Adapting Physical Education for Students with Visual Impairments

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn about the importance of maintaining a safe environment in physical education for students with visual impairments. The lesson will focus on strategies for adapting physical education instruction and materials.

Safety First!

One of your most critical roles as a teacher, coach, or school support staff member is to foster a safe learning environment for all students. In physical education, this can be particularly challenging. For example, physical education often requires that students run around, throw balls, swing bats, and engage in other potentially dangerous activities.

If you are a gym teacher who has students with visual impairments in your classes, you need to be extra diligent in maintaining a safe environment. In addition to ensuring students' safety, your role is also to help students maximize their physical education experience and help prepare them for lifelong fitness and health.

Let's look at some strategies that gym teachers can use to help ensure safety and equitable access to the curriculum for students with visual impairments.

Auditory Adaptations

Teachers of students with visual impairments must always try to use descriptive verbal instructions and directions. This is especially true in physical education. You need to avoid vague descriptors that rely on sight, such as stand here or run over there.

One way to adapt materials in physical education is to make them more audible for students with visual impairments. You can purchase special audible balls that make noises when they move. There are soccer balls that rattle, footballs with bells inside, and foam frisbees and basketballs that make a beeping sound.

You can also use a sound source, such as a radio or any device that beeps, to support students in activities like running or bowling. When students are running, direct them to run toward the sound source. When students are bowling, place the sound source behind the bowling pins to give students audible reinforcements.

Finally, students can wear bells on their shoelaces or around their wrists or necks when engaging in a game of tag or other sports.

Visual Adaptations

For games like softball and volleyball, which typically require heavy balls, consider using a beach ball instead. This will slow down the movement of the ball and make it easier to see. You can also use a large, lightweight, and brightly colored bat when playing softball.

If you do not have access to brightly colored equipment, you can purchase some fluorescent or reflective tape to attach to balls and equipment and to mark boundaries in the gymnasium. You can also use tape to mark the rim of a basketball hoop, goalposts, hockey sticks and pucks, and bases.

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