Accommodations are modifications in the visual demands of a task with the intent of making the task easier. When visual problems are more severe, accommodations will be less effective or totally ineffective. The accommodations that I am going to address here are those that relate to the difficulties that students with healthy eyes have learning and while taking examinations.
The children who would receive that most benefit from accommodations are many children who have undiagnosed visual problems. These children have been able to cope with tracking, crowding, eye-hand coordination, focusing, and eye teaming problems, but school work could be easier for them and they could perform better if the print was bigger, the pages less crowded, they had frequent breaks, and they had more time to complete their work.
Children with diagnosed visual problems typically have more severe visual difficulties. While the above accommodations may still be appropriate, their effects will be limited.
This became personal for me lately due to the need for hip replacement surgery. Prior to the surgery and during the recovery, there were things that I just could not do regardless of accommodations. When I was able to “walk” with a walker and then for short distances with a walking stick, this was still far from walking automatically. I had to attend to walking. I was slow. There was little that I could think of other than walking due to the attention required and the associated discomfort. I fatigued quickly. Other parts of my body hurt from compensating. Student’s visual problems are no less incapacitating. I can look forward to putting this in my past. Without effective treatment, this will not happen for the children with significant visual problems.
A common example is a child who can keep their place much better when they point to each word with their finger. They cannot read without the finger and this can seem like a miracle, but it should not be equated with normal reading. It is similar to walking with a walker. It cannot be smooth. It takes longer. It is more tiresome. Attention is distracted from the reading material (comprehension) to the mechanics of reading. It is clumsy.
We will continue to recommend accommodations as appropriate. We don’t take crutches away from people who need them, but everyone who works with these children cannot forget that the effects of their problems have not been eliminated, even in the short-term.
Ironically, visual problems are less visible than many other problems. When I am walking with my walking stick, everyone knows that I have a problem and they do not expect me to function as if I did not have the problem. That can only happen when my problem is resolved. The same is also true for visual problems.