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Visual Impairment (VI)

Visual impairment, sometimes called low vision can be defined as a condition which cannot be corrected and made ‘normal’ by using spectacles. Refractive errors can usually be fully corrected.


A person visually impaired can be Sight Impaired (partially sighted) or Severely Sight Impaired (blind).

Generally Speaking

Most visually impaired people have some sight.

Severe visual impairment in children is rare.

Two people with the same level of sight may function in different ways. One learner may be keen to use her or his vision and display good skills where as another may not.


Visual impairment can mean for example,

  • Loss of central vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • A variety of gaps in vision
  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Night blindness i.e. a loss of sight when it’s dark.

Observations Suggesting a Visual Impairment

  • Movement of head rather than eye when reading
  • An unusually short or long working distance
  • Poor posture at the desk e.g. sitting awkwardly or in a bent or twisted position
  • An unusual sideways gaze when concentrating on visual task
  • Frowning or facial grimaces
  • Complaints of dizziness, headaches or general eye discomfort
  • Clumsy movements, bumping into objects at the side or at the feet
  • Moving down steps very cautiously
  • Fear of heights
  • Stumbling over or bumping into objects
  • Poor balance
  • Reluctance to join in playground activities
  • Not answering to questions or commands without being addressed by name – often mistaken for rude or uncooperative behaviour
  • Turning head to use one eye only or covering one eye
  • Tensing the body when reading or when viewing a distant object

Wider Context

A severe visual impairment cannot be seen in isolation from the emotional, social and psychological impact it has upon the individual and family as a whole.

Eye defects must be considered within the whole context of visual functioning and its impact upon the process of learning.

Visual functioning is primarily developmental. The more visual experience the learner has the more the pathways to the brain are stimulated and the greater the accumulation of a variety of visual images and memories. Vision can therefore be improved with visual training when a greater number of images is placed in the memory.

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