Environment Assessment: Purposes and Recommendations for Students With Low Vision

Updated on October 7, 2019
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

Tim Truzy has performed assessments for people with disabilities and is an expert in assistive technology.

Classrooms are particular environments.
Classrooms are particular environments. | Source

defining Environment for the Classroom

Unquestionably, environments can be thought of as the conditions or surroundings in which a plant, animal, or person functions or dwells. For instance, forests and swamps are types of outdoor environments. However, the classroom is a particular setting in which an activity occurs, which is another application of the word “environment.” For this reason, an environment assessment for a student with low vision is a methodical analysis of the classroom or other areas in which the student will be functioning from a visual perspective.

Low Vision and the Environment Assessment

Most professionals in the field of visual impairments refer to low vision as a permanent loss of eyesight which cannot be corrected to 20/20 vision through the use of contacts, eyeglasses, surgery, or medications. Low vision has many causes and substantially impacts activities of daily living along with educational progress. The environment assessment is usually carried out by the Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), a special education professional trained to instruct students with visual impairments. As a counselor with TVI training, I conducted environment assessments for students with low vision, applying the results to relevant learning environments. Below are considerations during the process with samples of recommendations which may be implemented in the classroom where the student with low vision receives instruction.


Have you ever participated in an environment assessment for students with low vision?

See results
Clutter is hazardous in the classroom.
Clutter is hazardous in the classroom. | Source

Questions Explored During the Environment Assessment

  • Lights and Glare-What are the sources and amount of illumination in the room? These include: sunlight, incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, and LED. Describe bright and dark areas while indicating shiny surfaces: mirrors, tabletops, other? Document areas of glare: windows, computer monitors, tiles? Are there lamps, ceiling lights, or other fixtures present?
  • Organization and Safety-Are there flammable materials in the room with a functioning fire extinguisher nearby? What parts of the room require reorganization: cabinets, tables, and/or closets? Are there overhanging or sharp dangerous objects? Is the path entering/exiting the classroom clear of obstacles? Are bookshelves in the walkway?
  • Color and Contrast with Cues: Will adding sound and/or tactile cues be beneficial? Can labels and/or markers be applied to help the student with low vision find items? Note the color of furniture, doors, floors, handrails, and walls. Where do you notice significant contrast in colors?

Purposes of the Environment Assessment

After obtaining parental consent and agreement has occurred within the education team, an environment assessment can take place. First, the general learning environment is systematically analyzed for any possible changes. Next, tasks are looked at in terms of demands for the student with low vision. Also, the ability of the student with low vision to problem solve is carefully scrutinized during this period. Often, the student with low vision actively participates in the process in order for the TVI to better gauge tasks, the environment, and related demands. If the student with low vision has difficulties with accomplishing targeted tasks, then practical solutions are offered on a written report after the individualized environment assessment has ended. Sample recommendations follow:

Providing more light near a desk may be an effective change in the classroom for a student with low vision.
Providing more light near a desk may be an effective change in the classroom for a student with low vision. | Source

1. Glare and Lights

Extreme or limited lighting can create problems for students with low vision. One result arising from the findings of the evaluation could be adding adjustable blinds on the windows to control sunlight during the day. Likewise, the report may show the door needs to be opened or closed for better lighting. In addition, a lamp may be needed near the student’s desk for better viewing of assignments. The types of lighting in the room may require changing. The report may indicate reflective surfaces which cause glare, such as shiny tiles or painted surfaces, must be covered or replaced.

2. Seating Arrangement and Materials

The report may demonstrate the student with low vision needs to change where he/she sits in the classroom to reduce the distance in viewing information. In fact, students with visual impairments receive preferential seating in the front row. Furthermore, an electronic whiteboard with image enlargement and color altering capacities may be desirable for lessons. Providing oral descriptions to videos during instruction may be recommended. Charts, graphs, and maps should be converted to accessible formats for a student with low vision. Finally, assignments and texts must be prepared in the appropriate reading/writing media for the student with low vision, which may include Braille and/or large print.

3. Removing Clutter while Promoting Independence

Improving safety and promoting independence in the classroom is essential for all students, but certain items require specific attention for a student with low vision. For example, a recommendation may be to keep closet doors closed. Also, the environment assessment could reveal electrical cords are in walk paths in the room. A suggestion could involve spacing the desks in order to have adequate aisles, utilizing color and contrast for safely moving around the class. Colored labels may need to be added to various supply locations to allow the student with low vision to find things independently. The report could indicate boxes on the floor should be stored.

4. Use of Technology and Visual Aids

Visual aids recommended for the student with low vision should be permitted in class, including: telescopes, a monocular, and magnifiers. A student with low vision should be allowed to use a digital recorder to take notes, if indicated by the IEP. Hardware and software recognized as assistive technologies, such as screen readers, Braille displays, and magnification devices must be allowed in class. In accordance with the education plan, a student with low vision should be allowed to access print books through the use of a digital book reader. In the report, oral descriptions for pictures may be suggested as well as incorporating 3D replicas during discussions and demonstrations.

Sunlight entering the classroom can be controlled.
Sunlight entering the classroom can be controlled. | Source

The IEP and Other Assessments

The environment assessment is an example of the supports and services on an IEP developed with participation of the student with a visual impairment, parents and the education team. An IEP (Individualized Education Program) has benefits for eligible students with disabilities in public education from childhood until graduation. Essentially, the IEP is a legal document developed after evaluations for determining strengths and weaknesses of a student according to the Individualized Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Coincidentally, the providers and services for a child receiving special education instruction are written on the document. Every child receiving special education services, like children with low vision, must have an IEP.

Nevertheless, the environment assessment is part of the total plan for helping the student with low vision as stated on the IEP. Primarily, the child with low vision will receive and orientation and mobility evaluation, examining safe and efficient methods of travel. In addition, use of assistive technology will be assessed. A clinical low vision examination will be conducted to find out about visual aids which can help the child in class and throughout life. In conclusion, the IEP can be amended with changes for the student with low vision, including need for further environment assessments.


Corn, A. L., & Koenig, A. J. (1996). Foundations of low vision: clinical and functional perspectives (2nd ed.). New York: AFB Press.

D'Andrea, F. M. and Farrendopf, C. (Eds). (2000) Looking to Learn, promoting literacy for students with low vision. New York, USA: AFB Press.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)