Providing Learning Support for Blind or Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

The Available Options

Field study strategies

There are three broad educational strategies that can be taken when considering the participation of blind and visually impaired students in fieldwork activities:

It is no longer acceptable to adopt the first of these strategies. Indeed, it runs contrary to the mutual adjustment model proposed elsewhere in this guide. Nevertheless, elements of all three approaches may be usefully adopted on a pick-and-mix basis as needs dictate.

Generic approaches

So, what kinds of broad-brush approach can be adopted when planning fieldwork by visually impaired students? The approaches outlined below are provided as suggestions to guide initial planning. They are not meant to be mutually exclusive; for individual students it may be useful to adopt more than one approach.

  1. Waive participation in fieldwork by visually impaired students
  1. Replace fieldwork with non-fieldwork activities
  1. Replace real fieldwork with virtual fieldwork
  1. Provide field activities at alternative locations
  1. Accommodate visually impaired student needs during the regular fieldwork
  1. Abandon fieldwork for all students

Strategies in practice

It is interesting to review how UK geography departments treat visually impaired students in relation to students with other disabilities. The following table summarises some of the responses currently taken by geography departments.

Departments' actions/responses to disabled students undertaking fieldwork (numbers of departments) Source: Hall et al. (2001)
Action / response Mobility Blind / visually impaired Deaf / hearing impaired Mental health Hidden disability Dyslexia Multiple disability
Modification to teaching / learning / assessment 15 15 11 43 4
Modification to travel / accommodation / sites 26 3 8 2
Ensuring extra / appropriate on trip support (overt and covert) 12 7 8 14 26 4
Discussion of individual's needs / disclosure of disability 15 2 4 25 2
Exemption from fieldwork 6 2

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock