Why Should Students with Visual Impairment Draw?

This blog serves as a "prequel" to the fall blog on tools for drawing in science class.  I will discuss the value of drawing for students with VI. This was my original intent for the earlier blog but I focused on the tools themselves instead.  The goal of this blog is to convince the reader that it is worth the time and effort necessary to introduce a student with visual impairment to one or more tools for drawing described in the earlier blog "Visual Arts for the Visually Impaired: Drawing for the Blind - Tools and Techniques."

Why draw?

Drawing has been used by humans for millennia and many of the earliest artifacts of humans are drawings. For the sighted drawing begins at an early age with scribbling and doodling.  Drawing strengthens concept development and solidifies our understanding of the relationship between signs and  objects.  It is an integral part of the learning process for the sighted.  Drawing is valuable in that it helps us to understand visual stimulus, to get a point across, to be more fully human.

Can students with visual impairment also benefit from the visual arts?

Research leads us to an emphatic "YES!"  

However, many students with visual impairment are not given the opportunity to experience drawing, often because their families and TVIs may not be aware of the tools available. As sighted students gain more knowledge and understanding about the world around them through drawing, students with VI can also benefit.  In his research, John M. Kennedy was surprised to find that blind and sighted people use some similar devices when drawing including the ability to represent perspective and depth, the use of symbolic shapes (hearts, stars) and the use of a single vantage point. As students with visual impairment create 2-D images using the described tools, they will learn to better relate the tactile graphics they read to real objects.  This will in turn greatly help students to better comprehend tactile graphics as they use them in academic subjects leading to more academic success.

Benefits of drawing for students with VI

The benefits of drawing for students with visual impairment are many.  They include improved fine motor skills and creativity and a better understanding of spatial and symbolic relationships.   This improved sense of spatial relationships is of great value in learning to effectively use tactile graphics.  Furthermore, recent studies indicate that participation in the visual arts, improves both academic achievement and performance on standardized tests. Unfortunately, incorporating drawing into instruction for students with visual impairment is not common.  However, there are numerous tools currently available to this end. These tools vary greatly in both functionality and price.  They will be described briefly in this blog.  More information about each tool can be found at the links provided as well as in the above highlighted webinar "Visual Arts for the Visually Impaired: Drawing for the Blind - Tools and Techniques."

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Collage of benefit of drawing for students with visual impairments