The measures proposed to organize and adapt the classroom are intended to respond to visually impaired students while also being beneficial for the rest. The classroom is the natural space for learning and socialization, so it is where visually impaired students spend more time, and it must therefore meet the same accessibility criteria in its adequacy, design, and inclusion. The spatial distribution, lighting, design, and arrangement of furniture must be planned to promote communication and work, both individually and in teams, allowing for comfortable mobility.
The goal of these adaptations is to ensure that all students participate in the same teaching experiences, and that those with vision or other problems need to leave this space as less as possible. Some actions that facilitate the participation and integration of blind or low vision students in the classroom are:
Eliminating architecture barriers in the classroom: doors and windows must be completely open or closed; semi-open doors and windows pose a physical threat to the blind student. If possible, cabinets and shelves should be glued to the wall and reach the floor, avoiding protrusions that could be dangerous. They should also not be very high since the items they keep must be easily accessible.
Minimal alterations should be made in terms of the distribution of furniture, to not disorient the student. The order in the classroom must be as stable as possible, keeping a stable arrangement of the furniture to facilitate autonomy within the classroom for students with visual impairment. When necessary, students will be warned of the changes and will be able to verify these on the spot.
Posters or signs, both informative and illustrative, must be placed to be approachable up to 5cm, and at a height that allows them to be read. On the board, a large enough font size will be used to allow students with low vision to read it.
Noise/sound level: students with low vision use hearing to complement their access to reality, so it plays an even more predominant role in the educational process. They need a relatively calm, non-disruptive sound environment, so it is advisable to control the noise level in classroom in times like during explanations, etc. avoiding outside noises.
The ideal location for the visually impaired student in the classroom should be based on their needs: near the teacher, the blackboard, the classroom PC, and the window (if they need more light), wherever they can better use their residual vision, and access to their study place must be easy.
The closeness to the teacher responds to the need to hear the auditory keys that provide the student with information on their environment, essential for their orientation.
Their place must be spacious, their work table, in addition to being located in the front row, in front of the blackboard, and next to the teacher, has to be large enough to have a PC, tablet, and other materials (optical or technological aids) comfortably and safe. Cables need to be minded so they are not obstacles for the student. Since the need to use technological material doesn’t allow them to change places in the classroom, this must not become a reason for isolation by other classmates.
Regarding the work tables of the students, they must be distributed in the classroom in a way that favors both individual and team work, allowing a high degree of personal concentration and a good communication between classmates. It is necessary to mind the grouping criteria in the classroom so no student is isolated, and to favor their integration.
Teachers should not stand with their back to the light, especially when explaining, since visually impaired students can be dazed. When explaining while writing on the board, position yourself so you do not cover what is being written (making the student lose information).
General ergonomics: students with low vision, tend to get very close to the text they are reading or writing. In order to avoid back problems, it is advisable to use ergonomic elements in the study position, like a lectern, a table with various degrees of inclination, a cold table light, etc…
The materials in the classroom to support learning, especially involving reading, must be accessible (see Annex 2 of DU6 for more information), that is, of sufficient size for the visually impaired student to access it. If this is not feasible or available, the teacher should have software that digitizes non-accessible texts, allowing them to be read on the PC screen and heard with a voice synthesizer.
We do not define specific facilities like the gym, the computer science room, etc. because they must meet the same criteria as any ordinary classroom. The fact that we do not focus on them is not because they are less important, on the contrary: in many occasions, due to the short time spent there, due attention is not paid from the school, and they remain without the needed access measures for these students.