
Game Room round tinker toy Game Room.jpg
Group Home straws in house top shape grouphome.jpg
Gym piece of wrist band/sock or ponytail holder gym.jpg
Health Center cotton ball health center.jpg
Kitchen piece of crinkly pie pan kitchen.jpg
LRC round spool from cassette tape lrc.jpg
Laundry Room 2 ¾" Buttons glued side by side laundryroom.jpg
Music Room jingle bell music room.jpg
Outside 2 Leaves glued diagonally with Stick in center outside.jpg
Office row of thumbtacks with point cut off office.jpg
Playground pebbles playground.jpg
Pool piece of tool pool.jpg
Recreation Building circle made from acrylic paint recreation building.jpg
School 3 1/2" vertical sandpaper strips school.jpg
Sensory Room 3 Light Brite lights in "Y" shape sensoryroom.jpg
Track shoe string track.jpg
TV Room Brad spread out into a "V" shape t.v.jpg
VATC pen cartridge Vact.jpg
Weight Room ponytail holder and nut and bolt weight room.jpg
Whirlpool smooth part of bottom of pie plate whirlpool.jpg
Work Skills Room nail and screw glued horizontally; nail on top, screw 1/2" below workskills room.jpg

Off-Campus Locations

Bakery restaurant straw glued horizontally with mini cupcake cup underneath bakery.jpg
Bank 3 pennies in glue lined rectangle bank.jpg
Beach shell beach.jpg
Bowling Alley felt strip bowling alley.jpg
Brackenridge Hospital glass medicine vial brackenridge hospital.jpg
Car Wash sponge with penny glued on top car wash.jpg
Cave pebbles in circle cave.jpg
Church church shaped building made from cedar craft shingles with a cross made of toothpicks on rooftop church.jpg
Clifton Center piece of towel with paper clips in cross on top clifton center.jpg
Ecology Action piece of plastic from liter coke bottle ecology action.jpg
Farmers Market woven Straw shape of bushel basket ½ oval with Rickrack glued across the straw farmersmarket.jpg
Fire Station match stick fire station.jpg
Garden sand in square  
Group Home Straw with bend part bent over in house top shape grouphome.jpg
HEB small, laminated, oval HEB written in Braille below Braille, Printed word in black marker heb.jpg
Highland Park Mall Mall symbol with small Pom-pom in center highland park mall.jpg
Home styrofoam pellets home.jpg
Hospital + from pipe cleaner hospital.jpg
Lake plastic bag in circle lake.jpg
Laundromat piece of towel and penny laundromat.jpg
Leander "L" made of pipe cleaner leander.jpg
Mall ric-rac in square mall.jpg
Marriott foam sponge with paper clips in cross on top marriot.jpg
Movie wrapper from Reese's cup movie.jpg
Museum doll's eye museum.jpg
Park stick park.jpg
Post Office piece of string post office.jpg
Pro. Counselor X made from acrylic paint pro.jpg
Recording for the Blind tape from inside of cassette with 2 crossed paper clips on top recording for the blind.jpg
Skating Rink 2 Pom-poms side by side skating rink.jpg
Restaurant piece of straw, horizontal restaurant.jpg
Bakery piece of straw with cookie paper underneath it bakery.jpg
Central Market plastic sample Spoon diagonally across tinsel Pipe Cleaner bordering other 2 corners centralmarket.jpg
Chicken restaurant rest. piece of straw with Q-tip underneath it chicken rest.jpg
Chinese restaurant piece of Straw with Chopstick piece underneath it  
Italian restaurant piece of Straw with Spaghetti underneath it  
McDonald's piece of straw with "M" made from foam underneath it mcdonald's.jpg
Taco restaurant piece of straw with shiny pipe cleaner in a circle underneath it taco rest.jpg
Roffler's small plastic hair curler  
Store plastic grocery bag store.jpg
Book store miniature Book with Garbage bag glued below it bookstore.jpg
Drug store plastic grocery bag + toothpaste cap below it drugstore.jpg
Fish store plastic grocery bag + fish made from puff paint below fishstore.jpg
Grocery store plastic grocery bag + piece of bread bag with twistie wrapped around it under it grocerystore.jpg
Music store plastic grocery bag with bell inside musicstore.jpg
Pet store plastic grocery bag + rawhide animal treat below it petstore.jpg
Plant store plastic grocery bag + seed below it plantstore.jpg
Toy store plastic grocery bag + lego below it toystore.jpg
Texas Dept. of Health Foam in shape of Texas with cotton on top  
Texas State Library microcassette TXstatelibrary.jpg
U.T. Track piece of shoestring glued on top of chair webbing UTtrack.jpg
Video Arcade diagonal ric-rac (top left to bottom right) with penny in middle videoarcade.jpg
Zilker Park pipe cleaner "Z" over stick zilkerpark.jpg
Zoo plastic animal zoo.jpg

Meaning Category:  PEOPLE (Background Shape: Circle)

Background Texture: Bumpy vinyl wallpaper-type covering

Residential Specialist individualized ri.jpg
School Doctor 1/2 of a Q-tip school doctor.jpg
School Nurse Medicine cup on its side school nurse.jpg
Support Staff individualized support_staff.jpg
Teacher individualized teacher.jpg
Teacher's Assistant individualized ta.jpg
Teacher (generic) Book glued in center – book made from tiny yellow sticky Pads  
Class "C" shape ring from plastic Chain  
Attendant Bull dog clip  
Audiologist glue coil audiologist.jpg
Boss blue "B" boss.jpg
Bus Driver steering wheel shape made of glue bus driver.jpg
Dentist Toothbrush  
Doctor piece of rubber glove doctor.jpg
Ear Doctor backwards question-mark made of glue ear doctor.jpg
Eye Doctor eye shape made of glue eye doctor.jpg
Farmer square of Jean fabric with metal Button cover on top  
Fire Fighter circular slice of hose (garden hose/rubber tubing) fire fighter.jpg
Job boss Shoestring piece in open loop (like apron)  
Mailman Foam square cut with pinking shears  
Office Worker circle made of thumbtacks with points cut off office worker.jpg
Plant Worker plastic leaf or plastic flowers plant worker.jpg
Police badge shape made of glue police.jpg
Store Worker glue "S" store worker.jpg
Trash Collector Plastic square (clear)  

Meaning Category:  EMOTIONS (Background Shape: Heart)

Background Texture: Plain poster board

Anxious "S' hook on its side anxious.jpg
Excited 4 pieces of ribbon curled with scissors excited.jpg
Frustrated knot made from nylon string/rope frustrated.jpg
Gentle feather with pom pom glued on top gentle.jpg
Happy smile made from nylon string happy.jpg
Hurt vertical matchstick hurt.jpg
Love heart made from nylon string love.jpg
Mad vertical row of knots made from nylon string mad.jpg
Patient flower bead or silk flower patient.jpg
Sad/Depressed frown made from nylon rope/string (upside down smile) saddepressed.jpg
Sick vertical piece of nylon rope/string with a glue dot on top sick.jpg
Tired arrow made from nylon rope pointing down tired.jpg

Meaning Category:  NON-FOOD OBJECTS (Background Shape: Oblong)

Background Texture: Plain poster board


Clothing ArticleSymbolPicture
Boots leather shoe string tied in a knot boots.jpg
Bra hook from a hook and eye bra.jpg
Coat rectangular piece of wool or felt, 1" x 2" piece Men's underwear piece of elastic coat.jpg
Pants hem piece from old blue jeans pants.jpg
Panties piece of old panties with elastic and nylon panties.jpg
Shirt 3 buttons glued in a vertical row on piece of fabric shirt.jpg
Shoes shoe string in a cross (let ends dangle to avoid confusion with cafeteria) shoes.jpg
Socks toe of sock socks.jpg
Sweater piece of sweater sweater.jpg

Cooking Appliances/Materials/Utensils

Cooking Appliances/
Blender 3 holes punched in a horizontal row blender.jpg
Bowl styrofoam half-circle bowl.jpg
Cup end of eraser cup.jpg
Fork plastic fork prongs fork.jpg
Grater screen glued on card grater.jpg
Juice machine holes punched around outside of oval juice.jpg
Knife piece of plastic knife knife.jpg
Microwave square of hard plastic with small fuzzy piece of velcro in middle microwave.jpg
Oven vertical stripes across oval made with acrylic paint oven.jpg
Pan pan made with acrylic paint pan.jpg
Pitcher top of film canister pitcher.jpg
Plate 1 1/4" circle cut from styrofoam plate plate.jpg
Refrigerator strips of strawberry basket glued in vertical stripes refrigerator.jpg
Spoon piece of plastic spoon spoon.jpg

Hygiene Supplies

Hygiene SuppliesSymbolPicture
Brush/Comb vertical strip of sandpaper with fringe cut on right side brush.jpg
Deodorant top of bottled deodorant deodorant.jpg
Hearing aid batteries batteries  
Shampoo bottle top shampoo.jpg
Soap piece of soap box soap.jpg
Toothbrush end of toothbrush toothbrush.jpg
Toothpaste top from container toothpaste.jpg


Bike jumbo paper clip bent like handle bars bicycle.jpg
Boat paper triangle boat.jpg
Bus bubble plastic bus.jpg
Plane miniature airplane plane.jpg
Tractor plastic wheel tractor.jpg
Van/Car piece of lawn chair webbing van_car.jpg

Recreational Objects

Recreational ObjectsSymbolPicture
Book/Journal miniature book or book made from tiny yellow sticky pad book.jpg
Computer cork disc glued on felt square computer.jpg
Game flat marble game.jpg
Connect 4 checker with marble glued on top of it connect_four.jpg
Movement game flat marble + piece of tinsel garland glued below it movement_game.jpg
Outdoor game flat marble + golf tee glued below marble outdoor_game.jpg
Table game flat marble + domino glued below marble table_game.jpg
Video game flat marble w/ cork disc glued on top of felt square below it video_game.jpg
Foot massage machine 3/4" bottle top from beer or coke bottle with serrated edges side up foot_massage.jpg
Hammock 1 inch piece of 3/4" thick rope hammock.jpg
Hamster food circle of hamster food hamster_food.jpg
Hamster litter circle of hamster litter hamster_litter.jpg
Headphones piece of phone cord with foam wedge on end headphones.jpg
Keyboard row of pieces of 1" pieces of popsicle sticks keyboard.jpg
Lotion top from milk jug with top side glued down lotion.jpg
Merry-go-round plastic monkey (from "Barrel of Monkeys") merrygoround.jpg
Moonwalk padded vinyl rectangle (from "Good Books") moonwalk.jpg
Pegboard peg pegboard.jpg
Piano metal fastener glued horizontally  
Plant pinto beans plant_gardening.jpg
Powder top from milk jug with hole punched in it powder.jpg
Skates circle of 1/2" pom-poms skate.jpg
Slide ladder made of toothpicks slide.jpg
Swing piece of chain swing.jpg
Tape Recorder 4 one inch pieces of pipe cleaner glued vertically tape recorder.jpg
Trampoline pen spring glued vertically trampoline.jpg
Treadmill piece of rubber from handgrip, cut in half horizontally treadmill.jpg
Vibrator fake fur cut in a "V" shape vibrator.jpg
Yo-yo string with flat marble on it yo-yo.jpg


Meaning Category:  FOOD

Backing Shape: Oval
Background Texture: Laminated


Chocolate milk lid from Nestle Quik powder chocolate milk.jpg
Coffee coffee grounds glued to cardboard coffee.jpg
Coke coke tab coke.jpg
Dr. Pepper 2 coke tabs dr. pepper.jpg
Root beer 3 coke tabs with the third glued horizontally between the other two root beer.jpg
Iced tea tea bag string with tag iced tea.jpg
Juice plastic strip from juice can juice.jpg
Kool-aid top strip of kool-aid package kool-aid.jpg
Milk top of milk carton like a tent milk.jpg
Water "W" cut from fake chamois cloth water.jpg


Candy foam pellet wrapped in candy wrapper candy.jpg
Cookies plastic end with metal tie of an instant cookie dough wrapper cookies.jpg
Cupcake 1 1/2" of cupcake holder cupcake.jpg
Donut 1 1/2" circle of felt with hole in the middle  
Ice cream wooden spoon ice_cream.jpg
Pudding piece of foil top from individual pudding container with pull tab up pudding.jpg
Yogurt pie shaped piece cut from yogurt lid yogurt.jpg


Apple large 1/2" sequin apple.jpg
Banana curved row of small sequins banana.jpg
Generic fruit curved row of 7 small, round beads with 2 large sequins below them generic fruit.jpg
Orange circle of 8 1/4" beads orange.jpg

Meats and Protein

Meats and Protiens
Meats and ProteinSymbolPicture
Bacon 2 wavy lines made with puff paint bacon.jpg
Cheese plastic milk jug square cheese.jpg
Chicken q-tip end chicken.jpg
Chicken Nuggets 4 q-tip ends, with sticks removed, in a circle up, down, up, down, side by side chicken nuggets.jpg
Eggs glue glob eggs.jpg
Fish Jesus fish symbol made with puff paint fish.jpg
Hamburger button hamburger.jpg
Hot dog tiny safety pin hot dog.jpg
Meat circle made of leather meat.jpg
Sausage 3 penny-sized circles of leather, side by side sausage.jpg


Butter cardboard butter pat square from cafeteria butter.jpg
Jelly restaurant jelly container upside down jelly.jpg
Ketchup horizontal row of 4 cork dots with acrylic paint cross on each ketchup.jpg
Mayonnaise horizontal row of 4 cork dots mayonaise.jpg
Mustard horizontal row of 4 cork dots with acrylic paint dot on each mustard.jpg
Peanut butter "P" made of foam plate peanut butter.jpg
Syrup top of pop-up syrup container syrup.jpg



Bread twist tie bread.jpg
Cereal- cold box top with tab and wax bag glued above it cereal- cold.jpg
Cereal- hot oatmeal glued on card cereal-hot.jpg
Chips rectangular foam strip chips.jpg
Corn piece of popcorn corn.jpg
French fries corrugated cardboard strip french fries.jpg
French toast egg symbol (glue circle) with bread twist tie under it french toast.jpg
Generic grain 2 oblong beads in wide "V" shape with oatmeal below it generic-grain.jpg
Macaroni and cheese macaroni noodle with milk jug square (cheese symbol) below it macaroni and cheese.jpg
Noodles a macaroni noodle noodles.jpg
Pancakes circle of felt pancakes.jpg
Popcorn five pieces of uncooked popcorn glued in domino "5" configuration popcorn.jpg
Potato oval shape made from soft part of velcro potato.jpg
Hash browns rectangle made of 3 horizontal strips and 3 vertical strips from soft part of velcro hash browns.jpg
Mashed potatoes ric-rac shape cut from soft part of velcro mashed potatoes.jpg
Tater-tots 3 tiny ovals cut from hard part of velcro tater-tots.jpg
Spaghetti 7 one inch pieces of spaghetti glued vertically spaghetti.jpg
Waffles strawberry basket piece waffles.jpg



Broccoli vegetable symbol with clump of plastic Easter grass glued in middle broccoli.jpg
Carrots vegetable symbol with felt disc glued in middle carrots.jpg
Coleslaw red crinkly ribbon glued on top of vegetable symbol coleslaw.jpg
Green beans vegetable symbol with horizontal sandpaper strip glued on top of it green_beans.jpg
Salad vegetable symbol with Easter grass glued on top of plastic, horizontal sandpaper strip at right hand corner diagonally, and a felt disc glued at bottom left hand corner salad.jpg
Vegetable square from textured part of clear, corrugated plastic salad plate used at salad bars (leave lip up) (*filed under "salad bar plastic") vegetable.jpg


Miscellaneous Foods
Casserole beans and rice glued randomly on card casserole.jpg
Enchiladas zig-zag of tinsel pipe cleaner enchiladas.jpg
Pizza circle of poster board cut with one triangular piece missing pizza.jpg
Sandwich 2 twist ties/bread ties glued vertically with circle made from leather in between them sandwich.jpg
Sausage and Biscuits leather circle with twist tie glued on top sausage and biscuits.jpg
Snack vertical row of staples, stapled vertically (protect back with glue) snack.jpg
Tacos coil of tinsel pipe cleaner tacos.jpg


Breakfast large "B" made with hot glue gun breakfast.jpg
Dinner large "D" made with hot glue gun dinner.jpg
Lunch large "L" made with hot glue gun lunch.jpg

Meaning Category:  ACTIONS

Backing Shape: Triangle
Background Texture: Felt

Art piece of crayon art.jpg
Baseball large baseball shape made with hot glue gun baseball.jpg
Basketball ball 1" in diameter glued in the middle of the triangle basketball.jpg
Bathe soap sliver bathe.jpg
Break/Crack large egg shape made from cardboard cracked down the middle with cracked, jagged edges break_crack.jpg
Buy plastic grocery bag with penny in the middle buy.jpg
Carry 2 ceramic tiles glued on top of one another, bottom tile is a 3/4" square tile and the top one is a 3/8" square tile carry.jpg
Chew class triangle of bumpy vinyl wall covering with 3 popcorn seeds underneath chew class.jpg
Choose pipe cleaner "O" and "X" with glue line down the middle choose.jpg
Clean room 1" square of material with 1/4" x 3/4" piece of sponge glued on top of it clean room.jpg
Cook "C" made from glue cook.jpg
Cut blade end of plastic knife cut.jpg
Dance bow made from ribbon dance.jpg
Drink upside down cork "T" drink.jpg
Eat piece of plastic spoon glued upside down eat.jpg
Exercise piece of tinsel garland exercise.jpg
Fire drill 2 matches spaced 1/2" apart fire drill.jpg
Fishing split shot on end of fishing line attached to tiny stick fishing.jpg
Get dressed square piece of plastic mesh, 1/2" x 1" get dressed.jpg
Grooming fingernail file grooming.jpg
Horseplay small plastic horse horse play.jpg
Jump clothespin jump.jpg
Language Arts one inch square of cedar craft shingle with fancy circular plastic disk (tracer) glued on top language arts.jpg
Laundry 2 buttons in horizontal row laundry room.jpg
Listen to music jingle bell listen to music.jpg
Listen to radio small, round, silver, symbol-like piece listen to radio.jpg
Make 2 one inch square cedar craft shingles, stacked and glued together make.jpg
Massage bulldog clip and domino massage.jpg
Masturbate fake fur masturbate.jpg
Math an equal sign made of 2 horizontal glue gun lines, 1" long math.jpg
Measure a third of a medicine cup (side and bottom) with curved side glued down measure.jpg
Meeting triangle piece of plastic mesh meeting.jpg
Movement Class bow made from ribbon with a marble glued in middle movement class.jpg
Open hole punched in middle of triangle


Orientation and Mobility piece of PVC pipe glued horizontally orientation and mobility.jpg
Phone calling coiled piece of telephone cord phone calling.jpg
Plant/Gardening seed plant_gardening.jpg
Play game marker play.jpg
Pour corrugated plastic tubing pour.jpg
Push circular wooden bead, 1/2" in diameter push.jpg
Read miniature book or book made from tiny yellow sticky pad read.jpg
Relax sheepskin piece relax.jpg
Ride rubber strip from fat rubber band ride.jpg
Run shoe string in circle run.jpg
Sack lunch little lunch sack made from a paper bag with top folded over sack lunch.jpg
Science activity textured craft stick, similar to a popsicle stick, glued horizontally science activity.jpg
Set table 1" round piece of styrofoam (plate) with bottom half of eraser (cup) glued above and to the right of the plate settable.jpg
Shave head of disposable razor without blade shave.jpg
Shower shampoo top shower.jpg
Skate 1 pom pom skate.jpg
Snack vertical row of staples, stapled vertically (protect back with glue) snack.jpg
Soccer round foam circle soccer.jpg
Start 1/2" wooden bead with horizontal glue line above it start.jpg
Stir 1 1/2" piece of straw with bottom half cut open and shaped to look like a spoon (shaped like a slurpee straw) stir.jpg
Swim triangle cut out of towel swim.jpg
Swing chain, glued vertically swing.jpg
Talk time/Conversation fancy circular plastic disc (tracer) glued on top of plastic mesh triangle conversation.jpg
Tennis 1 1/4" round piece of mesh with 1/2" plastic bead glued on top of it tennis.jpg
Vacuum ink cartridge of a ballpoint pen bent to resemble a stand-up vacuum cleaner, glue used to accentuate the parts of the vacuum cleaner (wheels, bag, handle) vacuum.jpg
Walk poster board triangle walk.jpg
Wash/Clean slice of sponge wash.jpg
Wash dishes piece of plastic spoon glued with bowl side up with piece of sponge glued inside it washdishes.jpg
Work an "X" made from 2 linked paper clips work.jpg
Can crushing 2 linked paper clips above a piece of crushed can cancrushing.jpg
Coke job 2 linked paper clips above a coke tab coke_job.jpg
Mail job 2 linked paper clips over a piece of envelope with sticky piece free mailjob.jpg
Newspaper job 2 linked paper clips above roll of newspaper newspaperjob.jpg
Plant job 2 linked paper clips above a bean glued on card plant_job.jpg
Plastic sorting 2 linked paper clips over a piece of plastic from milk container plasticsorting.jpg
Recycling 2 linked paper clips above a piece of plastic from a liter coke bottle recycling.jpg
Sort silverware 2 linked paper clips above a plastic fork piece, prongs down sortsilverware.jpg
Tape job 2 linked paper clips over a piece of audio tape stapled to a card tape_job.jpg
Towel folding 2 linked paper clips glued over a piece of towel towelfolding.jpg
Trash dumping 2 linked paper clips over trash bag piece trashdumping.jpg

Meaning Category:  MISC./FUNCTOR WORDS

Backing Shape: Trapezoid
Background Texture: Lined braille paper

Canceled large "X" made of glue cancelled.jpg
Finished plain poster board with bottom fringed finished.jpg
Goodbye two vertical leather strips glued far apart goodbye.jpg
Help full braille cell Help.jpg
Hi two vertical leather strips glued close together


More black binder clip clipped to top of symbol more.jpg
No "X" made of pipe cleaner, very small as in "choose" symbol no.jpg
Yes "O" made of pipe cleaner yes.jpg

Backing Shape: Green diamond
Background Texture: Plain poster board

Left Puff paint "L" on left side of diamond with an arrow pointing toward it {L<-} left.jpg
Right Puff paint "R" on right side of diamond with an arrow pointing toward it {->R} right.jpg

Meaning Category:  GYM SYMBOLS

Backing Shape: White oblong
Background Texture: Plain poster board

Gym Symbols
GYM SYMBOLSSymbolPicture
Aerobics Wooden heart aerobics.jpg
Balance Beam 1" wooden ruler balancebeam.jpg
Ball Piece of red kickball ball.jpg
Barrel Film canister barrel.jpg
Bicycle Large paper clip twisted into handlebar shape bicycle.jpg
Bicycle helmet Half bubble ball, open side down bicyclehelmet.jpg
Bolster/Mat Ceramic disc on vertical vinyl cloth bolster_mat.jpg
Bricks Corrugated backside of piece of ceramic tile bricks.jpg
Bubble ball pit Two bubble balls side by side bubbleballpit.jpg
Canvas hammock Large nylon rope, horizontal hammock.jpg
Climbing rope Tic-tac-toe symbol made of yarn climbingrope.jpg
Colored mat ric rac glued next to each other, horizontally coloredmat.jpg
Elastic exerciser Pipe cleaner in a handle shape elasticexerciser.jpg
Flatbed swing Chain link, vertical on carpet rectangle flatbedswing.jpg
Goal mouth (basketball) Goal made with pipe cleaner and netting with flat marble above it basketball.jpg
Moonwalk Square of vinyl cloth moonwalk.jpg
Music Cassette case music.jpg
Pogo stick 1" piece of pvc pipe glued vertically pogoswing.jpg
Rocker boat Wooden spool glued horizontally rockerboat.jpg
Roller skates Five pompoms glued in a circle roller_skates.jpg
Scooterboard Toy wheel scooterboard.jpg
Sit-up table 2" white triangular sponge glued horizontally so it's at an angle on the background sit-uptable.jpg
Smooth bolster Square piece of rubber glove or balloon smoothbolster.jpg
Softball Wooden toy bat with flat marble above it softball.jpg
Spinning swing Large nylon rope glued horizontally spinningswing.jpg
Stairs 3 pieces of popsicle sticks in ascending lengths glued on top of each other like stairs stairs.jpg
Swedish ladder 2" long varnished wooden bead glued horizontally swedishladder.jpg
Trampoline Pen spring glued vertically trampoline.jpg
Trapeze Circle of yarn with small piece of a straw around it at the bottom trapese.gif
Tunnel 2" tunnel shape made of chamois cloth tunnel.jpg
Twirler Pipe cleaner around a piece of tubing from flowers twirler.jpg
Vaulting box 1 1/2" styrofoam cube glued horizontally vaultingbox.jpg
Wrist weights Two flat marbles wrapped in vinyl cloth wristweights.jpg

Use with How Does My Vision Affect My Access to Information? Self-Determination Lesson 7:  Grades 3-12

Think about the following tasks that require use of vision.  Is the item very easy or very hard to complete, or somewhere in between?  Please circle the number that best describes your ability to comfortably complete each task. If you use assistive technology (for example: braille device, telescope, magnifier) to complete the task, please check “A.T.” next to the task. (Visual Tasks Survey downloadable pdf)

Visual Tasks in School

Read print in books or magazines
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read very small print such as math symbols, tables, charts, graphs
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read information on the board or on signs at school
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read my own handwritten notes
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read things projected on a screen (such as a PowerPoint)
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read a computer monitor
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Watch a speaker in class, at an assembly, or in a large lecture hall
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Using audio books along with print books for classwork
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.

Visual Tasks in the Community

Read price tags or label information on items in a store
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Look at scenery or watch wildlife
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
See small video displays such as on a cell phone, MP3 player, thermometer, and credit card scanner in grocery store
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
See activity in the distance such as a football game or concert
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy very easy A.T.
Find information on outdoor signs or buildings
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read paper menus in restaurants
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read overhead menus at fast food restaurants
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.

Visual Tasks at Home & Neighborhood

Read cooking directions on food packages or recipes
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read numbers/letters on oven or microwave
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read numbers on measuring spoons/cups
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read directions for appliances
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read expiration dates on food packaging
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Read dosage instructions on medicine bottles
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.
Walk independently to a neighborhood house and/or store
1 very hard 2 somewhat hard 3 neither hard nor easy 4 somewhat easy 5 very easy A.T.

When you are finished, total your score.

  • Between 88-110 = You are good to go!
  • Between 66-88 = Perhaps you could develop some more strategies to complete these tasks more easily.
  • Between 22-66 = Work with your TVI to develop strategies that would enable you to access more visual tasks.
Total Score:  

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired staff are continually writing and creating resources for parents, educators, community members and individuals with visual impairments. You will find some of our more popular items under "Selected Resources", but you may also search by keyword to find additional items of interest.

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We are continuously looking for and adding new resources to the TSBVI website for individuals who are interested in visual impairments and deafblindness.

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Use with How Does My Vision Affect My Access to Information Self-Determination Lesson 7: Grades 3-12

Ideas for Using Tools in the Home

Snack and Meal Preparation

  • Use a magnifier to follow recipes to prepare a snack or simple meal. Recipes can be found on packages (e.g., taco seasoning, pudding, rice), in cook books, or printed from a web site.
  • Use a magnifier to look at food labels, particularly salt, sugar, and fat content. Discuss the affect these have on health, and what constitutes a healthy diet.
  • Use a magnifier to read numbers on keypads and dials for the oven, stove, and microwave when cooking.
  • Use a magnifier to read food expiration dates on items stored in the pantry and refrigerator. Combine this with the “sniff” test and discuss discarding food that is turning bad.
  • Use voiceover on an iOS device to follow/prepare a simple recipe.

Health and Appearance

  • Use a magnifier to read medicine packaging, including dosage instructions, expiration dates, and refills for prescription medications. Discuss steps to take if you feel you have taken too much of any medication (poison hotline).
  • Use magnifier to read a thermometer, or a talking thermometer. Discuss what constitutes a fever, and how this information is used.
  • Use a magnifying mirror to check skin, teeth, and hair, or to look closely at eyes for applying eye makeup.

Recreation and Entertainment

  • Use a magnifier to read instructions for games, as well as print on game cards and boards.
  • Use print enlargement software to read information on a computer monitor (email, internet searches, Facebook, articles).
  • Use a telescope to watch TV and/or follow action while playing with a Wii.
  • Use a magnifier to read parts of a favorite magazine/newspaper. Discuss a selected topic.
  • Use a magnifier for hobbies such as scrapbooking, coin/card/stamp/rock collecting.
  • Use a telescope to follow the action of pets in the neighborhood, and/or birds and squirrels in the yard.
  • Use a magnifier to read a book to a younger sibling.

Ideas for Using Tools in the Community

  • Use a telescope to locate stores and read signs in the mall.
  • Use both a telescope and magnifier to complete a scavenger hunt in a grocery store, using a list of things to find along with their prices.
  • Use a telescope to order from overhead menus in fast food restaurants.
  • Use a magnifier to order from table menus.
  • Visit a zoo, rodeo, or stock show to watch the action and observe animals.
  • Plan a trip in the community, using public transportation. Use a magnifier to read bus routes, and a telescope to watch for bus numbers.
  • Use a telescope at a sporting event. Keep track of the score on the scoreboard, relate action as it occurs, and locate people in the crowd.
  • Attend a museum, using the telescope to stand back and view the art work.

Ideas for Using Tools in the School

For Middle School and High School Students

Start with a conversation with the student about each class, and the kinds of visual tasks the student is required to complete. Create a chart, writing in how the student currently accesses school assignments. A completed chart might look like this:

English Large Print Reg./Lg. Print Print copy Print copy Zoomtext
Math Reg. Print Large Print “can see fine” Walk to Board n/a
Science Reg. Print Large Print Can’t see “can see fine” Pretty hard to read units

Use this information as a starting point for increasing independence in the student.

Lessons to consider:

  • Read smaller print size of an assignment currently completed with large print, using a magnifier to enlarge the print instead. This takes practice!
  • Use a magnifier to read information on maps, charts, and graphs, particularly in the student’s math, science, and social studies/history books, including information printed from the internet.
  • Access the board/overhead using a telescope. Practice reading and copying from the board, increasing the number of words copied per view. The goal is to read/remember/write down as many as 10 words at a time, checking for accuracy.
  • Access the board/overhead using a video magnifier. Practice locating information, focusing, and taking notes.
  • Access the board/overhead using a tablet. Practice locating, saving, and storing information.
  • Use a magnifier to read notations on measurement devices (linear, as well as volume).

For Pre-Primer through Elementary Students

  • For 3-5 year olds, explore the properties of magnifiers by looking at bugs, leaves, shells, and other 3-dimensional objects.
  • For 4-5 year olds, explore the properties of a telescope outside, locating play equipment, friends, moving vehicles, etc. Inside, use the telescope to watch as the teacher conducts a story time or demonstrates a lesson.
  • For 1st-6th graders, teach students how to use a telescope to view and copy information placed at a distance.
  • For 1st-6th graders, teach students how to use a magnifier to increase reading fluency on smaller print sizes.
  • Practice telescope skills on field trips.
  • For students who require larger print on computer monitors, provide instruction with enlargement software (e.g., Zoomtext).
  • Teach accessibility options for computers, cell phones, and tablets.
  • Use a monocular in games (e.g., Battleship game graphic posted to a wall; mazes placed on a wall)
  • Use magnifier to read game cards and game instructions.

Three C's to Greater Independence

by Jay Stiteley, Field Representative, The Seeing Eye, Inc

These materials will focus on suggestions a student with a visual impairment may benefit from when wanting to achieve a greater level of independence. The three C's are:

  • College, in the broadest sense of the word, providing suggested methods for securing, scheduling, and maximizing both readers and tapes.
  • Computers, with the emphasis being on solid, basic skills and what might be appropriate skills and needs to possess before acquiring equipment.
  • "Cane-nine," importance of having good, solid O&M skills and when is it appropriate to consider the use of a dog guide.

It is becoming more and more evident that advanced education/training from high school is necessary for an individual to become employed. This advanced training is not just limited to college, but rather any program that offers advance training in any field.

Computers and technology are here to stay and if a person with a visual impairment wants employment, it is essential that they can operate computer access equipment for their respective visual impairment.

Cane-nine - It is also imperative for the individual to be able to travel to the employment site, whether they use a cane or dog guide.

These are not separate skill areas, but rather interrelated. Each can stand alone separately, but when combined, presents a much stronger and more complete person.


Planning and organization are the most important keys to being successful when in college and ultimately when employed. This planning and organization needs to begin in high school or hopefully earlier, especially being organized.

Books and Readers

All of the following will assume that a student will be going on to some type of college, whether it be a community college for the associates degree, a college or university for a bachelors, or to a technical school to develop a trade skill. All or part of these materials will be applicable.

Books on Tape

By the end of the student's sophomore year he/she should be able to:

  • Order their own tape recorded books from Recording For the Blind and Disabled (RFB&D). In some high schools this may be required each semester, but in college it will definitely need to occur.
    Subordinate Skills:
    • Telephone etiquette. Can the student use long distance directory assistance? Do they know how to place a long distance call, understand about toll free numbers, or how calling cards operate and who pays for them?
    • Does the student know all the questions to ask RFB&D, i.e., membership number, fees required, what information does RFB&D require for them to locate the proper book(s)?
    • Ability to approach respective instructors to request the necessary information for obtaining the books.
    • Do they have a method for recording the information, braille, skills, large print writing, portable note taking device, or tape recorder, etc.?
    • Do they know the deadlines of both the school and RFB&D for when books can be ordered and still arrive on time for the beginning of school? (colleges usually have a later deadline then RFB&D.)
  • Does the student know of alternative tape recording sources? Research skills, means of developing a resource file.
    Subordinate skills:
    • Means of developing a method of imputing of material and retrieving that same material in an organized fashion.
    • Braille reading and writing skills,
    • Large print reading and writing skills,
    • Use of a file box and ensuring that the materials are readable from within the box and not having to pull each card out separately for reading purposes (braille in particular}. Suggestion: Using a braille file card system requires rolling the file card all the way into the braille writer, advance it out to the stop, then write the name, (last, then first) then roll the card in manually one line, place phone number or address next depending which will be used more frequently. then place the card in the file box with the braille to the back of the box, and the name of the organization being the last part of the card into the box. This allows the braille readers fingertips to curl over the back edge of the card to read the name with the file card remaining in the box.
    • Portable notetaking system, in the student's respective learning media or possibly in a database on a desk top computer. (See Computers section for more details about computer skills.)


Locating readers

  • Announce in the class that you need readers, offer that there is minimal pay or volunteer positions are sought. I suggest terms like "advertising for a reader" or "hiring several readers" etc., not "I need a reader" or "I want someone to read to me" the latter two sound like you are less in control and are desperate or have lack of self-confidence.
  • Post advertisements on dormitory or cafeteria bulletin boards, school newspaper, or make announcements at dorm meetings, sororities and fraternities on campus that require community service work as part of the membership, etc.
  • Contact outside sources from the college community, such as senior citizen centers, volunteer organization, or the Delta Gamma sorority. Readers from outside of the college setting will not be as affected by mid term and final exams as the college based readers.

Scheduling Readers

  • Schedule readers for no more than one hour blocks without a break, this is for their reading and your listening readiness.
  • Always provide some type of liquid refreshment for the reader.
  • Do not rely on one or two readers, have at least five or more. This allows for flexibility, fall back options if a reader cancels.
  • Some reader may be better in specific subjects than other.
  • A reader only working one hour will be less likely to quit then a reader that is responsible for several hours, feeling less overwhelmed.
  • Arrange readers in their areas of knowledge or major to maximize their ability to describe or explain graphs, maps, etc.
  • Separate your reading session by at least ten minutes.
  • Physically move around during the rest period between readers.
  • Try to establish a consistent hour and day that someone reads to you,
  • Do not date your readers.
  • Minimize the amount that you rely on family for reading. The reason is that there is a tendency to have higher expectations of family members, but a much lower patience level.
  • Arrange time to develop a level of rapport with the reader at the beginning once you have hired or selected them as a volunteer.
  • Try to gain an understanding of what motivates your reader to the process of being a reader, so that you are sure their needs are being met, especially with a volunteer reader.
  • Some reader's schedules will not match with yours. Provide them with a print copy of the book, a tape recorder, and the syllabus and indicate how many days ahead of the syllabus date you need the tape version to allow yourself time to read the tape.
  • When selecting readers always have a practice reading session for you may find that some people do not read aloud very well.

Hired versus Volunteer Readers

Hired readers offer:

  • More control over becoming sidetracked from the reading assignments for you can remind the reader that the meter is running for their reader fee.
  • Choice of releasing a reader if they are not working out or making scheduled appointments.
  • With hired readers the motivation may be clearer, versus volunteer readers.


The following will provide a series of questions and checklists that will address equipment, skills, and abilities that need to be considered when obtaining computer access equipment.

The primary point to remember is: Technology does not replace basic skills. It can only enhance those basic skills.

General Questions

  • What does the user need?
  • What tasks will be performed?
  • Why does the user want it?
  • Does the user have the skills to use the device?
  • What are the warranty/repair/extended service terms and costs? (on site/off site).
  • Is the documentation in an accessible form? Is telephone help available? Is there on line help?
  • Is there training available?
  • What is the standard package?
  • What accessories/additions are available?
  • What is the upgrade policy (free vs. fee)? Will you get notification about upgrades? Send in your REGISTRATION card!!
  • Can you get a list of present users to contact for information on utility and reliability?
  • Does the vendor install the equipment?

Basic Skills for a Low Vision Student

  • 30 wpm. minimum typing speed before equipment is provided for students with the capability of typing with both hands.
  • Received a current low vision evaluation to insure that the student is operating with the most current information about the functional level of their vision and have the best reading aids.
  • Has the student received adequate training with any low vision devices that have been prescribed?
  • Method of taking notes in a non-electronic means. This can be a tape recorder, only if they are planning on transcribing them into large print for easier retrieval then playing with a fast forward and rewind control of a tape recorder.
  • A large print technology assessment should be conducted before acquiring an access program. (There should be at least two different large print programs shown to the student).

Basic Skill for a Blind Student

  • 30 wpm. minimum typing speed before equipment is provided for students with the capability of typing with both hands.
  • Method of taking notes in a non-electronic means. This can be a tape recorder, only if they are planning on transcribing them into braille or disk for easier retrieval then playing with a fast forward and rewind control of a tape recorder.
  • A Speech and braille technology assessment should be conducted before acquiring an access program. (There should be at least two different speech synthesizers and speech programs shown to the student before a decision is made.)
  • The additional decision to be made is whether or not braille will supplement the speech or vise versa, if it is indicated that the student learns both tactually and auditorilly.

Word Processing Skills

The following are suggested skills that an individual can perform with confidence prior to beginning a higher level of education. These are basic word processing skills that will serve as a good solid foundation for producing most assignments and papers. (These may be tailored to suit the type of assignments that a student will be expected to produce based on the curriculum the student is participating.)

  • Write text in the file.
  • Review text with the cursor movement keys.
  • Save a file through the quick save feature.
  • Retrieve files through the "load a file" feature.
  • Retrieve a file through the "list files" feature.
  • Insert text at the cursor.
  • Use the "typeover" mode for correcting single character errors.
  • Demonstrates a knowledge of the differences between insert and typeover modes.
  • Delete current characters.
  • Back space over previous characters.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of when to use the delete versus back space features.
  • Underline, bold, and center text.
  • Search for text.
  • Operate the spell checking portion of the program.
  • Print a document.
  • Use the "help" screens.
  • Use the manual.
  • Block text.
  • Delete, copy, and move blocks of text.
  • Copy and delete files.
  • Operate the thesaurus.
  • Set and change the margins and tabs.
  • Set and change the colors on the screen (this is necessary if speech access system is looking for certain colors).
  • Search for and replace text.

Question about Laptop Computers

  • How much does it weigh?
  • What is the estimated battery life?
  • Does it have a user replaceable battery pack? Cost?
  • What is the CPU type and speed?
  • How many and what configuration are the cursor movement keys?
  • What is the diagonal measurement of the screen?
  • What is the hard disk size?
  • What type of display is available?
  • How much memory is installed (system and battery backed)? Can the memory be expanded?
  • What ports are available?
  • What synthesizers are available for the machine?
  • What extras (mouse, carrying case, modem, etc.) are available?
  • What warning beeps are available? (close cover, low battery).
  • What power saving settings are available?
  • How good are the student's/consumer's mobility skills?

Laptops: Possible Advantages

  • Portable.
  • All materials are available because they are all in one location, on a single hard drive, or floppies, data base, spread sheet, word processor, and telecommunication.

Laptops: Possible Disadvantages

  • When reviewing the weight of a lap-top computer, include the power adaptor, extra batteries, and the floppy disks that might be carried along, as well as the speech synthesizer, its cables, and power adaptor.
  • Maximum battery life, three hours. (Always needs power source as a backup).
  • Does the student have a medical condition that will prevent him/her from carrying a maximum weight of ten or fewer pounds, such as retinal problems.
  • Remember: It is not IF the hard drive crashes, but rather WHEN! All hard disk drives crash, sooner or later.
  • If you only have a lap-top and the hard disk crashes then you have lost all your information that is not backed up onto floppy disks.

Questions Screen Readers

The following questions will begin the process of thinking about the minimum requirements that a speech access program for Windows will need to possess to have beginners success with Windows.

  • Is there speech available while installing the Windows access version? Does it track the traditional cursor or a different one while in the installation process.
  • It will be important to learn the vocabulary that a sighted person might use for teaching the program.
  • Do you need two different speech programs, one for DOS and one for Windows?
  • What level of training comes with the purchase of the Windows access software?
  • Will the synthesizer you have be compatible with the Windows access version that you want to use?
  • Can the level of punctuation be controlled separately for the keyboard input versus the screen output?
  • Does your computer meet the minimum requirements for Windows and for the Windows access program you have chosen to use? Do not assume that because you like the DOS version of software that you will automatically like the Windows version or that it will give information in the way that you learn best.
  • It is helpful to understand how you learn. Do you want a great deal of detail information and then sort out as you go, or do you want the screen review package to make some decisions for you?
  • Can you set, save, and retrieve speech settings? Can you control the key echoing options (characters, words, silent)?
  • Is there a system for labeling icons with minimum or no assistance.


Whether a student uses a cane or a dog guide, it is very imperative that they secure a working knowledge, mental map of the campus. This could be by way of self orientation or with the assistance of a friend, family member or mobility instructor.

Either use the actual schedule, if that information is available, or make a mock schedule using the buildings that the classes are generally held.

  • Learn the numbering systems of the buildings.
  • Establish known landmarks that a sighted student would relate to should you become disoriented.
  • Be sure to attempt the newly acquired route when there is a summer session in progress, to get the sense of how the route will be during the passing periods.
  • Learn the essential elements of the campus during the summer and add details/new areas as the semester(s) progresses.

Cane or Dog Guide

Many wish to have advantages and disadvantages listed between cane and dog guide. That is not the issue, it is a choice that a person makes. Similar to the sighted person who chooses to drive a truck instead of a car. Which system of mobility is a person the most comfortable with?

  • Good travel skills, intersection analysis, awareness of basic orientation methods and general decision making and problem solving skills make working with a dog much easier.
  • The ideal situation when returning with your dog guide to the home environment is that the dog guide user is familiar with the local area so that the new dog guide user can direct his/her dog with confidence and awareness. This familiarity makes the transition from dog guide school to home environment easier. Thus allowing the person and dog to become a smoother team.

Characteristics of an Applicant to THE SEEING EYE, INC.

  • Good health, such that the person could walk between two and three miles through the COURSE of a day. It does not have to be at a fast speed, rather a steady pace that is comfortable to the individual.
  • Limited residual vision such that it will not interfere with the dog's performance of his/her duties. In short, be able to learn to know when to use the remaining vision to supplement with the information you receive from the dog, not let the dog supplement your vision. (We do assist individuals with this training).
  • A person with a hearing impairment may be considered for instruction if they can accurately auditorilly assess traffic movement through an intersection.
    • Note that the above two items did not specify acuity or decibel levels. The Seeing Eye believes in basing each person on their own merits, not creating categories then trying to make people fit those groupings. We are much more interested in the individual and their respective skills.
  • Mental stability such that the person will be able to provide the dog with accurate and consistent command structure and can implement the training techniques taught during the instructional class at The Seeing Eye.
  • Emotional and maturity level such that the student will be able to provide the dog with the proper amount of affection and discipline to guarantee consistent behavior from the dog.

Other Resources

Hadley School for the Blind offers four classes with a fifth on the way for the student needing to prepare himself/herself for college.

Self-Determination Units and Lessons

Use this with Strategies for Communicating with Others about Access, Self-Determination Lesson 13: Creating a Product to Communicate Visual Strategies/Tools with Teachers

Monocular or telescope- I use this for reading and copying from the board, watching assemblies, looking at things that are more than 8 feet away from me (e.g., a ball game, signs across the road, overhead menus). Sometimes I use it to see things in a middle range (3-5 ft.) such as items on a store’s top shelf.

Magnifier- for reading smaller print on school handouts, in textbooks, on food packages, etc.

Reading glasses- for reading longer sections of text where my hands are free to hold the material. These may be called microscope glasses or high ADD glasses.

Corrective Lenses (glasses)- may be prescribed for some students to correct additional refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, and/or astigmatism. Some lenses are transitional, or change tint to reduce light. Not all students benefit from corrective lenses.

Sunglasses- protect the eyes from excessive light and harmful UV rays. Some students wear these indoors, but most will likely wear them outside.   

Audio App for iDevices or computer- This app allows me to listen to audible textbooks that I get from agencies such as Learning Ally or Bookshare.

ZoomText- screen enlarging software installed on a computer to increase the image size of what’s shown on the screen.

JAWS- screen reading software installed on a computer to help access documents or websites (this program will read aloud what is shown on the screen).

TI Graphing Calculator View Screen- This enlarges the readout on my graphing calculator.

Tablet (e.g. iPad)- This lets me download assignments so I can change print size, take a snapshot of something at a distance and then enlarge it, take notes in class, complete written assignments, and send these back to teachers, and/or load auditory books.  

Portable video magnifier- This has a built-in camera and lets me adjust both font and contrast in print material.  It’s good for spot viewing but not for lengthy assignments. Some models can freeze an image and let me store it such as a business card or information on a food package.

Portable video magnifier and distance viewer- This has a screen, a camera, and a materials tray. The camera swivels so I can view the board, or I can use it with books and other print materials. Some models can hook up to a laptop.

Braille notetaker– This is a portable device with a braille keyboard for entering information. It has a speech synthesizer or braille display for output. I can enter information on the braille keyboard and have the option of transferring it to a larger computer with more memory, reviewing it using the built in speech synthesizer or braille display, or printing it on a braille or inkprint printer.

Perkins brailler– This is like a braille typewriter.

Cranmer abacus- This is a calculation tool I use in math classes.

  1. Name:
  2. Date:
  3. Information on My Etiology
  4. Access to Distance Tasks in School Settings
    1. Examples of tasks:
    2. Strategies and tools I use to accomplish these:
    3. My challenges:
  5. Access to Near and Medial Tasks in School Settings
    1. Examples of tasks:
    2. Strategies and tools I use to accomplish these:
    3. My challenges:
  6. Access to Distance Tasks in Community Settings
    1. Examples of tasks:
    2. Strategies and tools I use to accomplish these:
    3. My challenges:
  7. Access to Near and Medial Tasks in Community Settings
    1. Examples of tasks:
    2. Strategies and tools I used to accomplish these:
    3. My challenges:
  8. Access to Near and Medial Tasks at Home
    1. Examples of tasks:
    2. Strategies and tools I used to accomplish these:
    3. My challenges: