Johnson-Jones, K. J. (2017). Educating students with visual impairments in the general education setting (Publication No. 10259406) [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Southern Mississippi]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1880507449
The University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS); ProQuest document ID: 1880507449; also available online on U of Southern Mississippi webpage at https://aquila.usm.edu/dissertations/1337
This qualitative study described students' use of assistive technology devices and accommodations in classrooms—including class tests—as well as their use for state assessments, and educators' practices of providing these assistive technology devices and accommodations. 'Low-tech' supports such as magnifying glasses and 'high-tech' devices such as CCTV were reported; additional examples and experiences with them are listed in the Findings statement.
The researcher interviewed both students and the educators who taught them. Three students with visual impairments in grades 3 through 7 who were in general education programming at least 80% of the time participated; age, gender, and ethnicity were also reported. The four educators were two general education teachers, one special education teacher, and one paraprofessional. Educators' gender and ethnicity (White) were also reported. The context was a small rural Mississippi school district, focusing on the classrooms in the elementary or middle school attended by the students and taught by the educators.
The researcher inquired about participants' experiences through a set of semi-structured, open-ended interview questions and classroom observations; data documents were interview transcripts, structured notes—recording "teaching styles, related services being provided, student activities, and involvement of students with visual impairment" (p. 45)—and observation documents—recording "visual functioning, classroom modification, behaviors of targeted students and the class as a whole, and the use of technology" (p. 46). Interview questions for student participants focused on their capabilities, academic challenges and needs, supports such as accommodations and assistive devices, and experiences with teachers. Interview questions for educators addressed their understandings of their students' needs, supports they provided, and educators' needs for assistance or resources.
The study yielded information about teachers' accommodations practices and students' expressed needs and uses of accommodations. At least two themes identified in the findings pertained to these topics: "depending on structures of support" (Abstract) and "responding to barriers" (Abstract). Supports were identified as people—as in 'support system'—as well as accommodations and assistive technology; the latter were emphasized in this summary. Two of the students indicated using a magnifying glass for routine needs in the classroom. A common theme was that students had uneven access to specific supports; for example, one student indicated only using CCTV during the state assessment, and that this 'high-tech' magnification device was not available for classroom use. The teacher for this student indicated that after having noticed the student's low performance on classroom tests with standard print size, the teacher provided large print paper tests and observed improved test results. The researcher also remarked about the absence of high-tech magnification devices in the classroom, despite herself noticing that "all three students were observed holding their papers close to their face or bending over so their face could be near the top of their desk to see their papers" (p. 65). Teachers indicated at various points in interviews that they did not have sufficient training or resources for providing vision-related supports for the students; while readily providing access by reading materials aloud, some teachers engaged students' peers to support students' need for access to materials. All three students reported in detail about their limited access or lack of access altogether to academic materials, despite specifically asking for supports such as recorded lecture notes and other materials. One student had computer access listed on the IEP, yet the teacher noted, "there was often no technician to assist in fixing the device" (p. 83); another student indicated being expected to use a computer for a reading test, yet that someone had to read the test aloud (from the computer) to the student. The researcher discussed related themes regarding students' sense of their disabilities and their negative emotions associated with the limitations that they experienced with instructional support. Educators indicated their needs for resources in order to address the needs of students with visual impairments, and the researcher offered recommendations on this matter. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.