Teaching Individuals with Vision Impairments
Review the requirements for becoming a teacher who specializes in working with students who have vision impairments. Read about your undergraduate and graduate degree options in this field, as well as certificate programs. Find out what you'd learn in a program focused on techniques for teaching students with vision impairments and get career prospects, too.
Is Teaching Individuals with Vision Impairments For Me?
Teaching individuals with vision impairments includes instructing blind and partially sighted students. This primarily involves teaching skills - such as Braille, communication skills and study techniques - that help students achieve their educational goals despite vision impairments. It can also involve ensuring the necessary educational tools and materials are available to impaired students, creating educational plans, performing vision evaluations and otherwise assessing students. Although similar in many ways, this field is distinct from vision rehabilitation therapy, which focuses more on helping individuals with vision impairments develop life skills.
As a teacher of the visually impaired, you might work in a mainstream public school setting, instructing students and consulting with regular teachers. Alternatively, you might work with students in their homes. You could also become an early intervention specialist, which involves working with very young children, either in their homes or a preschool setting. Opportunities for employment also exist in special schools for individuals with vision impairments, although these types of jobs are less common and not available in all areas.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of special education teachers - including teachers of the visually impaired - is expected to increase by 6% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). This is slower than the national average for all jobs. The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for special education teachers was $55,060 in 2012. As of March 2014, PayScale.com reported that most people teaching individuals with vision impairments earned $32,068-$72,901 per year; this range reflects the 10th-90th percentile range and includes salaries and bonuses. Your employment and earnings opportunities may increase with certification in additional areas of instruction, such as low vision, orientation and mobility, assistive technology or severely multi-handicapped.
How Can I Teach Individuals with Vision Impairments?
Teaching individuals with vision impairments usually requires at least a bachelor's degree, although some states and employers require a master's degree. At the bachelor's degree level, you might major in teaching, special education or a particular subject area that you want to teach. A few schools also offer undergraduate majors specific to teaching the vision impaired.
After earning a bachelor's degree, you typically need to complete a specialized program for teaching individuals with vision impairments. This is often accomplished with a master's degree program, but post-baccalaureate certificate programs could also be an option. If you already have a master's degree in another field, such as special education, you might further specialize in this area via a graduate certificate program. A certificate program often takes as little as one year to complete, whereas earning a master's degree in teaching the vision impaired usually requires 1-2 years of full-time study, depending on your undergraduate major. Some master's programs in visual disabilities are designed to prepare both future teachers and vision rehabilitation therapists.
Courses in a specialized vision impaired program might include orientation and mobility, anatomy of the eye, eye diseases, literary Braille and mathematics for the blind. You'll learn special skills for teaching and assessing students with vision impairments. Additionally, you might learn about teaching life skills, as well as teaching students with other disabilities. Some master's degree programs allow you to specialize in a particular area, such as teaching young children or those who also have severe cognitive disabilities.
Patience, understanding and good communication skills are important for this job. Many of the job duties for this occupation include interacting with students, parents and other school employees.
Licensing and Certification
You'll also need to earn the appropriate credentials to become a teacher. The requirements for a teaching license vary by state, but generally, you must complete an approved teaching program and pass a test. To teach individuals with vision impairments, you'll likely need special certification, licensure or endorsement, although these requirements also vary by state and employer. In at least some states, certification leads to a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) credential.