Currently there are many students all across the United States with CVI recieving remote video instruction from classroom teachers and specialists. We have a duty as professionals in the field of visual impairments to ensure that this instruction is made as accessible as possible for our students with CVI. While we know that many children in the early phases of CVI struggle with interpreting 2D images, here are some general strategies to increase your student's access to remote video instruction. Note that these recommendations are primarily geared towards students in phase 1 and phase 2 of CVI. There are many students in phase 3 that watching video is not a barrier for. However, the recommendations around reducing visual complexity still apply for many of these students! Additionally, instructors need to understand that everything on video immediately becomes a 2D representation. Your student in phase 3 may still need some pre-teaching or a visul dictionary of items that the teacher plans to use in a video lesson to ensure they can identify everything.
Strategies for Increasing Visual Access During Remote Video Insrtuction
For School Teams
- Present yourself on a plain black background (a black cloth, beach towel, or sheet could be used). If you don't have access to anything black at home pick something as neutral as possible such as white, light grey, light tan, etc.
- Wear neutral clothes that match your background. If your background is black, try and dress in all black clothing. This is not the time to bust out your favorite flannel!
- Have a iight source focused on what you want the child to be looking at--whether it is an object, symbol, or a face.
- Reduce all sensory complexity. Put the focus only on your voice and what you want the child to look at. You may even want to position the camera so all the child can see is the object being presented. Make sure to turn off any television, music, or white noise that might be in the background.
- Try and pick a spot where the child doesn't see any windows or bright light sources in the background. You should be in a moslty dark room with light pointed at exactly what you want the child to be looking at.
- Understand that when presenting even a familiar toy or material that a child readily identifies in-person over video-conferencing it is transformed into a 2D image that the child may not be able to interpret depending on the phase of CVI they are in. You might want to think creatively and come up with lessons around objects that are readily available in a child's house and you have access to at home as well. For example, taking turns banging different rhythms on pots and pans or exploring personal hygiene items like hairbrushes, toothbrushes, nail clippers etc. Think: how much does my student really get out of 2D images?
- Proccessing time still applies! You may need to slow your lessons way down to give your student an opportunity to look at the screen. Give some verbal cue and then wait! Wait even longer then you wait in person!
- Know that not every child with CVI is ready to access a digital screen and that is okay! There are still wonderful opportunities for you to access that child's auditory channel through reading books, singing songs, and reading poems and silly rhymes. Make sure you are also supporting the family to integrate oppotunieis for looking into their daily routine.
- Make sure there is no distracting glare coming off the computer screen or tablet. To achieve this you may need to dim overhead lights or close blinds.
- The child's work environment should be quiet and free of distractions. To the best of your ability try and turn off any televisions or music in the background. Think about having a "clean-up" time before your scheduled appointment. Have your child help you clear an area on a rug where they are going to work.
- To the best of your ability, try and present the tablet or computer on a plain background. If your TVI has previously given you a product like the trifold board from the American Printing House for the blind it might be time to put it out. If you don't have a trifold board no worries, just try draping a neutral bedsheet over a piece of furniture and position your child towards the neutral background close enough so that it takes up most or all of their field of vision.
- Try and position the tablet or computer screen in your chidlr's strongest visual field. If you don't know what that is, ask your teacher of the visually impaired. You also want to think about positioning. If you child learns best in a particular posture try and help them into that posture. If the child normally has positioning equipment that they don't have access to at home ask to have a consult wiht the school physical therapist. They can still meet with you remotely in many cases and might be able to give you some ideas about everyday household items like pillows that could help with positioning.
- Ask your teacher of the visually impaired or case manager to put together a provider photo book for you. This way you can show your child a picture of the person they are about to work with before the lesson starts. This is something you could print out at home or have in a slideshow on a tablet.
This is unchartered territory for most of us so this is not intended to be an exhaustive list or cover the needs of every individual child but a starting off point for educational teams and families. Put any other ideas you have in the comments below!