Talking About Disability-Related Needs

By Courtney Tabor-... on Nov 23, 2016

One of the key components of self-determination for people with vision impairments is the ability to talk about their disability-related needs. In order to request assistance and advocate for themselves, students must first understand what disabilities they have and how they affect them.

This activity encourages individuals to learn about and describe their vision impairments and any additional disabilities. This is not only helpful in building self-advocacy and self-determination skills, but also in building skills that will be useful in a job search. Students who are able to discuss their disabilities and how they have learned to navigate particular challenges can help to allay employers’ concerns and will demonstrate to potential employers that they are confident and capable candidates for the job.


Objective: Student produces a written or oral presentation about her/his disability and disability-related needs. Information can be presented in a number of ways, depending on the student’s abilities and learning style. Options include:

  • Writing a short essay about the disability
  • Making a book with pictures or symbols
  • Presenting information orally for teachers or classmates
  • Finding another creative method of communication—poetry, song, video

Students should provide answers to the following questions:

  • What is the cause of my vision impairment (and other disabilities, if applicable)? What is the name of the condition I have and what does it mean?  Note: Students who are able should research  information about their disabilities using the internet. This is an opportunity to build on compensatory and assistive technology skills
  • How does my disability affect me? How might I describe my vision to someone else, especially someone who does not know me well?
  • What does my disability mean for me? How important is it in my life?
  • What are some of the strategies that I use to help me at home, in class, etc.?
  • What is hard for me because of my disability? How do I navigate certain challenges (i.e. accessing print, getting around my school, etc)?
  • What do I wish people knew about me and my disability?


  • Questions, information to include, and presentation format can vary based on a student’s capabilities. Students with complex needs may not be able to comprehend or verbalize what their disability is and how it affects them, but may be able to communicate about questions like “What am I good at?” “What is hard for me?” and “What strategies help me when I am struggling?” Some students respond particularly well to social stories, so a small book with pictures is a project that the student and teacher or family member can work on together.
  • Some students may find it difficult to talk about their disabilities. This activity can be a springboard for a discussion around how to describe a vision impairment to others. Alternatively, teachers can coach students ahead of time on strategies for describing their vision impairment, and use this activity as an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned.

Collage of student using refreshable braille display

Total Life Learning by Wendy Bridgeo,‎ Beth Caruso,‎ & Mary Zatta

Cover of Total Life Learning

The Total Life Learning curriculum was developed for students ages 3 to 22 who are blind, visually impaired including those students who have additional disabilities or are deafblind. The focus is on the development of life and career goals that enable student to maximize independence, self-determination, employability, and participation in the community.