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December 07, 2006

Teaching English to the Seeing-Impaired


Image Source: http://www.accesscommunication.co.uk/images/braille.jpg

Dear Fellow Instructors,

Perhaps one of the most overlooked areas of discussion on our sister forums and blogs would have to be the subject of presenting English studies to the physically challenged.

Teaching language to either blind or otherwise seeing-impaired individuals MUST be a challenging specialization of the industry. I am, for the most part, completely unfamiliar with this area of our field.

The excerpt from the article below, recently discovered while surfing for unique problems in English teaching, prompted the following questions: Is this an academic area of expertise that requires different curriculum, certification, etc. than "regular" English teaching qualifications? If so, where are English teachers going to get these skills? Do any of you have colleagues that specialize in this field?

Would be curious to get your input and find out if this has ever come up in your own teaching experiences . . .

From "Teaching English to children with sight problems"

Reduced access to incidental reading

Sighted people are exposed continuously to sources of incidental reading. Advertisements, notices, signs and labels often provoke thought about language, influence opinions and can help to enrich vocabulary. These sources of reading are not available in the same way to pupils who are blind or partially sighted, so their general reading experience is likely to be more limited. Furthermore, the range of reading material readily available in braille or large print is only a fraction of that in standard print. As a result, a pupil with sight problems may not have immediate and independent access to a wide range of literary and non-literary texts, and is less likely to be able to enjoy browsing and spontaneous reading.

Reduced motivation to read

Time, fatigue and access difficulties may conspire against a pupil’s motivation to read. The actual process of reading is more tiring, whether the medium be braille, large print or standard print enhanced by a magnifier, and greater demands are made in terms of concentration and memory. In addition, some eye conditions cause restricted or obscured fields of vision which can interfere with the process of reading.

Scanning skills

The skills of skimming, scanning and place-finding are fundamental to efficient reading. These will certainly require more time for a pupil with impaired vision, and in some circumstances the help of a sighted person will be required, both for in-class support and for careful presentation of material in advance.

*NOTE: The full article can be found here: http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_ccenglishintro.hcsp

Happy teaching and (if applicable) happy holiday season!

Best wishes,

Lee

Posted by lhobbs at December 7, 2006 07:28 AM

Readers' Comments:

Lee,

I will in the immediate future have a seeing impaired ESL student. I will ask him about the learning method he used when he initially began his English Courses. I'll get back to you on that.

Also, I need some pointers. I am not a certified English teacher but I am currently working as an ESL teacher, with both private and group classes in companies in South America. I am American, so I speak proficiently...but I want to give the best service that I possibly can. What are pointers that you would suggest as for as method and pace are concerned? I really don't think that you can set a time frame for everyone, learning seems to be an individual challenge and venture for each student and they will naturally go at their own speed. But what about a method?

Danny

Posted by: Danny at January 12, 2007 12:41 PM

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