TVI: Teachers of Visually Impaired

Education today at The Sharp Memorial School for the Blind - the first special school for the blind in India was set up at Amritsar in 1887, named after its founder, Annie Sharp.

Caregivers viz-a-viz Teachers of the Visually Impaired

A caregiver for a person with blindness or visual impairment is a paid or unpaid member of a person's social network - parents, members of family, friends, volunteers, teachers, TVIs - who helps them with activities of daily living. Since they have no specific professional training, they are often described as informal caregivers.

In contrast a TVI is specifically trained and skilled to to meet the teaching need of a student with blindness or visual impairment.

In this page we take a look at the role of TVIs in general and the availability of such training in India in the form of Special Education. Further, we provide information on several aspects of teaching a student with blindness or visual impairment, Braille literacy, Classroom design etc.

Recommended books

Beautiful Life, A TVI Story (Thai + Subtitles), 2016

Distance Mentorship, Perkins School for the Blind, 2012

The chapters in this webcast:

Introduction; Building the Team; The Technological Components of Distance Mentorship; How Distance Mentoring Works in Practice; Beyond the Monthly Meeting; Conclusions

Teachers of Visually Impaired (TVI)

Teaching Students with Visual Impairments needs specific skills for the TVI. The role for a TVI is explained below from the source. It may be noted that the discussion here is specific to the USA. So while the issues, approaches, and practices should be applicable globally, appropriate adaptations would be needed for India.

For India-specific skilling programs for the TVI, check Training for TVI in India: Special Education in Visual Impairment below.

Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments

A Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (also called a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, a vision specialist, VI teacher, vision itinerant teacher) is typically a licensed special education teacher who has received certification and specialized training, in meeting the educational needs of students who are blind or have visual impairments ages birth through adulthood. This is an instructional position, as opposed to a related service or vision therapy.

The role of the TVI is to provide direct and/or consultative special education services specific to vision loss. The TVI provides support to students, teachers, and parents and acts as a liaison with community services. The TVI works with the educational team by advising the team about ways of enhancing the student’s learning by adapting activities and materials to the student’s abilities. Although the TVI is not an academic tutor, they may spend some time ensuring that the student understands concepts introduced in academic courses.

The TVI may help choose appropriate educational materials, and may brainstorm with teachers and therapists about effective adaptations. By working together, classroom teachers, therapists, and the TVI can create a classroom environment that encourages independence, academic success, and prepare the student to be the most productive member of society they can be.

The following is a list of what to expect from the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.

  • Interpret Medical Reports: To determine a student's eligibility and the impact of the VI, the TVI needs to read and interpret medical eye reports and determine the implications for educational and home environments.

  • Conduct Specialized Assessments and Make Recommendations: At least once in every three years, the TVI will conduct Functional Vision Assessments to determine how much usable vision a student has to perform visual tasks. The TVI may also recommend specialized evaluations as needed, particularly in low vision, orientation and mobility, and adaptive physical education. This is conducted even if the student has no usable vision.

  • Actively Participate in the Individualized Education Program (IEP): The TVI will need to

    • provide information on the student's learning style, utilization of visual information, and other strengths unique to individual students who are visually impaired.

    • identify any goals and objectives in specialized areas related to the visual needs of the student.

    • identify instructional methods and materials for meeting goals and objectives.

    • recommend appropriate service delivery options, including class placement, physical education, related services, specialized equipment, adaptations in testing procedures, and time frames for implementation.

Consideration will be taken as to the current and future reading and writing media for the student based on reading distance, reading rates and accuracy, portability of reading skills, visual fatigue, and tactual sensitivity.

  • Recommend Educational & Instructional Strategies: The TVI will

    • assist in determining and procuring classroom equipment and materials necessary for the student to learn (brailler, low vision devices, AT, computer) including necessary room modifications and lighting changes.

    • provide the classroom teacher with information regarding the specialized strategies needed to teach

    • assist in obtaining specialized materials, including procuring materials, providing braille, recorded/enlarged materials, and other needed materials.

  • Ongoing Observations: The TVI conducts ongoing observations of the student in a variety of familiar situations performing routine tasks or activities to assess how the student is using their vision to assess:

    • What motivates the student to look?

    • What does the student do? How does the student spend time?

    • How does the student play and with what?

    • Where do they go?

    • Who do they play or interact with?

  • Use of Natural Environments to Address Goals: Teaching techniques to enhance vision should not be taught in isolation. It is important to look at what the needs and activities of the student are in school and in their everyday life that are affected by their visual performance, and teach to those tasks. If the family/teachers are interested in obtaining other objects for the student to play with, then the TVI can assist the family and/or teacher in obtaining such items.

The responsibility of the TVI is to support the student with what he/she has everyday access to, where he/she is, and sharing information that matches the student’s/families/classroom priorities (watching television, playing on the computer, playing with toys or games). These activities provide multiple learning opportunities. It is easy to take in a bag of toys, but more challenging and appropriate to explore existing toys that the student will have daily access to, for continued exposure/practice. Learning takes place at all times, so it is best to use what is available/accessible to give the student more practice in using existing skills and developing new abilities. “Toy bag treatment sessions” typically do not promote functional skill use and learning in natural settings.

Some skills are best addressed outside of the regular classroom to avoid visual and auditory distractions. The goal should be to learn the skills and then begin to transfer those skills during classroom activities.

  • Communication with Caregivers and Classroom Teachers: The TVI will want to have ongoing communication with the caregivers and classroom teachers in order to try to develop a better understanding of the student. An itinerant teacher will not have the same rapport with the student as they do not spend as much time with them. For that reason, it is helpful to talk with parents and classroom teachers who do have this rapport about how they feel the student is doing, if they are addressing the goals and how the student is functioning. The TVI may ask to observe the teacher working with the student to observe how the student is functioning within the normal routine and with familiar adults. ​

  • Direct Instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum: The TVI will determine which areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), a unique curriculum that addresses needs a student who is blind or visually impaired may have that are not addressed within the standard curriculum. Although not all students will have needs in all areas of the ECC, the areas of the ECC include:

    • Compensatory, Functional and Communication Skills

    • Sensory Efficiency

    • Orientation & Mobility

    • Social

    • Independent Living

    • Recreation & Leisure

    • Use of Technology

    • Career & vocational

    • Self Determination

Program Printables

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Recommended books

Distance Mentorship

In this webcast Megan Cote from the Kansas Deaf-Blind Project, Jon Harding from the National Consortium of Deaf-Blindness, and Bob Taylor from the Kansas School for the Blind present a model for distance mentorship developed in the state of Kansas. Megan, Jon and Bob demonstrate how the use of a web conferencing tool has assisted in building teams and promoting ongoing dialog amongst members of the team where distance is no longer a barrier. In addition, they share the additional benefits of this model in demonstrating student competence, supporting transition, and professional development.

Training for TVI in India: Special Education in Visual Impairment

You may get skilled in Special Education for the Visually Impaired at starting levels - through diploma, Bachelors' or even Masters degrees. There are options for distance mode learning as well as short online courses.

Rehabilitation Council of India has structured a number of programs in Special Education (Visual Impairment). The syllabus (on the link), course name, and duration of the program can be found below:

Department of Special Education and Research (DSE&R), NIEPVD

The Institute’s HRD activities comprise Degree, Diploma and Certificate level courses in Special Education, Orientation and Mobility, Refresher/Orientation Courses for Field Functionaries, Service Providers, Policy Makers and parents of the visually impaired children. Some of these courses are being conducted at the Institute’s Headquarters, Regional Centre, Chennai and CRC, Sundernagar while others are being conducted in collaboration with State Governments and reputed NGOs in the field of visual disability either with full or partial funding.

The Institute’s Department of Special Education is a shining example of academic excellence, its alumni are rendering services to the visually impaired school children and trainee teachers across the length and breadth of the country. Many are serving country’s leading Universities and have been instrumental in promoting research in various aspects of special education. Since its inception (1984), the department has contributed 6,500 teachers and 402 Mobility Instructors which comprise approximately 70% of the trained teachers for the blind available in the country.