Any resources visually impaired ESL students?

please pass them on or discuss. Thank you.


Hi, Allegra -

Can you tell us a little bit more about what kinds of resources you're looking for to use with this population of learners?  In the meantime, a good resource to check out is the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).  Their resources page is a great starting point to learn about other national programs serving the needs of learners with vision impairments.


Mike Cruse

Disabilities in Adult Education Moderator

HI all-- I was contacted to find out if I had anything to contribute to this request-- I confess to being puzzled about it-- what about resources for visually impaired persons would be specific to ESL?   Is it a need for materials in large print in different languages or in beginning English or something?  Names of doctors who can work with persons who speak other languages?   Can someone clarify what prompted the question/request?? I have done some work with ESL/ESOL learners with vision issues but the only way their being non-native speakers impacted the situation was having to be sure they could understand the doctor examining them and vice versa, a situation usually solved with an interpreter.    Thank you, Robin Lovrien (Schwarz)                                 




sorry to have been vague...asking for a colleague and I didn't have all the information. Here are more details:


The two students in question are adult men (a father and a son) who may not be literate in their first language. There is a lot of things we don’t know about them because the refugee resettlement agency doesn't know. Our usual way of teaching English visually to beginning ESL students with pictures, objects, and dialogs obviously won’t  work for students who are blind, so we are looking for strategies, techniques, and materials that we could use to help convey the meaning of English words using hearing and touch and perhaps the other senses (smell and taste). In addition, we would like to know if there are ways to teach literacy to blind students who are not literate in their first language.


Allegra- I am inferring that the two men in question are blind (according to the third sentence in the paragraph above....)  I would urge the agency to get in touch ASAP with the Perkins school for the blind in Belmont (?) MA-- they will most certainly have had students of other language backgrounds.    The approach  mentioned-- touch, smell, taste and hearing ( as in bells, or anything else that makes a sound --makes perfect sense to me;  I would imagine the teaching needs to be highly contextualized so the men have a way of hanging on to the vocabulary, etc.   


years and years ago I taught two Hmong women who were blind.  They listened in my basic ESOL/literacy class and then had enough oral/aural English to work within a sheltered workshop with other people with visual or intellectual disabilities.  I learned grade 1 braille and used it to teach them to decode words using the language experience approach; I hope that subsequently someone may have taught them the more advanced and easy to read form of Braille.  I was just giving them the building blocks.     I later learned through programs offered through the Carroll Center for the Blind near  Boston (; and with the American Foundation for the Blind, who had put together workshops for educators working with adults with a range of visual challenges.  Through this work I met Sylvie Kashdan ( who has developed extraordinarily useful material for educators of ESOL adults with visual impairments.  some few addition resources here, too:





Thank you for the links for resources for helping students with visual impairments who need to learn English.  Today a young man who has Nystagmus and is an NRS level 2 joined my summer ESL class.  I look forward to reading the link you suggested. I have a lot to learn.  If anyone has worked with the visually impaired in ESL I would welcome any suggestions about what to do.  I do plan on using his cell phone to record vocabulary for him to review at home.  Beyond that, this is all new to me.  


I well remember the moment a student who had visual impairments appeared halfway through my morning Adult ESOL class. That moment is still there - I can still see the exact place she sat, and her hopeful smile. I felt lost about what to do, totally unprepared. I was afraid that my ignorance about her world would end up wasting her time or even causing her more harm than good. Her time with me was short because her family moved out of the area. But in that short time I learned a lot about public and non-profit resources that were available. Prior to coming to the US, she had little engagement with resources in her home country, so one of our priorities became to learn about the services she could use. Another priority for her was to learn how to get to places around the community. I had to ask her lots of questions to understand how the world operated from her perspective, such as what it was like for her to find places and how to navigate inside buildings, and what objects were like for her in her tactile and audio-based world. I realized that there was so much for me to learn.

Here are some links I found in my archived files and some I found today. Thanks to everyone else for the excellent resources already shared.

Kaizen: Program for New English Learners with Visual Limitations | for Blind and Low-vision Adults (Kaizen has been mentioned already, but I want to reinforce that they were extremely helpful.)

BLIND Inc., a program in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

Teaching English to Blind Refugees and Immigrants by Sharon Montheim the principal instructor of adult ELLs at BLIND Inc.


Article about Sharon Mathei's work: 

American Foundation for the Blind: 

The British Council: (for children)

The Special Ed Wiki: (for children)

The English Club: 

Pinterest: Today I found some interesting teaching strategies here:


Thank you very much, Phil, for sharing your experience and for linking us to all the useful resources. We just never know-- do we? what kind of wonderful learning adventures we may encounter when working with adult learners?!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP