Ten Important Websites for Educators and Parents of Students with Visual Impairment
Authors: Ann Adkins, Education Specialist, TSBVI Outreach Program
Keywords: websites, resources, materials, teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), certified orientation and mobility specialist (COMS), parents, educators
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Five Basic Websites on Visual Impairment That Everyone Should Know:
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
This website contains a wealth of information related to services for students with visual impairment, not just in Texas but throughout the United States. Other countries also reference the website on a regular basis. The school’s website provides information on services provided for residential students who reside on the campus in Austin, Texas, as well as the more than 10,000 Texas students with visual impairment who receive their education in their local school districts. The website’s home page provides links for Short Term Programs, the TSBVI Outreach Program, web-based learning and webinars, publications from the TSBVI Curriculum Department, and numerous other resources and articles related to services for students with visual impairment. Watch for new features as www.tsbvi.edu is updated this summer and throughout the year.
The Perkins “family” of websites, from the Perkins School for the Blind
The main website of the Perkins School for the Blind addresses needs of both teachers and parents of students with visual impairment. Perkins was the first school for the blind in the United States and continues to serve students on its campus in Watertown, MA. It also provides comprehensive information and resources through a variety of venues, links, and other sponsored websites, including:
- Perkins eLearning. This is Perkins’ online learning platform and has resources and professional development opportunities for teachers of students with visually impairment, including students with additional disabilities and/or DeafBlindness. It includes teaching and parenting resources, publications, and informational blogs and serves as an information clearinghouse on resources pertaining to blindness and visual impairment.
- Perkins Scout . A part of Perkins eLearning, Perkins Scout is a searchable database of carefully evaluated online resources related to blindness and visual impairment. The website mascot, a dog guide named Scout, helps retrieve the information, all of which has been reviewed by Perkins experts. Scout answers questions about visual impairment, has links for areas of the ECC, and includes information on various eye disorders, the anatomy of vision, support organizations, and vision simulation videos and activities. The link to “Ask Scout” is popular with both students and adults.
- Wonder Baby . Perkins WonderBaby website provides resources, information and support to parents and families raising children who are blind. Providing a voice for parents and family members, WonderBaby helps connect the families of students with visual impairment with other families, answers questions, and provides articles and information on a huge variety of topics related to raising a child with a visual impairment. Especially helpful is its information on specific eye conditions and the impact of a visual impairment on the development of young children.
- Paths to Technology is a new website from the Perkins School for the Blind, designed to assist educators and families in learning and staying current on ever-changing technology for students with visual impairment and blindness. It is designed to help answer questions from participants about specific types of technology. Students with visual impairment are common bloggers, sharing their issues and suggestions related to technology.
Paths to Literacy
A joint project between Perkins School for the Blind and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), this website seeks to assist both educators and families in the quest to provide literacy experiences for children who are blind or visually impaired. The information on this site ranges from a basic overview of literacy to various stages of development and special challenges, as well as an exploration of different media (print, braille, auditory strategies). This website is very interactive, including blogs, questions, and shared information from participants throughout the world.
American Printing House for the Blind
The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is the world’s largest nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are visually impaired. It is the official supplier of educational materials for visually impaired, school-age students in the U.S. and designs and manufactures textbooks and magazines in braille, large print, recorded, and digital formats. APH also manufactures hundreds of educational, recreational, and daily living products. One popular online service is the Louis Database at www.louis.aph.org, a free tool to help locate accessible books available from organizations across the US. As the world’s largest company devoted solely to researching, developing, and manufacturing products for people who are blind and visually impaired, APH is a valuable resource for educators and families.
American Foundation for the Blind
The mission of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is to “remove barriers, create solutions, and expand possibilities so people with vision loss can achieve their full potential.” With a very comprehensive website on all things related to visual impairment, AFB provides information for professionals and families, publishes books and periodicals (including the leading journal in our field, Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness), and has links to a whole “family” of sites: VisionAware (medical information and living with vision loss), the Braille Bug (a link with basic information on braille, suitable for children), AccessWorld (technology news for people who are blind or visually impaired), and an eLearning Center for professional development (“accessible, affordable, and authoritative webinars, courses, and continuing education credits” for TVIs and COMS). The website also has links to a variety of blogs for both educators and families and seeks to address the needs of people with visual impairment at all stages of life, “from infancy to education, career, and retirement.” Two specific parts of the AFB website, FamilyConnect and CareerConnect are described in greater detail below.
Five More Important Websites for Educators and Families:
FamilyConnect is an online, multimedia community created by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairment (NAPVI). This site gives parents of visually impaired children a place to support each other, share stories and concerns, and link to local resources. Family Connect also includes information that is helpful for teachers, including information on education, IEPs, etc.
CareerConnect was developed by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as an employment information resource. It is a free web-based service that provides information about job experience and technology and is available to people who are blind or visually impaired and their family members, teachers, counselors, rehabilitation professionals, and employers. It provides employment information, career exploration tools, and job seeking guidance for individuals with vision loss and the professionals who work with them. Probably the most exciting feature of this website is the ability to connect to people with visual impairment employed in a wide variety of occupations.
Strategy to See
Diane Sheline created this website to provide strategies, suggestions, and techniques to parents, caretakers, teachers, and others who “hope to encourage more consistent and efficient use of vision in children with Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment (C/CVI)”. Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment is now the leading cause of visual impairment in children in the western world, and Diane uses her website to provide information and materials to help “all those involved with the care of children with brain damage related vision loss, to learn methods and techniques which encourage efficient use of vision.” Her website includes materials, forms, teaching strategies, suggested products, and instructions for do-it-yourself projects to support students at all stages of CVI. Also included is information about the newest edition of her book, Strategy to See: Strategies for Students with Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment, as well as the presentations and trainings that Diane provides.
This is the website for LilliWorks Active Learning Foundation, the primary source of information on Active Learning (AL) and the sole source of Active Learning equipment authorized by Dr. Lilli Nielsen in North America. “Active Learning is an approach shown to reach learners with the most severe disabilities, including cerebral palsy, deaf blindness and developmental delay. LilliWorks is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the Active Learning principle that ‘Everyone Can Learn’”. Their mission is to provide education, equipment, research, and outreach as a way of promoting the principles of Active Learning. The website includes a link to a “companion” site, the Active Learning Space, created through a collaboration of the Penrickton Center for Blind Children, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Perkins School for the Blind to create and provide online resources based on the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen.
Blind Children’s Center
The Blind Children’s Center is a nonprofit organization in California that provides an array of support services for children who are blind or visually impaired. Their mission is to foster development and education for students, birth to second grade, and includes the publication of a variety of materials, many of which are available in both Spanish and English and are free for parents. Their books, videos, pamphlets, and diagnosis fact sheets, for both families and professionals, include topics in many of the areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum such as independent living skills, orientation and mobility, communication skills, recreation and leisure skills, social skills, etc.