Blind / Partially Sighted

  1. Definition

    Disorders in the function of the eye as manifested by at least one of the following:

    • visual acuity of 20-200 – the legally blind person can see at 20 feet what the average-sighted person can see at 200 feet
    • low vision – limited or diminished vision that cannot be corrected with standard lenses
    • partial sight – the field of vision is impaired because of illness, a degenerative syndrome, or trauma

    Background Information

    Some students may use aids such as guide dogs or white canes.  These dogs are highly trained for the work that they do and are well disciplined in group settings.  They are at work and should not be petted.  White canes are another mobility aid and are distinctive in their white coloring to be noted as such for the seeing population.

    The following terms are used in an educational context to describe students with visual disabilities:

    • “Totally blind” students learn via Braille or other non-visual media
    • “Legally blind” indicates that a student has less than 20/200 vision in the more functional eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at its widest point).
    • “Low vision” refers to severe vision loss in distance and near vision.  Students use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, and they may require adaptations in lighting or print size, and in some cases, Braille.
  2. Possible Accommodations

    Classroom Environment

    • Appropriate seating
      Make sure that the student can see the board/screen.
      Allow the student to determine the most ideal seating location so he or she can see, hear, and, if possible, touch as much of the presented material as possible.
    • Classroom lay out
      Familiarize the student with the layout of the classroom or laboratory, noting the closest exits and locating emergency equipment.
    • Lighting
      Poor lighting makes it difficult for student to see materials.
    • Guide dogs
      They are trained and well disciplined in group settings.
    • Advance notice of class schedule and/or room change.


    • Allowing the use of a voice recorder in class
    • Be conscious that turning your head away can muffle sound and student may have a hard time hearing or understanding you
    • Verbal descriptions of class activity, such as when a show of hands is requested, state how many hands are raised
    • Nonverbal cues depend on good visual acuity – verbally acknowledging key points in the conversation facilitates the communication process.


    Visual disability varies greatly. Most people that are legally blind have some vision. Others who have low vision may rely of residual vision with the use of adaptive equipment. People who are totally blind may have visual memory, its strength depending on the age when vision was lost.

    Whatever the degree of impairment, students who are visually impaired should be expected to participate fully in classroom activities such as discussions and group work. To record notes, some use such devices as laptop computers or computerized braillers. They may confront limitations in laboratory classes and internships, but with planning and adaptive equipment, their difficulties can be minimized.


    • Reading list or syllabi available in advance to allow time for arrangements for alternative formats, i.e. Braille, large print, tape.
    • Texts in alternate format (electronic, CD, large print, or audio).
    • Use of black print on white or pale yellow paper to allow for maximum contract for class handouts.
    • Videos with audio descriptions.
    • Raised line drawings and tactile models of graphic materials.

    In class work/ homework

    • Class assignments available in electronic format to allow access by computers equipped with voice synthesizers or Braille output devices.
    • Accompany any visual aids, diagrams, films, videos and handouts that you might use in class with written and verbal descriptions.
    • Allow for deadline flexibility for assignments for document conversion and processing.


    • A lab assistant who can attend to the student when needed.
    • Adaptive lap equipment (e.g. talking thermometers and calculators, light probes, and tactile timers).
    • Assist the student in labeling lab materials so that they are easily identifiable.


    • Alternative test formats such as taped, large print, or Braille.
    • Use of readers, scribes, tape-recorded responses, extended time, adapted computer, or closed circuit TV.
    • Extra time to complete tests, especially when adaptive technology or a reader/scribe is required.


    • If needed, identify yourself at the beginning of the conversation and notify the student when you are exiting the room.
    • When giving directions, be clear. Say “left” or “right,” “step up” or “step down.” Let the student know where obstacles are; for example, “the chair is on your left” or “the stairs start in about three steps.”
    • When guiding or walking with a student, verbally offer your elbow instead of grabbing his or hers.
    • Discuss special needs for field trips or other out-of-class activities well in advance.

    Equipment available at Raynor Library to assist blind / partially sighted students at Marquette:

    Kurzweil 1000 and 3000 software systems
    Cassette recorders and CD player
    Reading Edge

*For more information please visit our Assistive Technology page.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Office of Disability Services


Our Mission

Marquette University's Office of Disability Services is dedicated to providing equal access within the classroom setting, through the determination of appropriate accommodations, for students with documented disabilities. ODS promotes accessibility awareness through collaboration with campus partners, the development of student self-advocacy, and through consultation with the broader community. Guided by the university's mission, we strive to support the Marquette community in their efforts to educate all students on campus.