Creating Awareness of Blind Students

Bachelor Thesis, 2017

63 Pages, Grade: 10.0


Table of contents


Chapter I
1. Teaching English around the world
1.1 Teaching English to Blind People
1.2 What the Mexican Goverment is doing to incorporate handicap students to the National Educational System
1.3 What is blindness?
1.4 Differences between a person who was born blind and a person who became blind in any phase of their life
1.5 Associations that help blind people
1.6 Materials and equipment used by the blind
1.7 The Braille system: The most used by the blind

Chapter II
2. Methodology
2.1 Method
2.2 Participants
2.2 Data collection methods
2.3 Procedure

Chapter III
3. Findings
3.1 Origin of Marj´s blindness
3.2 Difficulties that Marj has had to face up as a result of her blindness
3.3 Tools that Marj uses to work inside and outside the classroom
3.4 Marj´s family support
3.5 Marj´s teachers´ support
3.6 Marj´s partners support
3.7 Marj´s achievements
3.8 Associations that had helped Marj
3.9 Strategies that Marj uses to improve her learning
3.10 Important aspects about the Braille system mentioned by Marj
3.11 Experiences from Marj´s partners who have helped her
3.12 Marj´s life Project
3.13 More aspects about Marj

Chapter IV
4. Personal Reflection


When people are learning a second language, they have to make use of all their senses, for example, the sight, the touch, the hearing. Their senses are routes to send messages to their brain and activate their cognitive process to get input from different sources. However, for people with any disability, the situation is different. For example, have you asked how a blind student learns without using the sight?, how do teachers or parents teach them colors, numbers, shapes? Maybe a lot of people have made themselves these questions, but perhaps they do not know how to answer them because they have not had the opportunity of dealing with a blind person.

For this investigation, the issue of creating awareness of blind students in the B.A in English of the language school of the University of Veracruz was searched. The language faculty was created 50 or 51 years ago and since then it has never had a blind student. For this reason, this situation attracted my attention because it was amazing for me to know that there was a blind learner studying the B.A. in English. Besides when we saw Marj for the first time in the staircases, a lot of questions passed on our mind in relation to her way of learning without using the sight: the way her teachers taught her, if they had appropriate material for her, how she worked into the classroom with her partners, if she was an independent person or needed help from others.

When we had the opportunity to observe some Marj´s classes, we could identify some interesting aspects related to her disability, for example, the difficulties she had in her classes related to her homework because there was no one who could help her all the time to do it, the indefference of some teachers who did not want to teach her because they were not trained to teach blind students, the lack of material written in Braille. We consider that our major fount of inspiration for writing about Marj, who is a blind student, was all of these factors. However, we knew that this research would represent a challenge for us since it would not be easy to gather information related to Marj. Besides, we were not sure if she wanted to be our participant and help us with the investigation.

At the beginning, we wanted to write about learning strategies that teachers use to teach blind students, but after collecting data from students, teachers and Marj, we realized that there was not a lot of strategies used by teachers at the University because they had never had a blind student before. Therefore, we would not find plenty of information which helped us to carry out this investigation, and we decided to change the topic. However, we consider the new topic of this work was more suitable since we believe a lot of students and teachers at the University must be aware of the fact that blind students need to be taught and be encouraged to continue with their studies. They perhaps do not take into account that all people with any disability have the same opportunities like people who do not have any handicap. For this reason, we wrote about creating awarness about blind students.

Before doing this research, we hardly know anything about the blind. We only knew a few things related to them such as they cannot see, they use dogs and canes to move from one place to another, they use Braille system to write and read. However, after finishing this work we learnt a lot of amazing things of the blind´s world. Indeed, we had never imagined how many interesting things take place around this kind of people. We hope all the findings found may be helpful to these students with their academic lives.

We sometimes can be selfish and try to avoid people who have any disability, perhaps we do this because we think they cannot do the same things like us or that it can be difficult to teach them and help them to improve their learning. But we may be wrong because it seems they can do several things and learn, in a different way but they can. All people dream about having a standar life,for instance, going to school, having a job, getting married, having a family and children, having an academic degree, among others . Unfortunatelly, the things mentioned before can be done easier for sighted people and not for blind people; the reason is that the former are more independent, can learn without a lot of help and the most important thing is that they can see everything around them. On the other hand, the latter need to be guided to do things, perhaps they need more explanations to discover how the world is and also need more time to acquire significant knowledge for making images in their minds of the environment around them. It is surprising how the blind learn and are more independent although they cannot see, but they can experiment and know the world through touching and listening.

When an individual becomes blind, they face two major problems: first, they must learn the skills and techniques which will enable them to carry on as a productive citizen in the community; and second, they must become aware of and learn to cope with public attitudes and misconceptions about blindness. However, the first of these problems is far easier to solve than the second one (Jernigan, 1969).

People could think that it is so difficult to teach the blind certain concepts such as shapes, colors, letters and objects unlike people who can see, but it will depend on the causes on nature of the blindness: that is to say, if the person was born blind or got blind later in life. For us, it would be not easy to teach a blind student who is blind from birth because they do not have ideas about the world around them and we would not know how to explain the things they cannot see. On the contrary, if we had to teach someone who became blind during any phase of their life, it would be easier because they could understand what we are talking about since they have information about the outer world previously gathered when they could see.

In this investigation, important aspects related to the academic life of Marj will be found. On the first hand, the difficulties she has had to face up since she became blind and her main achievements are presented. On the other hand, it is also discussed the strategies and the help that she has received to learn and improve her learning. In addition to this, other interesting topics will be discussed where we could learn more about what blindness is, what factors cause it, what the system Braille is and its main characteristics, what associations there are in the world to deal with the blind, how the way of teaching English to the blind is.

Based on this, the aims of this work were to deal with providing information that contribute to know more about how to teach blind people, as well as to identify the strategies used by some professors to teach a blind student, and to understand how a blind student learns a new language.

In some schools which had never had a person with any disability, the school authorities have not had the neccesity to train their teachers to assist this social group. However, it is not a justification because I consider that all the teachers in any level from kindergaten to the University must be trained to deal with people who have different disabilities. We do not have to wait until a blind student or a student with any other disability becomes a member of our classroom to be trained. From this point of view, the information gathered in this study maybe be of great help for teachers, parents and students who are working or going to work with a blind learner.

A relevant thing to be mentioned here is that all of the information collected was from a blind student, her teachers and partners. She shared with us her own experince since she became blind. Hence, it will be an amazing adventure through the blind´s world. Besides, this information will help us to avoid discriminating against the blind people when we see them. If we know how to deal with them, we can help them and make them feel part of society.

"There is no better way to thank God

for your sight than by giving a helping

hand to someone in the dark."

​ -Hellen Keller

Chapter I

Literature Review

1. Teaching English around the world

Maybe, it is known that if people speak in English or understand it, they can get a better job, make business, travel to other countries where English is spoken, among other things. Nowadays, English is one of the most important languages of the world since according to Baugh (as cited in Samia, 2015), it is spoken by more than 380 million people in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the former British Empire. It is the largest of the Western languages. Many people are aware of the value that the English language has in today's world. For that reason, the demands for learning it are increasing every day. There are different factors which make that language dominant and important: some people see it as their window to the outside world in the sense that they can use it as a means of communication with others from different countries because it is widely spread. It is widely recognized that the English language is becoming an effective mean to communicate, to participate in international business activities, and to obtain information about the events all around the world. In addition to this, Mckay (1992) in her book called "Teaching English Overseas" mentions that the main reason for the widespread of English is the belief that a certain proficiency in that language may provide social and economic gains.

Although there are thousand of languages around the world, not all of them are spoken by the same number of people; meanwhile some of those languages are broadly spoken, some others are hardly used. Precisely, English is one of those languages that is spoken by million of people worldwide due to some important reasons: firstly, it is used as lingua franca to communicate with people from different parts of the world and whose native languages are different from English. Secondly, English is also essential to the field of education since in many countries English is taught as a second language and as a foreign language. Thirdly, English is also, the dominant language in the science field because half of the scientific literature is written in English; and fourthly, on the Internet, the majority of websites are written and created in English (Humanities, 2015).

Perhaps for those reasons in some countries like Mexico, the English language is starting to be taught in schools from kindergarten to high school as a foreing language because students need to be prepared for the new globalized world that we live in and because it opens up new opportunities to get a job. Moreover, it gives you the chance to know more about other cultures and learn about its customs, traditions, music, values, ways of thinking, religion, among other dimensions.

1.1 Teaching English to Blind People

When people talk about the teaching and learning process for children, they sometimes say it is so difficult due to each kid has different ways of learning and acquiring knowledge. And if teaching standar students is sometimes complex, teaching blind learners is even more complex. From our own experience, we consider that teaching blind students is not easy since you cannot use the same activities or materials which are used when you teach students who can see all the things around them. Moreover, the sight is an important source of information because through this people can learn more about the enviroment they are in contact with every day of their lives. As a result of this, when teachers are given their classes they can find some problems regarding teaching blind students since teachers usually use drawings, images, pictures or gestures to show several objects or to teach the topics they are working on.

Although the blind cannot see, they have other senses which are developed and through which they can learn, such as, touch or hearing. According to Aiazzi (2008), the only one thing that people or teachers can do to improve the ways blind students learn is to modify and adapt the activities or the teaching methods to get students learnt and perform activities which involve sensory codes such as hearing and touching. In addition to that, Smith (2014, para 1) also argues that “it is known that blind people are able to compensate for their loss of sight by using other senses, relying on sound and touch to help them”see” the world.” Hence, the blind cannot see the things around them with their eyes, but they can know them with their hands.

There are a lot of activities teachers can use for teaching sighted students, but these must be modified with blind learners since they need more explanations about things they cannot see. For this reason, if a teacher wants to be effective to a blind student s/he needs to deal with the following aspects according to the British Council (2016, para 2): understanding degrees of blindness, understanding the background, technological help, reactions of other students, teaching tips, etc. In relation to understanding the degrees of blindness, first and foremost the teachers have to understand the visual condition of their blind students. On the other hand, other important issue to know is how and when he or she became blind. Finally, teachers must give students this kind of material written in Braille and use technology. Learning a language is very much tied up with culture, exposure and experiences. Blind students may not be able to acquire exposure and experiences the same way as sighted students. So teachers of the blind may have to do a little more than other teachers. When blind students are out in the sighted world studying side by side with sighted students, they are usually able to adapt to their environment.

Thus, teachers and parents must be aware of the kind of activities or strategies they use to teach blind because these must be useful and interesting to get a real and significant meaning. Some strategies for teaching the blind are:

Table 1. Strategies for teaching blind into the classroom.

Verbal instructions must be given when demostrating a skill.

Instructions must be clear and concise.

Use directional words (left, rigth).

Use tactual, hands on demonstrations with verbal instructions.

Seat blind student in front of the classroom.

Explain completely visual situations.

Think about attributes in addition to color when describing or referring to objects.

Tell the blind to “look with two hands” or “use both hands” when examining something.

Remind the blind to face the person with whom he/she is talking.

Use sound localization

(Taken from, Montagnino, 2017; Castellano, 2003)

1.2 What the Mexican Goverment is doing to incorporate handicap students to the National Educational System

In the 1990s, the inclusive education movement ground in Mexico. The effects of this movement can be seen in the educational policies and services focusing on special needs of students in Mexico. Teachers did not receive minimal training before the inclusion model came into use in the 1990s. Teachers were not aware of roles and responsibilities in this new paradigm. They also did not have any knowledge of the special needs of their new students in most cases (Faith, 2016).

Faith (2016, para 2) mentions that:

Mexican law guarantees that the state will serve all people with disabilities and special education needs. The General Education Law (Ley General de Educación) of 1993 was the first federal mandate obligating the state to address the needs of special education students in Mexico. Since then, Mexican educational, health, and social welfare agencies have made significant changes in the services provided to children with special education needs.

In Mexico, it was not until 1995 that a Federal Policy was passed for the population with disability, under the name of the National Program for the Wellbeing and Incorporation of People with Disability (Zedillo, 1995). Its main objective was to promote the participation of people with any handicap, as well as to achieve the full realization of their rights and quality attention in the fields of health, job training, transportation and education. The impact that this program had on education, and particularly on higher education, was null, since the changes aimed for were never incorporated into the Federal Policies, or in the regulatory frameworks and much less in the daily educational practices (Pérez, 2014).

An attempt at integration is obligatory, but if it fails for a given child, the child has the right to be in an alternative setting. Current Mexican educational policy is based on the premise that special education students need additional resources to learn the content included in the national program of studies and need additional resources. The following chart explains the terms and codes used in official school documents in Mexico to indicate identified student disabilities (Faith, 2016, para 3-4):

Table 2. Codes used in official schools in Mexico to indicate student disabilities.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Nowadays, the tendency is towards inclusive education, which is based on the belief that everyone has the right to take part in education equally. In addition to that, Armstrong (2011:7) argues that “it is an important concept because, in its full interpretation, it represents a potentially profound shift away from policies and practices based on selection according to perceptions about ability, which have traditionally sanctioned the exclusion of many learners from mainstream education.” Thus, on the first hand, it is important to include people with special educational needs in the mainstream education and recognize these people as peers. On the other hand, teachers and classmates should accept students the way they are and try to realise their potential, personality and interests. Moreover, Armstrong (2011) claims that schools have to transform their curricular material as well as the social and pedagogical life. Since doing this teachers can value all the students equally because they should not be excluded from any activity and try to remove barriers to studying not only for the impaired student(s), but also for the rest of them because we should not see the handicapped people such as a difficulty, but rather as an inspiration, since they try to do the same things like a person without handicap.

Because of inclusive education has been an idea of recent years, it is not practised everywhere to the widest possible extent. It is a new concept of schooling, which the educational systems should tolerate, but it is probably going to take a while before the policies are fully implied everywhere. Nowadays, all visually impaired people are given the primary education guaranteed by law. Furthermore, they are supported in gaining education, which would enable them to be included in our society. They commonly study vocational high schools, choosing the field of study according to their handicap. These days, more and more people continue with their studies at universities. For that reason, inclusive education comes the demand on teaching materials and equipment for teaching the handicapped. In general, each student has to be approached individually and the means of communicating the teaching material to their needs has to be done in the best possible way, which can hardly be standardised (Galetová, 2012).

Visually handicapped children can be educated either within the concept of inclusive education in common schools or they can attend a specialised school. There are pros and cons in both variants. Inclusive education helps students not to feel different in society because of their handicap and they can greatly benefit from time spent with non-handicapped people. However, because inclusive education is a new concept which emerged not many years ago, the teaching system and teachers are not fully prepared for it and often do not have enough experience and education for teaching visually impaired students in common classes. On the other hand, specialised schools have excellent equipment and facilities to support those who cannot see well followed by a well-educated teaching staff. Unfortunately, the chance to socialise with peer healthy population is minimised (Galetová, 2012).

To sum up, all people have the rigth to receive education whithout taking into account their physical conditions. In any case, blind students or students with any handicap must be treaten in the same way as those sighted students, but using different strategies and materials according to their needs. Althought they have some difficulties to learn, it is not an obstacle for blind students to acquire knowledge because they can make use of other senses or skills.

1.3 What is blindness?

Blindness is the inability to see anything, even light. It is defined as the state of being sightless. Blind individuals are unable to see. In a strict sense according to Dahl (2016) the word “blindness” denotes the inability of a person to distinguish darkness from bright light in either eye. Furthermore, the terms blind and blindness have been modified in our society to include a wide range of visual impairment. Blindness is frequently used to describe severe visual decline in one or both eyes with maintenance of some residual vision.

Another definition about blindness is what Kemp (1981: 69) mentions in the following lines:

Blindness is among the most severe of all forms of physical disability, because whithout vision blind people are cut off from a major segment of the social and physcical environment to which they must adapt. So that, this creates problems for mobility and everyday skilled activities for which vision is important. For that reason, the blind can only guess at the meanings and intentions of non-verbal communication and the social context in which these occur.

In addition to that, Diplacido (2011, para 1) argues that:

Being blind generally refers to a complete lack of functional vision. However, blindness involves varying levels of vision ability, sometimes under varying conditions. Vision is the result of light rays hitting the back of the eye, or retina, and then the optic nerve transmitting electrical signals to the brain. Blindness occurs when an inadequate amount of light hits the retina, or the information has not been delivered to the brain correctly.

1.3.1 Factors of blindness

The eye consists of three parts: receptor (external eye), the optic nerves and the visual centre of the brain. Any of these three parts can be damaged and consequently affect the vision . Furthermore, blindness may be caused by different factors such as injury, lesions of the brain or optic nerve, disease of the cornea or retina, pathological changes originating in systematic disorders, cataract, glaucoma or retinal detachment (Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2012).

The next graphic shows the percentages of the causes of blindness and visual impairment.

Figure1. Causes of blindness and visual impairment

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

(Taken from, World Health Organization, 2007)

The major risk factors for visual impairment due to eye diseases according to the World Health Organization (2007) are:

- Age: Visual impairment is unequally distributed across age groups, as more than 82% of all blind people are 50 years of age or older, even though people in this age group represent only 19% of the world’s population. Although the prevalence of blindness among children is about 10 times lower than that among adults, childhood blindness remains a high priority because of the expected number of years to be lived in blindness. About one-half of the estimated 1.4 million cases of blindness in children below the age of 15 could have been avoided.
- Sex: Studies consistently indicate that women in every region of the world and of all ages have a significantly higher risk for being visually impaired than men, mostly because of their longer life expectancy and, in poorer societies, because of their lack of access to services.
- Socioeconomics status: More than 90% of the world’s visually impaired people live in developing countries.
- Other risk factors include tobacco use, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, vitamin A deficiency, high body mass index and metabolic disorders.

In addition to the information mentioned before, people who are at risk of becoming blind are: people with eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, people with diabetes, people who have a stroke, eye surgery patients, people who work with or near sharp objects or toxic chemicals, and finally premature babies (Krucik, 2016).

1.3.2 Kind of blindness or visual disability

Galetova (2012: 11) mentions that: “Vision loss can be partial or complete, so that visually impaired people or people with a visual handicap are people who suffer from various kinds and grades of lowered visual abilities.” The next chart shows the kind of blindness or visual disability according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (as cited in Galetová, 2012).

Table 3. Kinds of blindness

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10, update and 2006 revision), the visual function is subdivided into four levels (WHO, 2014, para 2):

- Normal vision;
- Moderate visual impairment;
- Severe visual impairment;
- Blindness.

Moderate visual impairment and severe visual impairment are commonly regrouped under the term "low vision". Low vision and blindness together represent the total of cases of visual impairment.

1.4 Differences between a person who was born blind and a person who became blind in any phase of their life

There are some differences between a person who is blind from birth and a person who becomes blind in any phase of their life. For example, a person who is blind from birth has more difficulties in building effective mental images and in processing the outer world than a person who has seen for some time and can remember what s/he has seen. The latter does not usually need a lot of explanations about things and events, whereas the former will never be ableto understand certain mental concepts such as colors or shapes (Aiazzi, 2008).

Blind people who never experienced vision or do not have visual memory learn differently from those who lost it adventitiously. They totally rely on other senses than vision to learn, and have nonvisual learning styles that require different teaching strategies. Thus, to help them learn, teachers or parents need to emphasize the use of all their sensory potential. The blind from birth may need or require more direct instructions that involve tactile and other sensory input, since they do not have or may have limited visual observation skills; and may miss or misunderstand some concepts or behaviors (Holbrook and Koening, 2000).


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Creating Awareness of Blind Students
University of Veracruz
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Copérnico Fernando Pereyra Centella (Author)Fanny Nallely Hernández Sánchez (Author), 2017, Creating Awareness of Blind Students, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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