Institute for Blind and Partially Sighted Children,
Aula de Geografia para meninas cegas - foto de Josep
Teaching geography in school for blind and partially
sighted children presents at the same time a challenge and a great
responsibility. Geography is very important for visually impaired pupils because
it gives them the ability to understand and gather information about environment
and space. The approach to blind or partially-sighted pupils differs from that
to normally sighted pupils.
The aim of this presentation is to mediate the experience
and knowledge of teaching geography in a class with visually impaired children.
This experience should help other teachers, especially those in ordinary
schools, who encounter visually impaired pupils integrated in a class.
1.1. HOW DOES A BLIND PERSON »SEE«?
For the blind the word see means a special way of
perception. That is to accept the world with other senses - smell, touch,
hearing, ... Pupils who lost sight later and still have some visual experience
gather spatial knowledge and relations in space much easier than those who have
been blind since birth and have no visual experience. How to strive for
something which doesn't exist for the blind, for something they cannot imagine
or even dream about? A teacher should stimulate interest in the blind for things
they are not aware of.
It is necessary to find, make or show in some other way
the information that will be acceptable for the blind. These can be tactile
displays - tactile pictures, graphs, adapted to tactile perception, models,
tactile maps and plans or displays by audio-tactile devices. Some coloured
tactile pads are used for pupils with very low vision who are almost blind, as
well as adequate visual material adapted to curtailed visual perception. Work
with models and reliefs is advisable/necessary when the observed object is out
of hand reach or is too big or it is a natural phenomenon or process.
1.2. HOW DOES A BLIND PERSON GATHER THE RIGHT EXPERIENCE?
Pupils with low vision gather correct experiences
gradually, because they get only a little of back information. When meeting and
describing a big object, a natural curiosity, geographical phenomenon or some
other thing in space we should consider and pay attention to:
Blind pupils should not be left to
their own ingenuity and independence, but should be led to the object by
hand. The observed or studied object should be explained or put in pupils
At the same time basic
characteristics and extensiveness of the object have to be explained by
comparison and put in geographical space.
When defining a concept, a
phenomenon or a process, the guidelines have to be clear and unambiguous
The understanding of the object or
a phenomenon will be more clear for blind pupils when explained with an
appropriate model, relief or map.
When using tactile plans teacher
and pupils should prepare the plan of the way, the content and extent of
work, define goals and performers for separate activities together.
1.3. HOW DO PARTIALLY SIGHTED PERSONS GATHER SPATIAL
Partially sighted pupil's time of observation is
longer because their eye needs more time to adapt to impulses from the
environment. Exercises and experience improve perception of objects and colours.
Partially sighted pupils have modest spatial experience as well. Low vision
intensifies difficulties in perception so work at geography lessons should be
adapted to perceptual ability of each pupil. When preparing teaching
sheets we should pay attention to adequate enlargement of graphic material, to
an assortment of contrast colours, lines and contents, eliminated of all
1.4. FACTS THAT HAVE TO BE CONSIDERED WHEN TEACHING
VISUALLY IMPAIRED PUPILS
Blind and partially sighted pupils
have trouble with perception of the outside world
Practical experience and spatial
knowledge are modest, very often uncomplete and deformed
Orientation in space is weak
because of lack of spatial knowledge
Pupils have difficulties with
perception of distances, directions and relations between objects
Pupils are limited in perceiving
dynamic processes and phenomena, they can not notice changes in nature
Generalisation and synthesis are
Low vision limits entire
perception at a high degree
Observation is longer as eyes need
more time to adapt to external impulses
Blindness creates difficulties and
sets obstacles when trying to achieve goals which may result in psychical
problems, such as dissatisfaction or tension
Teachers have to know pupils' personalities and their
perceptual and learning abilities. Accordingly, a teacher must be flexible,
inventive and factual. Actuality is a demand of geography as well.
2. PREPARING FOR A LESSON
Teaching visually impaired pupils demands using special
teaching methods, forms, different treatment and principles of work. In the
foreground there are motivation, demonstration, dramatization, method of direct
observation or tactile perception, individualization, generalization and
The quality of a lesson, the realization of educational
goals and pupils' knowledge depend on the lesson preparation. When planning and
preparing a lesson some facts should be accepted. These facts are:
individual preparation, considering
perception of blind and partially sighted pupils
differentiation of educational
goals (adaptation of teaching contents to the ability of individual pupils)
preparation of teaching
requisites: textbooks, papers in Braille for the blind, enlarged print for
partially sighted pupils, tactile displays: tactile maps, models, adequate
teaching methods (demonstration,
work with text), teaching forms (individualization)
selection of special tools
(magnifying glass, Braille line, individual lighting)
Also to be considered are:
How will a teacher communicate with the
pupil? Which perceptual paths will be used? Will the means of communication be
Braille, Braille typewriter, textbook in Braille, teaching sheets in Braille or
tactile displays? (touch, residual vision). Will the pupil work with a recorded
text (hearing), or will he use Braille line on computer? Will the lesson be
based on demonstration near the object or on a model? Will it be excursion or
individual work? All these ways are contemporary and often used in the teaching
2.2. ADEQUATE EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL
has to be adapted to the visual perception of an individual pupil. Sometimes
this is ordinary material or educational material which pupils use with a
magnifying glass or an electronic magnifier. For pupils with severe visual
impairment who can not use ordinary material it has to be adapted to enlarged
print, be generalized, be coloured intensively or somehow adapted so that it is
suitable to individual perception of a partially sighted pupil. Adaptation of
textbooks, teaching sheets and visual material should be made carefully.
2.3. TEACHING TOOLS AND TEACHING AIDS
Will pupils use a
textbook in Braille, teaching sheets, tactile maps, plans or tactile pictures?
How will they write, record or complete the exercise? Will it be done by a
Braille typewriter, tape recorder or computer? Magnifying glass, electronic
magnifier, individual light, or programs for enlargement (computer) should be
available. Use of pencil, which makes strong lines and paper which does not reflect the light are very
important In what way will teacher explain the appointed notion or content?
Teachers have to ask themselves as well whether
appropriate teaching aids (adapted or made particularly for the blind) which are
demanded for the topics are available. When teaching geography, simplified and
graphically intensive sketches and spatial displays, generalized and free of
unimportant elements have to be prepared.
2.4. PSYCHOPHYSICAL QUALITIES
Teachers should be
acquainted with the pupil and should consider hidden individual qualities. Is
the pupil self-dependant, trained enough for some manner of work? Does he/she have difficulties when
writing, reading, touching? What is their orientation like? Have they been
since birth or did they lose sight later?
2.5. EDUCATIONAL METHODS AND FORMS OF WORK
Which educational methods and forms of work would be
appropriate regarding work with the blind? Will they be individual in groups or
in couples? Will demonstration methods, working with model or tactile display be
3.1. PRACTICAL FIELDWORK
When planning fieldwork, an excursion or observation
exercises pupils should already be familiar with correct usage of devices which
will be necessary when observing and evaluating. Especially for the blind the
teacher must make possible direct observation considering elementary orientation. Pupils should observe things,
understand and recognize the relations to the environment directly. Pupils
become familiar with the usage and work of the devices which are yet to be used
in class. Geography lessons can not be successful enough without excursion and direct practical work. With predominating
theoretical work in class pupils can hardly gain any concepts, knowledge or
3.2. EDUCATIONAL TACTILE DEVICES
Each geographical topic presents a challenge for the
teacher. There is a question how to present, explain, describe to blind pupils
a certain conception, diagram, picture, graph or table. For partially sighted
pupils a magnifying glass or electronic magnifier are used. For the blind no
graphical picture means any value. The solution is to make a tactile picture
which means a model or a diagram accessible to tactile perception. Tactile maps,
plans and sketches are the most characteristic elements at geography lessons for
Didactic tactile devices are the basis for successful
lessons. Solution may be simple but it demands some inventiveness.
Elements of each display have to be clear and adapted to
diminished visual perception. Display must be made in correct proportion with
the thing it presents. Material of composition should resemble the actual
object or idea.
It is right that single parts of display work. Some
graphic concepts, pictures, processes or models can not be simply translated to
Braille or adapted into tactile pictures. These have to be made in such a way
that they are acceptable to tactile perception or diminished visual perception.
More exacting conceptions have to be presented as a
model. Models can be the starting point for understanding processes and the
basis for a wider proceeding of contents.
Using a model of polder (artificial depression) pupils
understand and know the entire image/concept of the Netherlands as a country of
polders. Using this model some words like tide, channel with gates, depression,
dyke, windmill, drying... can be explained easily.
Practical experience confirms these displays adapted to
tactile and diminished visual perception are most suitable for gathering new
knowledge and understanding different social and geographic factors in the
environment. [...] Diagrams and graphic sketches can be presented using
simple techniques, such as a positive, tyflograph (positive pointed drawing), or
exacting thermo-vacuum technique.
When adapting teaching plans, educational material or
other literature during work many ideas or even inventions may arise. Teaching
blind and partially sighted pupils is creative. Geography lessons express the
need for original ideas and approaches. Continuous innovatory approach and
consideration of the pupils' special needs (of pupils) are necessary for
achieving educational goals and A successful lesson.
Understanding (of the) space is quite difficult and
complicated for the blind. There are several hindrances for them which sighted
people do not even notice. Special requisites and knowledge are necessary for
more or less successful recognizing and defeating of problems. Geography is of
great importance for the entire personal development of blind or partially
sighted pupils. The knowledge and practical experience which pupils gain during
lessons allow for a better understanding and recognizing of the home
environments and the world. That makes the blind richer. In this way visually
impaired pupils understand the world as well as sighted pupils.