Zebehazy, K. T., & Wilton, A. P. (2021). Graphic reading performance of students with visual impairments and its implication for instruction and assessment . Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness , 115 (3), 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X211016918

Journal Article

Zebehazy, K. T., & Wilton, A. P. (2021). Graphic reading performance of students with visual impairments and its implication for instruction and assessment. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 115(3), 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X211016918


Elementary; Enlarged print (on paper); Hearing impairment (including deafness); High school; International (non-U.S.); Math; Middle school; Multiple ages; Science; Tactile graphics; Teacher survey; U.S. context; Visual impairment (including blindness)





Tactile graphics and print graphics (5 standard font size, 15 large print) were provided to students for the completion of multiple choice questions using the graphics. The accommodations were provided for five types of graphics: a bar graph, a Venn diagram, a shape rotation problem, a geometry area problem, and a map. In order to ensure high quality, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) produced the large print and tactile graphics according to its standards (e.g., thermoformed sheets).


A total of 40 students with visual impairments in grades 4–12 were assessed. The student participants attended public schools or schools for the blind in the United States (n=12; 3 states) and Canada (n=28; 3 provinces). Seven (7) participants each had an additional disability (17%). The convenience sample was composed of 20 print graphics readers (5 standard, 15 large print) and 20 tactile graphics readers. Teachers reported student data including their own impressions of student participants; they completed data forms seeking demographic, academic, and disability information. The number of teacher respondents was not specified.

Dependent Variable

A test-like task assessing science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) content comprised one to three multiple choice questions for each of the five graphic types, which included: (a) bar graph, (b) Venn diagram, (c) shape rotation, (d) geometry area problem, and (e) map. Questions were leveled by schooling level (elementary, middle, and high school) but all used the same graphics. Students also provided their comments in a video-recorded "think-aloud" interview while reporting their answers to each multiple-choice question [these individual item feedback data will be considered in a separate study document]. Graphics were obtained and adapted from the Test Ready Plus Mathematics program and the Test Ready Social Studies program, which are test preparation curricula. Teacher-reported student data were also analyzed for correlations of these various factors in relation to performance. Demographic, academic, and disability information were reported by participants' teachers—including teachers' own impressions of students—such as student history of instruction on graphics, IEP goals, and ability level in content areas.


Significant differences were found in performance across medium types: print graphics users scored significantly better than tactile graphics users overall. Significant relationships were reported for teacher-rated factors on students' overall performance and specific graph types. These factors were: (a) an IEP goal on graphics, (b) math ability level, (c) graphics engagement frequency, (d) problem-solving skills, and (e) independence level using graphics. Task completion took longer for tactile graphics users, which researchers recommended should be factored into instruction and assessment practices. Results indicated that direct instruction on, and frequent use of, both forms of graphics may aid in equalizing performance between print and tactile graphics users. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research possibilities were suggested.