The biggest responsibility of a teacher of the visually impaired, or TVI, is to lead the student’s educational team. While the student will have a 504 or an IEP, and thus a special education teacher assigned to him or her, that special education teacher has not been specifically trained to meet the needs of a visually impaired student. The TVI must help show the special education teacher, classroom teachers, staff, and possibly even the parents what they will need to do in order to make the education environment as effective and enjoyable as possible.
The specific responsibilities of the TVI will depend greatly on the degree to which the child is visually impaired. If the child has slight to moderate impairment, the TVI may only need to help work out a plan and make sure proper equipment and materials are purchased and utilized, both in the classroom and at home when appropriate. Some of the materials the TVI may make accessible to the child include large print textbooks, audio textbooks, Braille textbooks, and computer programs that will help make learning easier for the child. If the child is severely impaired, the TVI may make a recommendation for an assistant to help the student in the classroom.
In regards to the classroom setting, the TVI would need to evaluate the classroom (or classrooms) the student will be in for safety and adaptability, and offer advice on how to make these areas safer and more effective for the student. The TVI would also consult with teachers to help them understand what the student will need from them, and provide training for teachers and staff to help them learn teaching and organizational strategies they can use for the student.
Throughout the school year, the TVI may want to meet with the student and family to offer assistance and help them learn skills that can be used at home to further the educational goals established during the IEP meeting. This would include regular progress assessments and a time for the parents and students to voice any concerns or offer suggestions they think may help the student in or out of school.
Most importantly, however, is the responsibility the teacher has to make sure everyone is comfortable with the education plan. This means making sure questions have been answered, information has been shared, and that all parties feel they are ready to begin this new adventure together. Often teachers, staff, and even other students don’t know how to treat a visually impaired person, and so they adopt a defensive or overly helpful attitude, when in fact the student just wants to have a normal educational experience. A TVI can help make sure everyone is comfortable and working together to achieve that outcome.
Are you a TVI? What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career?