Even though I was diagnosed with low vision around the age of three, I didn’t realize until I was in middle school that blindness and vision loss was a spectrum and not a binary- up until that point, I figured that anyone who used a blindness cane, wore tinted glasses, or had difficulty with reading standard print was “totally blind” or had no usable vision. Part of this is because a lot of educational resources for visual impairment that are targeted at kids only talk about blindness in the context of braille or having no usable vision, and don’t really talk about low vision, being partially sighted, or other types of assistive technology. Today I will be sharing some of my favorite websites that teach kids about low vision and assistive technology, and that cover more resources on the spectrum of sight loss.
It’s worth noting this post was written by a person with low vision who uses a blindness cane, wears tinted glasses, and has trouble reading standard print- the exact thing younger me didn’t think existed!
Pete The Cat’s Blindness Cane Tips
I was introduced to Pete the Cat when volunteering in a classroom, and I loved the book “Rocking in my School Shoes.” National Braille Press has posted a series of awesome web resources and extension activities on their website that are connected to the Pete the Cat books, including a kid-friendly list of tips for using a blindness cane that is also helpful for explaining how a child uses a blindness cane to navigate their classroom or other environments. There’s also a few tactile activities that are fun for kids of all sight levels, and a way to order Pete the Cat books in a braille/dual media format.
- Pete the Cat Activity Page – Great Expectations (nbp.org)
- Eight Cane Tips from Pete the Cat – Great Expectations (nbp.org)
- Make a Rocking Tactile School Map – Great Expectations (nbp.org)
American Printinghouse for the Blind’s FamilyConnect
FamilyConnect is a free resource from American Printinghouse for the Blind that has several resources on supporting blind/low vision kids and adapting activities that everyone can participate in. There are also resources for adults on how to answer questions about low vision, vision loss, and blindness, and resources for specific eye conditions. Several resources have also been translated into Spanish as well.
Not sure how to answer a question on vision loss or looking for state/local resources for visual impairment? APH also offers a free ConnectCenter hotline that can be accessed by phone or through Specialized Help in the Be My Eyes app, which will help answer questions and provide resources for callers.
- Home – FamilyConnect
- Home – ConnectCenter (aphconnectcenter.org)
- How I Use Be My Eyes With Low Vision
PBS and Assistive Technology
PBS has several resources for teaching kids about low vision and assistive technology:
- LearningMedia has a resource page with articles and videos about different types of assistive technology and people with disabilities targeted for grades 3-8
- NewsHour has a project for high school students about how to create assistive and adaptive devices for various disabilities
- Select PBS videos are available in accessible formats on DCMP (see next section)
- Previously, PBS Kids hosted an Arthur-themed activity called “You’ve Got Braille,” but this appears to have been removed from the PBS website
- Assistive Technology | PBS LearningMedia
- Lesson plan: Inventing assistive devices that give people their independence – PBS NewsHour Classroom
DCMP videos on assistive technology
The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) is a collaboration between the National Association of the Deaf and the United States Department of Education that gives educators access to a wealth of free-loan media that is made accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing with captioning and to the blind and visually impaired with audio description. Captions and audio description are available in English and some titles also have Spanish captions and audio description available. DCMP offers videos across several topics, including videos on using assistive technology and learning more about vision loss, hearing loss, and deafblindness, as well as accessible content from PBS.
Kids’ Quest: Vision Impairment
Kids’ Quest: Vision Impairment is an activity created by the Center for Disease Control that features several web links and resources for teaching kids about blindness and low vision, and adaptations for activities of daily living. Unlike a lot of the other resources on this page, Kids’ Quest also features resources on guide dogs and blind/low vision sports.
Speaking of guide dogs, another fun resource for teaching kids about puppy raising is the “puppy cams” hosted on Explore, which show off puppies that are being raised to be guide dogs. There are several other service dog cameras on Explore as well, though they are less for education purposes and more for looking at cute puppies.
Exploring Braille with Madilyn and Ruff
Exploring Braille with Madilyn and Ruff is a free iPad/iOS app for introducing young children with vision loss to the braille alphabet, with options to use an external refreshable braille device to practice reading and writing the letters. Exploring Braille integrates with the built-in VoiceOver screen reader to read on-screen information, and is great for braille and dual media (print/braille) learners, as well as people who want to learn more about braille letters.
- Exploring Braille with Madilyn and Ruff on the App Store (apple.com)
- Paths To Literacy video on Exploring Braille
WonderBaby is a website that curates resources for parents raising blind/low vision children and children with multiple disabilities, and also has tips on explaining vision loss and assistive technology to younger children. The WonderBaby Pinterest account has a ton of amazing resources as well that cover introducing kids to assistive technology and talking about topics related to vision loss.
Vision Simulator websites
My previous favorite vision simulator is no longer available, but there are several websites that provide simulations for common forms of low vision, including one from VersantHealth that has simulations for diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, glare, and other conditions.
Since my eye condition is not typically represented in vision simulators, I prefer to create pictures in PicsArt that simulate what I see with low vision and share these resources with others.
- Vision Simulator (versanthealth.com)
- Using PicsArt To Simulate Vision Impairment
- 12 Safe Alternatives To The Bird Box Challenge
Braille Bug is another resource from American Printinghouse for the Blind that contains games, information about braille, and a virtual Helen Keller kids’ museum. I like that Braille Bug talks about braille in a variety of contexts, including how it is used for music.
- Welcome to the Braille Bug® – BrailleBug
- Helen Keller Kids Museum (afb.org)
- How To Be An Ally For Braille Users: World Braille Day 2021
More related posts on Veronica With Four Eyes
- How I Respond To Children’s Questions/Comments About Low Vision
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Glasses
- How I Respond To Questions/Comments About My Eyes
- Ten Skills I Learned During My High School Mentorship
- How Students Can Celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day
- Supporting Classroom Volunteers With Low Vision
- Dear Elementary School Teacher
- Therapy Dog Reading Programs and Low Vision