When I took algebra, my teacher had a classroom that was filled with a lot of bright lights and glare-inducing items, which was difficult for me as a student with low vision and photophobia/light sensitivity. I know that the teacher had not designed the classroom with the intention of making it difficult for me to read items, but I remembered it many years later when I was asked to help reduce glare in another classroom for a student with low vision and to find ways to make things less bright/reflective. Here are my tips for how to reduce glare in the classroom for low vision students that can be used by classroom teachers, as well as some strategies that can be used in the home environment.
Spray posters with clear acrylic matte coating
One of the biggest game-changers for reducing glare in the classroom was to spray all of the laminated posters with clear acrylic matte coating spray so that it was easier to read information and not have light reflect off the surface. This can be purchased at a craft store or online, and I used a little less than half of a $10 bottle to spray all of the classroom decorations in an elementary school classroom.
- Krylon K01305 Gallery Series Artist and Clear Coatings Aerosol, 11-Ounce, Amazon
- How To Create Accessible Classroom Posters For Students With Visual Impairments
Consider light filters for fluorescent lights
I wear tinted glasses to help with photophobia/light sensitivity from fluorescent lights, as I would come home with intense eyestrain during middle school after having to spend the day surrounded by bright lights. Even though I was able to adapt to the lights, a friend’s parent who was also a teacher told me all about light filters for fluorescent lights, which helped a lot of their students with not feeling disoriented from the lights. Light filters come in multiple sizes and patterns and can be attached to the tops of lights without damaging them- I’ve also seen projects for light filters on DonorsChoose.
- How To Create A DonorsChoose Project For Visual Impairment
- How Tinted Glasses Help My Light Sensitivity
Put films on windows
Similar to the fluorescent light filters, translucent films can be added to windows to block out additional light or make a classroom darker, which can be helpful when the sun is shining in and reflecting off of a whiteboard. Room darkening shades are also an option that can help with blocking out light.
Use surface lighting with or without adjustable bulbs
In my room at home, I prefer to use lamps and other surface lighting instead of overhead lights because it is easier for me to adjust lighting and add additional task lighting as needed. My current lightbulbs can be adjusted with an app on my phone to change colors or brightness, though another option would be to use a lamp that can support adjustable brightness settings.
Provide optional acetate sheets
Acetate sheets can be placed on top of reading materials as a makeshift colored surface, which can help with reducing glare and making text easier to read. Since I prefer using off-white paper to reduce glare, this was a helpful solution for when I had to read items on white paper.
Add a screen tint for overhead projectors
Bright white lights on a projector can be tiring to look at, so I add a blue light filter or other screen tint when I am using an overhead projector, or invert colors using a simplified reading display like Microsoft Immersive Reader. Some of my teachers in high school would write on colored paper when writing items on the document camera so that it was easier to identify text.
Paint dry-erase boards a different color
For students that find bright white dry-erase boards to be difficult to read, one option is to paint the dry-erase board a different color. This can be the classroom dry-erase board or an individual dry-erase board, with multiple color options. Dry erase paint can be purchased at a home improvement store and comes in more limited colors, or users can purchase dry-erase paint coating from Sherwin Williams to turn any color painted wall into a dry-erase surface.
Reduce flashing lights in the classroom
Classrooms can have several unexpected sources of flashing and bright lights, and I put together a list of different sources that I have linked below. Aside from that post, I had to ask one of my teachers in high school to turn off twinkling Christmas lights that were hanging in their classroom, as they were disorienting for me- they switched the lights to a non-flashing mode instead.
- Flashing Lights and Photosensitivity in the Classroom
- Common Classroom Accommodations For Low Vision
- Decorating A Christmas Tree With Low Vision
Other ideas for reducing glare in the classroom
- When choosing a seat in class, I try to sit away from windows or other direct light sources, since bright lights can make things more difficult for me to see. I talk about this topic more in Preferential Seating and Low Vision
- Turn off the projector when it is not in use, and avoid sharing solid backgrounds with no other purpose
- Give students breaks to avoid eye strain and staring at screens for long periods of time
- Before turning the lights on, give students a verbal warning that the lights are going on/off- this was really helpful for me and I would talk to my professors about this with the tips in How I Talk To Professors About Photosensitivity
- Want to learn more about my tinted glasses? Read Veronica’s Four Eyes: All About My Glasses For Low Vision