Accomodating Vision Impairments
We typically think of vision impairment in two forms: low vision and total blindness. However, there are many degrees of visual impairment. This often is a result of the specific cause: eye disease, another disease, a genetic disorder, a birth defect, an injury, and old age. While some people are born without sight, many more lose vision gradually over time.
Sometimes vision loss can be improved or corrected with lenses. In other cases, vision loss may be too severe to be corrected. Each person is unique in how much light their eyes are able to perceive and thus what they can and cannot see.
Here are a few considerations for making visual accommodations at your church:
Relationships first. Before offering to help, introduce yourself and develop a relationship with the person who has vision loss, just as you would with a friend who has no vision impairment.
Help with mobility. When helping a person maneuver in and out of the church building, first ask where you should stand. Match the person’s pace, no matter how fast or slow. As you approach stairs, drops in elevation, and other obstacles such as doors, people, or tables with coffee, tell the person what is coming up. Use descriptive language so that they can “see” by the words you use.
Printed materials. The wide range of vision impairment makes it essential to discuss what printed materials are needed. Some may want braille or large type (18 pt or larger), while others may prefer auditory recordings that read materials to them. Consider all the church’s printed materials: bulletins, programs, hymnals, Bibles, study outlines, prayer lists, announcements, and Bible study books.
Lighting. Some people with visual impairments utilize light in strategic ways to see or travel from place to place. Consider adding lights to dimly lit areas in your church such as stairways, under alcoves in the sanctuary, and foyers.
Contrast. Some people with vision impairment may benefit from contrasting details such as reflective tape on the edge of steps or braille on elevator buttons.
Teaching adaptations. Consider what hands-on teaching elements you can utilize. Examples:
- Parable of the lost coin. Use real-life coins to pass around. Kids and teens especially can benefit from the use of models when learning.
- Creation narratives. Use a topographic globe so they can feel the difference between the mountains, oceans, and lands.
Clear instructions. In the worship context, verbal instructions are often given for standing, sitting, using a hymnal, and taking communion. Make instructions very specific and clear: “Come down the center aisle at the end of worship to greet our new members with a handshake,” as opposed to “Members will be down front. Come and say ‘hello’.”
Bible Resources. Learn more about about Braille Bibles, Aurora Ministries, and other resources in our Quick Tips and Resources for Visual Impairment.
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