Veronica With Four Eyes

Choosing A Tutor For Low Vision Students

When I was in high school, I had a few teachers who had difficulty with following my IEP and disability accommodations, which would often lead to me receiving low grades on assignments/tests and getting behind on the material. One of the strategies my family to help me with learning the material and getting caught up was to hire paid private tutoring services and to utilize other types of tutoring that was made available for students. Here are my tips for choosing a tutor for low vision students and how to determine if a tutor will be a good fit for a student with vision loss.

In-person vs virtual tutoring services- which is better?

I’ve used a mix of in-person and virtual tutoring services as a student with low vision, though when I was in high school I primarily used in-person services. Some of the reasons I chose to use in-person person services include:

  • A lot of my assignments were given to me in physical formats, not digital
  • At the time, my assistive technology skills were more limited and I had difficulty with using accessibility features in remote meetings/video calls
  • I felt more comfortable bringing my laptop and course materials to another location because it was easier for me to be in “school mode” and focus
  • My parents were able to drive me to private tutors that were located nearby, so I didn’t have to think about transportation or scheduling (a privilege that not all students have!)

When I got to college, I often would gravitate towards using virtual or remote tutoring services when I had trouble understanding materials or if I missed class due to illness. Some of the reasons I would choose to use virtual tutoring services include:

  • All of my assignments were provided in digital formats, so it was easier to share what I was working on with the tutor
  • My college classes often featured highly specialized subjects or topics, and there were many cases where local tutors were not available, especially for less common programming languages
  • By the time I got to college, my assistive technology skills had improved a lot and I felt comfortable being on video calls, screensharing, using digital tools to enlarge my assignments, etc
  • I often had trouble getting to in-person tutoring hours and virtual services offered additional flexibility

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When possible, hire a tutor from the school/school district

When I attended my first high school, my family and I used a private tutoring business that partnered with teachers that worked in the school district, which meant that they were familiar with the curriculum, textbooks, and other in-classroom resources. When I had tutors that worked in the same school that I attended, they also could sometimes get materials directly from my teacher and talk to them about my progress when necessary, which was especially helpful when I was behind as a result of not getting accessible materials.

Another additional benefit of having a tutor that worked in the same school that I attended was that one of my tutors was able to attend an IEP meeting and talk about the progress I had been making in my class. This was especially valuable when dealing with repeated IEP violations, as the teacher had claimed I was failing assignments because I didn’t understand them, not because I couldn’t see them. Towards the end of the school year, I was involved in a situation that led to me being removed from the classroom and spending the rest of the year in my tutor’s classroom where I would complete assignments that the teacher sent over.

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Talk to the tutor about using technology

Some tutors are more comfortable with using technology than others, inclusive of mainstream and specialized/assistive technology. Since I can’t read the small font on standard assignments or other math tools such as calculators, I looked for tutors that were familiar with using technology and adapting materials for student needs. For example, one of my science tutors taught me how to use an accessible periodic table app and a scientific calculator for completing assignments, which was helpful because my classroom teacher wasn’t familiar with these resources.

Other ways that my tutors would adapt materials for low vision include:

  • Connecting a computer to a larger screen monitor so it was easier for me to follow along
  • Using whiteboards with high-contrast markers instead of writing on a piece of paper or on a chalkboard
  • Typing out equations or information from the textbook- this was especially helpful when I did not have an accessible copy of the book in the classroom
  • Teaching me different ways to solve problems than what the teacher covered in class- these methods often took longer time-wise but would be easier for me to follow with low vision/dysgraphia

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Can the tutor serve as a proctor?

There were a few instances in school where my teachers didn’t provide me with accessible quizzes or tests- in one memorable instance, my teacher had trouble converting a pop quiz to an acccessible format and I scored a 5/100 because I could only see one question. After talking with my teacher and tutor, I received permission to have the tutor proctor a retake of the quiz later that day. The tutor converted the quiz into a large print format for me, since the teacher said they had no time to do so. I scored a 95/100 on this large print quiz, and the teacher updated my grade accordingly.

Even though my family had to pay to have the tutor serve as a proctor and convert my assignment into an accessible format, I am very grateful that they were able to help and that I could take my quiz in a format that I could read.

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How to find tutoring services for low vision students

In-person tutoring services

  • Local tutoring organizations can be found online, or schools may be able to refer students to outside resources
  • Parents can contact a local college/university to inquire about students and/or professors that may be available for tutoring services
  • At the college/university level, many Disability Services offices have a list of free or low-cost tutoring services available for students, including some services exclusive to students registered with Disability Services

Virtual tutoring services

  • National Homework Hotline (NHH) provides free tutoring for grades 3-12 and college for students who are blind/low vision, with a specific focus on using assistive technology tools to complete assignments
  • BrainFuse is a free online tutoring service available through select libraries and allows users to access hourlong virtual help sessions
  • Chegg online tutoring is a paid service primarily for college students and covers a wide array of subjects- I have used them for programming/coding classes
  • TakeLessons from Microsoft has many resources for paid tutoring across a variety of subjects, with options for individual tutoring and group classes

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Other tips for choosing a tutor for low vision students

  • Tutors can be invited to IEP meetings and other disability accommodations meetings to talk about a student’s progress in a given subject area- this was especially helpful when there were conversations about moving me to a different class
  • When using tutoring services in college, I would often bring a copy of my assignment or whatever I was working on printed in standard print so that my tutor could follow along on their own copy
  • Students should bring the assistive technology devices they use in the classroom to tutoring sessions when possible, as it helps them to practice consistent use of their technology

Choosing A Tutor For Low Vision Students. Tips for choosing a tutoring service for students with low vision or other print disabilities, and how my tutors helped me deal with IEP violations