What is a Teacher of the Visually Impaired?
A Teacher of the Visually Impaired (vision teacher, TVI, VI specialist, etc.) is a licensed special education teacher with specialized training and expertise on how visual impairments affect child development and learning.
The vision teacher has extensive knowledge of strategies and tools that help children with visual impairments learn about the world around them, perform daily living skills, and participate in the general education curriculum and extracurricular activities.
The specific responsibilities of the vision teacher may vary depending on the child’s unique needs and age, as well as the various State and District programs.
What does a Teacher of the Visually Impaired do?
The vision teacher is typically the central figure of the educational team for a child with a visual impairment.
The educational team consists of the parents, the student (if age appropriate), general education teachers, administrators, and other service providers. The team develops an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) if the child is younger than 3 years old.
Special education services provided by the vision teacher can be direct and/or consultative depending on the unique needs of each specific child and the decisions of the IEP team.
The role of the vision teacher may include some or all, of the following:
- Interpret medical reports to determine eligibility and the impact of the visual impairment. The vision teacher must have the skills and training to understand and explain medical eye reports and determine the implications for home and educational settings.
- Conduct specialized assessments to determine the child’s abilities and needs. The vision teacher will typically conduct a Functional Vision Assessment (FVA), Learning Media Assessment (LMA), and Expanded Core Competencies Assessment (ECC). The child might also be referred to an Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M).
- Make recommendations to the IEP team for accommodations to assist learning. A child with a visual impairment may need a preferred seat in the classroom, extended time on assignments, and/or frequent breaks.
- Provide specialized instruction in the Expanded Core Competencies (ECC). The ECC contains nine areas of specific skills a child may need to learn because of their visual impairment. Not all students will have needs in all areas of the ECC. The nine skill areas include, Assistive Technology, Compensatory, Functional and Communication Skills, Career, Sensory Efficiency, Social, Orientation and Mobility, Independent Living, Recreation and Leisure, and Self-Determination.
- Attend trainings to further their education as a teacher of students with visual impairments. All teachers attend continuing education courses to keep up-to-date with new methods, strategies, technology, etc.
- Consult with family members and classroom teachers to discuss the progress of the student and identify strategies to make school work accessible. The vision teacher relies on ongoing communication to make sure the student is included to the greatest extent possible in all activities.
- Prepare educational materials in an accessible format for each child. The vision teacher must obtain textbooks, worksheets, examinations, and other learning materials from the classroom teacher and provide an accessible format such as braille, large print, audio, or electronic.
- Consult with teachers, paraeducators, and other school personnel on effective strategies to teach students with visual impairments.
- Advocate for the students needs. The vision teacher is the expert on development and learning for children with visual impairments and must advocate for the best interest of the student.
The main goal of the vision teacher is to work together with caregivers, classroom teachers, and other service providers to create an environment that fosters independence, promote academic success, and prepare the student to be a productive member of society.
What is the certification process?
Each state has various criteria for certification and licensure, but most states require at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
A standard teacher’s certificate will not provide the knowledge and skills necessary to teach children with visual impairments.
It is necessary to take coursework centered around the specific skills of visually impaired education.
Once coursework and student-teaching internships are completed, a comprehensive state test assessing the teacher’s abilities must be passed.
The following is a list of universities that provide courses in education and rehabilitation of people who are visually impaired.
- California State University
- Dominican College of Blauvelt
- Florida State University
- George Mason University
- Hunter College of the City University of New York
- Illinois State University
- Indiana State University
- Kutztown University
- Louisiana Tech University (course catalog)
- Mississippi State University
- Missouri State University
- New Mexico State University
- North Carolina Central University
- Northeastern State University
- Northern Illinois University
- Ohio State University
- Portland State University
- Salus University
- San Francisco State University
- Shawnee State University
- Stephen F. Austin State University
- Texas Tech University
- The College of New Jersey
- University of Alabama at Birmingham
- University of Arizona
- University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- University of Kentucky
- University of Massachusetts – Boston
- University of Nebraska – Lincoln
- University of Northern Colorado
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of South Carolina Spartanburg
- University of South Carolina Upstate
- Vanderbilt Peabody College
- Western Michigan University
There is a critical need for Teachers of the Visually Impaired in the United States.