Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Literacy for Youth with Low Vision

I Like It When book cover with penguin mother and childstar activity on light table

I recently chatted with a teacher in our community regarding her early elementary students with low vision and what adaptive resources were available to encourage their love of reading. We talked about their individual needs and what materials the library can offer them. We have resources in our Accessibility Support Collection for youth with visual impairments and their caregivers. The need for more picture books with high-contrast illustrations (beyond a board book format) became apparent.  A few days later, I had a twitter conversation with fellow youth librarian Renee Grassi about high-contrast books for youth with low vision, and we decided to coordinate blog posts! Renee provided some great resources on her ALSC blog post about books for kids with low vision, so we'll just call this post "part two."

Low vision means that even with corrective devices (glasses, contact lenses, optical lenses, medicine or surgery), you have difficulty completing daily tasks because you don’t see well. Vision loss can vary from mild to severe, but there is still a functional amount of vision. There are many different causes of vision loss and some causes are more likely with age (i.e. macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetes). According to the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind, “the leading causes of visual impairment in infants and children are retinopathy of prematurity, deficits in the visual centers of the brain, cataracts, and retina abnormalities...Cortical visual impairment (CVI) is a neurological visual disorder and also the fastest growing visual impairment diagnosis today.” Here’s a great online resource to learn more about CVI: http://tech.aph.org/cvi/. Different diagnoses mean different needs. With assistive aids and literature in tactile form, many youth with low vision can enjoy a good book as much or more than their peers with 20/20 vision. Let’s talk more about adaptive literacy.
inside of tactile illustrated book
Assistive literacy tools for youth with low vision:
  • Books in Braille (including tactile illustrated Braille with raised-line or three-dimensional illustrations so you can experience the pictures by feeling them) 
  • Books in large print
  • Audio books, eAudio books, visual accessibility options on eBook platforms (i.e. OverDrive)
  • Touch/feel books and Pop-up books
  • Adapted books with simple, high-contrast illustrations (bright image on black background)
    (Check out Paths to Literacy link below for samples and instructions.)
  • Story Boxes
  • Light box literacy activities (check out the light box activity we did in my Space-themed story time.)
  • High-contrast picture books

Story Boxes
Froggy Gets Dressed story box with frog doll and clothesThese are kits that contain a story and manipulatives representing characters or items mentioned in the story for kids to touch / feel while listening. These manipulatives give meaning to the words in the story for tactile learners, which helps to support comprehension and allows children with low vision to experience the story hands-on. Some storytelling sets can be purchased from companies such as Kaplan and School Specialty, but some of our best story boxes have been hand made by volunteers with exceptional sewing skills!

High-Contrast Picture books
Ghosts in the House book cover with girl, cat, and ghosts in front of houseMany children with low vision need materials presented in high-contrast in order to visually process them with accuracy. While there are many board books with high-contrast illustrations, I had to do a little more digging for picture books with high-contrast images that older children with low vision could appreciate. I received some wonderful suggestions from other librarians on Twitter (thank you!) and then did a little research. Along with high-contrast colors, illustrations should not be too busy or complex with patterns that may confuse the reader. Effective colors can also vary. Bright colors are usually best, reflecting the light to allow for better visibility. Not all children with low vision prefer black and white, though. According to a study done by the Little Bear Sees organization (http://littlebearsees.org/), “…highly saturated color is incredibly important for youth with CVI because color vision is usually preserved.” Children with CVI tend to prefer color contrasts in red and yellow (but some may also prefer orange and blue or other contrasting colors).

Here are some of my favorites:
Board Books:
DK Braille book series
High-Contrast book series from Duopress (Hello, Ocean Friends)
High-Contrast books by Roger Priddy
Art for Baby: High-Contrast Images by Eleven Contemporary Artists... Candlewick Press
Deneux, Xavier         My Animals
Garralon, Claire        Black Cat & White Cat
Hoban, Tana             White on Black and Black on White
Linenthal, Peter        Look, Look Outside!
Purcess, Rebecca     Super Chicken!
Torres, J.                  Checkers and Dot series
Wan, Joyce              We Belong Together

All in a Day book cover with boy and chicken in a treeIs It Big or Is It Little? book cover with little mouse and big balloon

Picture Books:
Books by publisher PatrickGeorge     I See..., I Hear...
DK Braille book series
Antony, Steve       Please, Mr. Panda
Borando, Silvia     Black Cat, White Cat
Bruna, Dick          Miffy series
Cooper, Elisha     Big Cat, Little Cat
Crews, Donald     Ten Black Dots and Freight Train
Davis, Katie          Who Hops?
Ehlert, Lois           Fish Eyes: a Book You Can Count On
Emberley, Ed       Go Away, Big Green Monster!
Fontes, Justine    Black Meets White
Henkes, Kevin     Kitten's First Full Moon
Hoban, Tana        A, B, See!
Jocelyn, Marthe   Same Same and Eats
Kohara, Kazuno   Ghosts in the House and The Midnight Library
McClure, Nikki     Apple and In
Murphy, Mary       I Kissed the Baby and I Like It When...
Parr, Todd            The Feelings Book
Early Bird book cover with bird and butterfly on a white fencePienkowski, Jan    Homes
Portis, Antoinette  Not a Box
Rueda, Claudia     Is It Big or Is It Little?
Rylant, Cynthia     All in a Day
Seeger, Laura V.   One Boy
Sis, Peter              Fire Truck
Thomas, Jan         Can You Make a Scary Face?
Veille, Eric             My Pictures After the Storm
Walsh, Ellen S.     Mouse Paint
Woollvin, Bethan   Little Red
Yuly, Toni               Early Bird

Here are a couple of great online resources for more information on literacy for children with CVI:


Friday, September 8, 2017

Inclusive Technology Station

This blog post was originally published on the ALSC blog. I have added a few product details to this post.

Inclusion is defined by Merriam-Webster as simply “the act of including.” In 2009, the Bloomfield Township Public Library officially unveiled its Accessibility Support Collection for patrons with different needs. The collection has grown considerably over the past 8 years with circulation increasing steadily due to word-of-mouth, marketing to community organizations and schools, a focus group, and adapted programming. We often see families of all ages with disabilities visiting the Youth Room to read, color, attend a program, and play. Striving to include the technology needs of those with different learning needs in our library, we put together a proposal for our Friends of the Library to create an Inclusive Technology Station. Our proposal was approved and funded with a budget of $3500 for an accessible technology station with active seating and software/apps geared to different learners. Here’s what we put together:

Desktop PC
All of our public computer stations have the Office software, JAWS screen reading software, and multiple Internet browsers (two of which have a large print keyboard). This PC also has these adapted additions:
ZAC browser (developed for children with autism)
Software:  Boardmaker (for teachers, therapists, and caregivers to create visuals for the classroom, office, or home), Zoom Text, Word Q (word prediction software great for English Language Learners or slower typists due to physical disability)
Large print keyboard in high contrast black and yellow for those with low vision
Ambidextrous colorful switch-adapted trackball mouse (to be inclusive of people with fine motor difficulties)
Software to develop social skills and capability switch skills is currently being considered for future addition.


This tethered iPad offers 40 fun and educational apps geared to different learners that work on the development of vital skills (fine motor, visual processing, sensory awareness, language, visual-motor, auditory memory and processing, reading, writing, sequencing, social and daily living, spatial awareness, emotion recognition, and eye contact).  We chose a durable tethered case from Bouncepad that can also be placed on a lap for better accessibility and printed these brochures describing the apps in large print:
Inclusive Tech Station iPad Apps (part 1)
Inclusive Tech Station iPad Apps (part 2)

Active Seating
Static seating can be very uncomfortable for people with a lot of energy and/or have a constant need for active sensory input. Dynamic, movement-based seating (“active seating”) can promote concentration and engagement for those with autism, ADHD, and other learning disabilities. The slight constant movement provides much needed sensory input while also requiring the person to make frequent postural adjustments, strengthening core muscles for those with low muscle tone. Many special education classrooms have already made the switch to this form of seating, which by the way, is also being adopted by mainstream classrooms, colleges, and corporations for better productivity!

We chose these height-adjustable Turnstone Buoy Stools that can be used by children, teens, and adults of all abilities. They also come in a variety of really neat colors!

Some great resources on assistive technology:
Assistive Technology in Special Education: Resources for Education, Intervention, and Rehabilitation, 2nd Ed. by Joan L. Green (Prufrock Press, 2014)

Assistive Technology Toolbox   http://techpotential.net/attoolbox
Paths to Literacy                 http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/
Apps for Children with Special Needs http://a4cwsn.com/
iAutism                 http://www.appyautism.com/en/
Common Sense Media         https://www.commonsensemedia.org/