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Special Education Teacher of the Visually Impaired
What qualifies as a visual impairment?
What are the different types of special education teachers?
How does blindness affect learning?
How do you help a child with visual impairment?
What are the two types of visual impairment?
What are the 13 categories of special education?
What are the top 5 learning disabilities?
What are the top 10 disabilities?
What is the difference between learning difficulty and learning disability?
How much does a teacher of the visually impaired make?
How do you teach students with visual impairments?
Why are VI teachers important?
What are the duties and responsibilities of this job?
Special Education Teacher of the Visually Impaired
What qualifies as a visual impairment?
Visual impairment, also known as vision impairment or vision loss, is a decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses. ... Visual impairment is often defined as a best corrected visual acuity of worse than either 20/40 or 20/60.

What are the different types of special education teachers?
Special Education Teachers
Early/Pre-K to 12.
High-incidence disabilities: Resource and/or Inclusion.
Low-incidence disabilities: Sensory, Developmental, and /or Multiple/ Severe Disabilities.
Teacher/Specialist: Emotional or Behavioral Disorders.
Teacher/Specialist: Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Occupational Therapist.

How does blindness affect learning?
Impact of Vision Impairment and Blindness

The learning processes of students with vision impairment may be affected in the following ways: ... Braille readers cannot skim read and may take up to three times as long as other students to read a text. Students with some vision may be large-print readers.

How do you help a child with visual impairment?
Attend social groups or weekend activity breaks
There are activity breaks that have been designed for families of visually impaired children and it's a great way for children and young people to meet others who can relate to their story and experiences.

What are the two types of visual impairment?
Low visual acuity and blindness are two types of visual impairments. What's considered as legal blindness varies from state to state. Causes of vision impairments include diabetic retinopathy, eye injuries, and cataracts.

What are the 13 categories of special education?
To be covered, a child's school performance must be “adversely affected” by a disability in one of the 13 categories below.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide and to eligible students. But not every child who struggles in school qualifies. To be covered, a child’s school performance must be “adversely affected” by a disability in one of the 13 categories below.

1. Specific learning disability (SLD)
2. Other health impairment
3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
4. Emotional disturbance
5. Speech or language impairment
6. Visual impairment, including blindness
7. Deafness
8. Hearing impairment
9. Deaf-blindness
10. Orthopedic impairment
11. Intellectual disability
12. Traumatic brain injury
13. Multiple disabilities

1. Specific learning disability (SLD)
The umbrella term “SLD” covers a specific group of learning challenges. These conditions affect a child’s ability to read, write, listen, speak, reason, or do math. Here’s what could fall in this category:

Auditory processing disorder
Nonverbal learning disability

SLD is the most common category under IDEA. In 2018, 34 percent of students who qualified did so under this category.

2. Other health impairment
The umbrella term “other health impairment” covers conditions that limit a child’s strength, energy, or alertness. One example is ADHD, which impacts attention and executive function.

3. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
ASD is a developmental disability. It covers a wide range of symptoms, but it mainly affects a child’s social and communication skills. It can also impact behavior.

4. Emotional disturbance
Various mental health issues can fall under the “emotional disturbance” category. They may include anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. (Some of these may also be covered under “other health impairment.”)

5. Speech or language impairment
This category covers difficulties with speech or language. A common example is stuttering. Other examples are trouble pronouncing words or making sounds with the voice. It also covers language problems that make it hard for kids to understand words or express themselves.

6. Visual impairment, including blindness
A child who has eyesight problems is considered to have a visual impairment. This category includes both partial sight and blindness. If eyewear can correct a vision problem, then it doesn’t qualify.

7. Deafness
Kids with a diagnosis of deafness fall under this category. These are kids who can’t hear most or all sounds, even with a hearing aid.

8. Hearing impairment
The term “hearing impairment” refers to a hearing loss not covered by the definition of deafness. This type of loss can change over time. Being hard of hearing is not the same thing as having trouble with auditory or language processing.

9. Deaf-blindness
Kids with a diagnosis of deaf-blindness have both severe hearing and vision loss. Their communication and other needs are so unique that programs for just the deaf or blind can’t meet them.

10. Orthopedic impairment An orthopedic impairment is when kids lack function or ability in their bodies. An example is cerebral palsy. 11. Intellectual disability
Kids with this type of disability have below-average intellectual ability. They may also have poor communication, self-care, and social skills. Down syndrome is one example of an intellectual disability.

12. Traumatic brain injury
This is a brain injury caused by an accident or some kind of physical force.

13. Multiple disabilities
A child with multiple disabilities has more than one condition covered by IDEA. Having multiple issues creates educational needs that can’t be met in a program designed for any one disability.

Learn how to find out if a child is eligible for special education. When kids are found eligible, the next step will be to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP). For kids who are in preschool or younger, you may want to learn about early intervention.

What are the top 5 learning disabilities?
Here are five of the most common learning disabilities in classrooms today.
Dyslexia. Dyslexia is perhaps the best known learning disability.
ADHD. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has affected more than 6.4 million children at some point.
Processing Deficits.

What are the top 10 disabilities?
Here are 10 of the most common conditions that are considered disabilities.
Arthritis and other musculoskeletal problems.
Heart disease.
Lung or respiratory problems.
Mental illness, including depression.
Nervous system disorders.

What is the difference between learning difficulty and learning disability?
The difference between a learning difficulty and learning disability. ... As described above, a learning difficulty does not affect general intelligence, whereas a learning disability is linked to an overall cognitive impairment. Some examples of specific learning difficulties are: dyspraxia.

How much does a teacher of the visually impaired make?
Teachers of the blind and visually impaired can expect to make between $30,000 and $65,000, depending on where they teach.

How do you teach students with visual impairments?
Always use names. Always use a visually impaired student's first name when addressing them.
It's okay to use words that reference sight.
Don't gesture, always verbalize.
Avoid asking if a student can see something.
Correct seating is crucial.
Contrast, contrast, contrast!
Follow the leader.
Be a confident sighted guide.

Why are VI teachers important?
The role of a TVI covers several aspects of a student’s educational journey. VI teachers work with students so they can learn to read and write braille. They also can give visual assessments, have input on the Individual Education Plan (IEP), communicate with other teachers, and work on strategies to improve academic and social outcomes.

Letter cubes that spell "education" on a desk with books in the background Why is teaching braille important?

Literacy is important. Without it, you probably would not be reading this right now. Reading and writing braille is literacy for students who have a visual impairment. Schools wouldn’t stop teaching sighted students how to read and write, so why are they not teaching literacy to students with visual impairments?

What about audio and dictation technology? In most cases, teachers use audio and dictation when a student cannot read or write braille. But, auditory learning is not literacy. Sighted students are not considered literate if they used audio and dictation and neither are students with visual impairments.

While assistive technology that utilizes audio and dictation are helpful tools for people with visual impairments, it is important to have a choice in how you consume your information. That is why many people with visual impairments like having the option; they get the best of both worlds. And, without TVIs, many people will not have a choice because they are unable to learn braille and become literate.

Make a difference for a student
Good Morning America aired a segment on the need for VI teachers to shine a light on the national shortage, why the services TVI’s provide are invaluable, and how, if TVI’s are not present, people with blindness and visual impairments are disqualified from being employed.

Students who can read and write proficiently have better outcomes financially and professionally than illiterate students. The same is true for students with visual impairment.

According to the American Printing House for the Blind’s 2017 Report, 22.3% of students with visual impairments dropped out of school and only 15.7% of students obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

What are the duties and responsibilities of this job?
Typical Roles and Responsibilities of VI Professionals

The Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) has the following roles and responsibilities:

Has primary responsibility for specialized instruction and services required to meet the unique educational needs of her visually impaired students.

Possesses the skills and abilities necessary to provide and coordinate this specialized instruction.

Assists the student, parents, special and regular education personnel, and the student's sighted peers in understanding the unique educational needs and learning characteristics of visually impaired students, becoming aware of services and support available from local programs for visually impaired students, acquiring information regarding local, state, and national resources for the education of visually impaired students, and interpreting the visually impaired student's specific eye condition, the educational implications of the visual impairment, and the results of functional vision and learning media assessments.

Consults regularly with the classroom teacher, other regular and special education personnel, parents, and others to coordinate programs and services for the visually impaired student.

Assists the site administrator and teachers in making environmental adjustments for the student in the school.

Shares responsibility with classroom teachers in the identification of instructional areas in which the student requires assistance.

Assures that large-type or braille texts, supplementary materials, educational, aids, and equipment needed by the visually impaired student, and the classroom teacher, are provided in a timely manner to ensure the student's maximum participation in all classroom activities (appropriate educational materials may be prepared or adapted by the VI teacher, or they may be obtained from educational, clerical, or transcriber services.)

Provides instruction in the development and maintenance of skills to meet the student's unique educational needs in the following areas, as indicated in the IEP:
low vision & visual efficiency skills,
concept development & academic skills,
daily living skills,
career & vocational education skills,
communication skills (these skills include braille reading and writing as appropriate), social/emotional skills and abilities, & sensory motor skills.

Prepares sequential and meaningful instruction geared to the student's assessed needs, IEP goals and objectives, functioning, and motivational levels. This instruction should be reflected in weekly or monthly lesson plans, as appropriate.

Provides assistance to the classroom teacher in academic subjects and activities of the classroom that, as a direct result of the student's visual impairment, require adaptation for the student.

Provides initial and ongoing assessment:
consults with assessment team to determine appropriate testing materials and modifications needed,
assists with assessments when needed,
interprets assessment results when needed.

Conducts functional vision/learning media assessments and produces written reports.

Attends ARD and IEP meetings for students with visual impairments.

Schedules time efficiently for assessment, instruction, planning, preparation of materials, travel, and conferences with relevant school and other key individuals.

Maintains ongoing contact with parents to assist them in the development of a realistic understanding of their child's abilities, progress, and future goals.

Provides in-service training programs for school personnel and students and education for parents regarding the needs of visually impaired students and adaptations, programs, and services for these students.

Makes available pamphlets, films, and other public information materials that may be useful in developing realistic and unprejudiced attitudes toward visually impaired students.

Coordinates with other personnel, such as transcribers, readers, counselors, O&M specialists, career/vocational education staff, and rehabilitation counselors.

Maintains a current reference library of professional materials and resources.

Acquires information and training about current research, development, and technology. The Classroom Teacher (regular, special class, or resource specialist has the following roles and responsibilities: Provides instruction in appropriate academic and non-academic content areas to the visually impaired student in the classroom.

Works cooperatively with the teacher of students with visual impairments to identify the student's areas of educational need, including unique education needs, coordinate instruction and services to meet these needs, provide, in a timely manner, classroom materials that need to be reproduced in another medium, determine mutually convenient times during the school day for scheduling the teacher of students with visual impairments to work with the student, modify classroom procedures and environment to meet the specific needs of the visually impaired student for participation in classroom activities, and exchange information concerning the visually impaired student with parents and other individuals on a regular basis.

The Orientation and Mobility Specialist has the following roles and responsibilities

Instructs the visually impaired student in the development of skills and knowledge that enables him or her to travel independently, based on assessed needs and ability. Teaches the visually impaired student to travel with proficiency, safety, and confidence in familiar and unfamiliar environments.

Consults regularly with sighted peers, parents, classroom teachers, physical education teachers, and/or other special education personnel to assist in home and classroom environmental modifications, adaptations, and considerations and to ensure reinforcement of appropriate O&M skills that will encourage the visually impaired student to travel independently in these settings.

Works with the teacher of students with visual impairments to conduct the functional vision assessment as it relates to independent travel.

Conducts assessments that focus on both long and short-term needs of the student. Includes in the assessment report the needs and strengths of the student and an estimate of the length and frequency of service necessary to meet identified needs.

Prepares sequential and meaningful instruction geared to the student's assessed needs, IEP goals and objectives, functioning, and motivational levels. This instruction should be reflected in weekly or monthly lesson plans, as appropriate.

Prepares and uses equipment and materials, for example, tactile maps, models, distance low vision devices, and long canes, for the development of O&M skills.

Transports the student with parent permission to various community locations, as necessary, to provide meaningful instruction in realistic learning environments.

Is responsible for the student's safety at all times and in all teaching environments while fostering maximum independence.

Evaluates the student's progress on an ongoing basis with progress reports each 6/9 weeks as required.

Keeps progress notes on each student.

Participates in necessary parent conferences and meetings.

Provides inservice training to regular and special education personnel, sighted peers, and parents concerning the O&M needs of the student and appropriate methods and procedures for interacting with the visually impaired person that will foster maximum independence and safety.

Provide O&M instruction, where appropriate, in a number of specific areas:
body imagery,
environmental concepts,
gross and fine motor skills related to independent travel,
sensory awareness, stimulation, and training,
spatial concepts,
compass direction concepts,
sighted guide procedures
basic protective and information-gathering techniques
orientation skills
map skills
cane skills,
use of residual vision
low vision devices related to travel skills
urban, suburban, and rural travel,
travel in business districts,
procedures for crossing streets including how to deal with traffic control signals,
use of public transportation systems,
procedures for use of the telephone for information gathering and for emergencies,
procedures for interacting with the public
knowledge and application of community address systems,
procedures for travel and independent functioning in places of public accommodation, skills of daily living,
sensory/motor skills in coordination with the physical or occupational therapist and teacher of students with visual impairments, and skills for independent living.

A Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (also called a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, a vision specialist, VI teacher, vision itinerant teacher, etc.) is typically a licensed special education teacher who has received certification and specialized training, in meeting the educational needs of students who are blind or have visual impairments ages birth through 21 (states vary on the criteria for certification as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments). This is an instructional position, as opposed to a related service or vision therapy.

The role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) is to provide direct and/or consultative special education services specific to vision loss. The TVI provides support to students, teachers, and parents and acts as a liaison with community services. The TVI works with the educational team by advising the team about ways of enhancing the student’s learning by adapting activities and materials to the student’s abilities. Although the TVI is not an academic tutor, they may spend some time ensuring that the student understands concepts introduced in academic courses. The TVI may help choose appropriate educational materials, and may brainstorm with teachers and therapists about effective adaptations. By working together, classroom teachers, therapists, and the TVI can create a classroom environment that encourages independence, academic success, and prepare the student to be the most productive member of society they can be. The following is a list of what to expect from the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.

Interpret Medical Reports

As part of determining a student's eligibility and the impact of the visual impairment, the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments will need to have the skills and training to read and interpret medical eye reports. The TVI will determine the implications thereof for educational and home environments.

Conduct Specialized Assessments and Make Recommendations

The TVI will conduct Functional Vision Assessments to determine how much usable vision a student has to perform visual tasks. This assessment is initially conducted to determine the need for services from a teacher of students with visual impairments and to determine appropriate goals and level of support needed. This evaluation is updated at a minimum, every three years to determine ongoing eligibility and need for school based vision services. The TVI may also recommend appropriate specialized evaluations as needed, particularly in low vision, orientation and mobility, and adaptive physical education. This evaluation is conducted even if the student has no usable vision.

Actively Participate in the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The TVI will need to communicate with the team members on how the student's performance may affect their school performance by providing information on the student's learning style, utilization of visual information, and other strengths unique to individual students who are visually impaired. The TVI will identify any goals and objectives in specialized areas related to the visual needs of the student. The TVI will also identify instructional methods and materials for meeting goals and objectives. Finally, the TVI will recommend appropriate service delivery options, including class placement, physical education, related services, specialized equipment, adaptations in testing procedures, and time frames for implementation. Consideration will be taken as to the current and future reading and writing media for the student with a visual impairment based on reading distance, reading rates and accuracy, portability of reading skills, visual fatigue, and tactual sensitivity.

Recommend Educational & Instructional Strategies

The TVI will assist in determining and procuring classroom equipment and materials necessary for the student with visual impairments to learn (brailler, low vision devices, assistive technology, computer) including ensuring necessary room modifications and lighting changes. The TVI will provide the classroom teacher with information regarding the specialized strategies needed to teach a student who is blind or visually impaired. The TVI will also assist in obtaining specialized materials, including procuring materials from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), providing braille, recorded/enlarged materials, and other needed materials.

Ongoing Observations

The TVI conducts ongoing observations of the student in a variety of familiar situations performing routine tasks or activities to assess how the student is using their vision. In doing this, the TVI can find out what motivates the student to look. The TVI will then use objects and activities similar to those that have been motivating in the past. It is also beneficial to get an understanding of how the student spends their time. What does the student do? How does the student play and with what? Where do they go? Who do they play or interact with? This is a process to identify the student’s existing (and desired) activity setting. These observations will assist the TVI in ensuring the goals and accommodations as well as level of service continue to be appropriate.

Use of Natural Environments to Address Goals

Teaching techniques to enhance vision should not be taught in isolation. It is important to look at what the needs and activities of the student are in school and in their everyday life that are affected by their visual performance, and teach to those tasks. If the family/teachers are interested in obtaining other objects for the student to play with, then the TVI can assist the family and/or teacher in obtaining such items.

The responsibility of the TVI is to support the student with what he/she has everyday access to, where he/she is, and sharing information that matches the student’s/families/classroom priorities (watching television, playing on the computer, playing with toys or games). These activities provide multiple learning opportunities. It is easy to take in a bag of toys, but more challenging and appropriate to explore existing toys that the student will have daily access to, for continued exposure/practice. Learning takes place at all times, so it is best to use what is available/accessible to give the student more practice in using existing skills and developing new abilities. “Toy bag treatment sessions” typically do not promote functional skill use and learning in natural settings.

Some skills are best addressed outside of the regular classroom to avoid visual and auditory distractions. The goal should be to learn the skills and then begin to transfer those skills during classroom activities.

Communication with Caregivers and Classroom Teachers

The TVI will want to have ongoing communication with the caregivers and classroom teachers in order to try to develop a better understanding of the student. An itinerant teacher will not have the same rapport with the student as they do not spend as much time with them. For that reason, it is helpful to talk with parents and classroom teachers who do have this rapport about how they feel the student is doing, if they are addressing the goals and how the student is functioning. The TVI may ask to observe the teacher working with the student to observe how the student is functioning within the normal routine and with familiar adults.

Direct Instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum

The TVI will determine which areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), a unique curriculum that addresses needs a student who is blind or visually impaired may have that are not addressed within the standard curriculum. Although not all students will have needs in all areas of the ECC, the areas of the ECC include: Compensatory, Functional and Communication Skills; Sensory Efficiency; Orientation & Mobility; Social; Independent Living; Recreation & Leisure; Use of Technology; Career & vocational; and Self Determination.

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Works with individual students or small groups of children who are visually impaired or blind, and multiple disabled, within our therapeutic classrooms in the Children’s Development Center, and with the children of the blended Preschool. Supports the outcomes of the Children with Vision disabilities. Works to develop Short Courses to provide greater opportunities for success among the student participants to access their education optimally. Works directly with the individuals who are our clients in Short Courses and consultatively with their educational teams to ensure growth.


Exercises primary leadership and responsibility for visual or alternate access and for educational presentation of learning material to the students with vision disability in the classrooms, recreation and training areas;
Explains visual aspects of care and presentation for individual children duties to teacher’s assistants and cooperates with staff to maintain classroom and training areas, as well as equipment;
Implements a therapeutic-educational program for the students who are visually impaired or blind, multiply-disabled students and for students in the preschool and short courses. Collaborates with therapists and other staff members in planning individual educational programs;
Plans specific activities and prepares a schedule of activities within the program objectives;
Maintains cooperative relationships with staff to achieve a strengthening of the total program;
Discusses program and specific activities with parents and significant others;
Performs diagnostic studies in collaboration with program consultants;
Presents specific agency services to community and professional groups as appropriate;
Maintains appropriate records and writes accurate and insightful reports on students;
Maintains an active interest and participates in the professional field at all levels; Participates in agency seminars and external training to meet continuing education requirements;
Performs administrative and other duties as assigned by Supervisor.


Bachelor's Degree from an accredited institution with a major as Teacher of the Visually Impaired
Illinois Professional Educator License as Teacher of the Visually Impaired required; Commitment to our mission of providing opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired is essential.
Commitment to creativity in addressing the needs of the underserved children with visual impairments in Chicago and surrounding communities.
Last Updated: August 14, 2020