Utah’s Special Education Rules (view website schools.utah.gov/sars/Laws,-State-Rules-and-Policies/Rules-and-Regulations.aspx) define visual impairments as those that, in vision – even with correction, adversely affects a student’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness that adversely affects a student’s educational performance.

The terms partially sighted, low vision, legally blind, and totally blind are used in the educational context to describe students with visual impairments. They are defined as follows:

  • Partially sighted” indicates some type of visual problem has resulted in a need for special education;
  • Low vision” generally refers to a severe visual impairment, not necessarily limited to distance vision. Low vision applies to all individuals with sight who are unable to read the newspaper at a normal viewing distance, even with the aid of eyeglasses or contact lenses. They use a combination of vision and other senses to learn, although they may require adaptations in lighting or the size of print, and, sometimes, braille;
  • Legally blind” indicates that a person has less than 20/200 vision in the better eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at its widest point); and
  • Totally blind students learn via braille or other non-visual media.

Visual impairment is the consequence of a functional loss of vision, rather than the eye disorder itself. Eye disorders which can lead to visual impairments can include retinal degeneration, albinism, cataracts, glaucoma, muscular problems that result in visual disturbances, corneal disorders, diabetic retinopathy, congenital disorders, and infection.

This information is from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).

It’s very helpful to read more about visual impairments and blindness. Following are links to additional information:

NICHCY Visual Impairment Resources
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) offers brief, but detailed fact sheets on visual impairments and blindness. Each fact sheet defines the disability, describes its characteristics, offers tips for parents and teachers, and connects you with related information and organizations with special expertise.

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB)
Their mission is to provide high quality direct and indirect education services to children with sensory impairments birth through 21 years of age and their families in Utah.

Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBVI)
The Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBVI) has developed programs to help meet the needs of Utah citizens who are blind or have significant visual impairments. In addition to providing vocational rehabilitation services, DSBVI offers a multitude of training and adjustment services.

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
This website offers information and links regarding the developmental disabilities autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

American Printing House for the Blind
The American Printing House for the Blind promotes independence of blind and visually impaired persons by providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life. It also has a database program called “Fred’s Head”. The Fred’s Head Database is a source of tips and techniques for and by blind or visually impaired individuals. It is meant to provide people with useful information on how to do things that interest them. This includes records about technology, recreation, daily living skills, orientation and mobility, and more. Fred’s Head also includes information on where to find adaptive products and provides links to interesting Web sites. Fred’s Head is a unique source of information, since blind or visually impaired individuals have written most of its records.

Blindness Resource Center
This site has an extensive list of links for information on blindness, dogs, computer readers, histories, and research.

Learning Ally
Founded in 1948 as Recording for the Blind, Learning Ally serves more than 300,000 K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Learning Ally’s collection of more than 65,000 digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles – downloadable and accessible on mainstream as well as specialized assistive technology devices – is the largest of its kind in the world. More than 6,000 volunteers across the U.S. help to record and process the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success.  Learning Ally, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is funded by grants, state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations.

V.I. Guide
This site contains information on many topics pertaining to parenting and teaching a child with a visual impairment.