Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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LOOK Well-being Weekend

December 10th, 2018 / View in own page?

 

group picture of mentors, all smiling in the sunshine.

8-10 February 2019, at Poulstone Court, Herefordshire

Open to vision impaired 18-29-year-olds

Join us for a weekend of activities and workshops designed to boost your physical confidence and well-being. We’ll have yoga, horse riding, blind rugby and dancing on offer! It will be a great opportunity to meet new people, try new things and have a fun and active weekend away.

 

image of mentors performing warrior pose during a yoga session with instructor.

How do I sign up?

You can secure your place with a £50.00 deposit.
To book email events@look-uk.org or call 01432376314

mentors sat outside on a lawn as the sun sets chatting in groups.

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Top Tips for Supporting Visually Impaired Maths Students

October 29th, 2018 / View in own page?

Have you ever wondered the best ways to ensure visually impaired students can access maths lessons?

 

LOOK mentor Kim Jeffreys shares her top tips to support visually impaired maths students.

If you are supporting a student with a visual impairment in Maths sessions, there are several things you will need to consider. Some issues are less obvious, especially if you have not experienced sight loss yourself. Here are some tips to help you provide the best learning opportunities for your student.

Before the Lesson:

It is extremely important to prepare learning materials before the session and this should not be left until the last minute. Remember that adapting materials takes time and technology can be unpredictable. Make sure everything is prepared well in advance. Effective planning and communication are essential. Teachers and support workers should build up a good rapport and share responsibility for making work accessible. It may be the support assistant’s job to actually prepare the materials, but it is the teacher’s responsibility to clearly communicate what needs to be done and have realistic expectations.

There is no optimum way to adapt materials because all students have different needs and ways of working. The best way to approach things is to speak to the student directly. Ask what resources they would find useful so you can tailor the support you are providing. This also saves you from wasting time on adaptations which will provide no benefit or even become a nuisance.

Some students will be embarrassed about discussing adaptations due to peer pressure and awkwardness in the classroom. Try gentle encouragement in these situations. Pushing a student to use certain resources will only make them panic or rebel (or both). Making decisions on their behalf will also affect self-confidence and take away the student’s sense of autonomy. The more you keep them involved in the process, the better.

During the Lesson:

Maths sessions can vary greatly depending on what is being covered. Naturally, a session focusing on diagrams will prove much more challenging than simple mental maths. If you are teaching a small group or leading a personalised study session, be sure to take this into account. You may be able to tweak lesson plans or rewrite them entirely to accommodate the challenges that crop up. Be observant during sessions and try to accurately monitor the student’s progress. This will help you better understand their needs. As you get to know your student better, it will become easier to anticipate difficulties in advance so appropriate support can be put in place.

Patience in the classroom is one of the most important qualities to have when supporting a student with a visual impairment. When they find the work too difficult, this can lead to frustration and anger. Understanding Maths, which is a highly visual subject, requires much more effort from your student than their peers. It’s only natural to experience a lack of co-operation at times when this extra burden becomes overwhelming. It is important to be patient and remain positive at all times. Rather than criticising your student if they are having a bad day with eye strain, encourage them to complete just one more question or fetch some water and take a quick time out. Don’t lower your expectations but try to be compassionate and work on building trust.

After the Lesson:

It seems obvious, but some teachers completely fail to acknowledge this point- you should never give a child homework that they are incapable of completing. For your visually impaired student, it’s not necessarily a lack of ability preventing them from doing the homework, but a lack of accessibility. It’s no use having everything adapted for the session if you then proceed to give the student a worksheet or textbook that’s unreadable. Similarly, if they rely on 1-1 support, you need to consider when someone will be available to help with the homework. There are only 24 hours in a day and your student won’t get help around the clock. Their families have lives and jobs that mean they may not be available every evening to provide extra support when needed. Timetable limitations can also prevent students seeking the help they need at school/college. Be mindful of this because nothing will turn a student against you more than the constant stress of impossible homework and unfair punishments for not completing it.

Even if your student works independently and receives less support, they will still need extra consideration in terms of their workload. Having a visual impairment means that tasks can take much, much longer than intended. That’s the whole reason behind extra time in exams. Remember that Maths is not the centre of your student’s life (not usually anyway). They will have several pieces of work at any given time and there’s a greater-than-average chance that they will require frequent trips to medical appointments. This piles on enough stress. When a student is exhausted after a full day of work and has a headache from overusing their eyes, sitting down to spend 4 hours on a piece of homework that’s supposed to take half an hour is far from ideal. Please be reasonable!

Useful Adaptations:

The previous advice was quite generalised and could apply to a number of subjects. Here are specific examples of ways that Maths resources could be adapted.

Large Print– You would be amazed at the huge different that increasing the print size of the work can make for some students. It can also be a good idea to make the numbers bold and separate them out better so everything becomes more distinct. The workbook used can help too. Some students will want books with large squares rather than small ones; others will prefer lined or even plain books instead. You could also design custom graph paper in your student’s preferred size and colour with thicker lines. However, please remember that simply photocopying a worksheet onto A3 paper is NOT suitable. Not only is it grainy and poor quality, but it’s not even 2x the size! Despite the paper being double the area of A4, the text itself will only be 1.42x larger on most copiers.

Braille– Braille is so useful in Maths because it’s easy to create labels for diagrams and the medium is tangible. Having the information read out to you can be so confusing. Imagine trying to calculate an answer while holding the whole equation in your mind and having more information thrown at you. Jotting things down is essential for so many students’ thought processes and braille can be quickly read back.

Tactile Diagrams– These are easier to create than you may realise. To create an effective tactile diagram all you will need is swell paper and the appropriate machine for it, which is essentially a laminator with a different function. There are two main types of swell paper, so always check the packet, but this is the most common method. To prepare, all you have to do is copy your image. You could print it directly onto the swell paper or photocopy a hand-drawn diagram. Just remember to print on the matt side, not the shiny side. Also, BLACK INK ONLY! Then put your swell paper through the machine once or twice and all the ink will be raised. Thicker lines are much more effective. Easy! Don’t forget to add some braille labels or other things (like colourful dots) that will help your diagram to be comprehensible.

3D Objects– Shapes can be a nightmare to understand for those born with minimal sight. If your student really struggles in this area, there are a couple of strategies you can try. For 2D shapes, make them large on a sturdy cardstock and cut them out so the student can feel around the edges. It may help to put a tactile dot in the top corner of the shape to prevent confusion when it is constantly being turned around. 3D shapes prevent a greater challenge because the concept of 3D itself can be incredibly difficult to grasp. Try to explain it to a totally blind person and you will understand. A drawing of a 3-dimensional shape, even a tactile one, will be completely useless in most cases. Instead, you will need to acquire real objects for the students to feel. Linking shapes to the ‘real world’ is a great idea. For example, you could bring in some tins and kitchen roll to demonstrate things that are cylindrical.

Whiteboard and Pen– We all know that teachers’ handwriting is difficult to read at the best of times, but for us visually impaired folk it’s practically impossible. Seeing the board, even from the front row, is also a miss. It’s a great idea to always have a mini whiteboard ready for your student and a pen in their chosen colour. Writing things down with an erasable pen is a better option than going through 50 sheets of paper each session and making your nose run from the fumes of a permanent marker. The thickness of the pen forces you to get in the habit of writing things larger and more clearly so your notes are actually legible. Don’t forget to provide feedback in a format that’s readable too!

Talking Everything– Calculator, timer, scales, thermometer, etc. etc. Think of any piece of equipment that isn’t very accessible and you can probably find a talking version. True, it may be ridiculously expensive for what it is. This is when you talk to your student and decide whether the investment is worth it. Remember to keep lots of spare batteries around! You can also get some great tactile items such as colourful rulers with raised markings and Wikki sticks. (I think that’s how it’s spelled; they’re basically sticky wax sticks that you can stick to a page. Great for graphs and the like.)

Here’s a bonus tip- food dye is really helpful for measuring tasks.

I hope that you found this advice useful and wish you the best of luck with all future Maths sessions!

Kim :)

 

 

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Unlocking the Fashion Industry for Visually Impaired Young People

September 6th, 2018 / View in own page?

Young people with John Lewis personal shopper who is holding a jacket.

LOOK UK recently held a fashion event at John Lewis Birmingham. Visually impaired young people were invited to come together to talk about fashion and to get fashion tips from blind beauty YouTuber Lucy Edwards and John Lewis Stylists.

“Fashion is very visual, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it.”

The day began with a talk from blind YouTuber Lucy Edwards, who lost her sight five years ago. Lucy spoke candidly about her long personal journey to coming to terms with her sight loss. “It’s been a massive journey for me. When I started my YouTube channel I was very low. There wasn’t a lot online that proved to me that I could do it.” But as Lucy’s channel began to grow, she found a supportive community that she could talk about fashion with and learn from.

Lucy Edwards in conversation with Sam and Kevin of LOOK, being interviewed for podcast.

“Fashion is very visual, but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We can be able, we can be strong, we can be independent women and men.”

Lucy then took questions from the audience. In response to a question about who to believe when people comment on what you are wearing, Lucy advised only trusting the opinion of two or three close family and friends, as getting too many opinions can be confusing.  Lucy was also asked about the best ways to apply make-up. She advised learning how to apply foundation first, and using a sponge run under water, rather than a brush.

Event attendees being addressed by John Lewis staff and stylists

A session with the stylists

John Lewis stylists then talked to the group about the clothes sold at John Lewis; jeans from Oasis and French connection to name a few. They also spoke about fashion trends such as the ‘slogan t’ or T Shirts with slogans on and demonstrated a variety of skin care products.

12-year-old Malika said: “This has been really helpful for me, learning about all the trends, learning about the make-up techniques. I’m 12 years old and this is the time when I really want to be involved in all this. This day has given me tips and tricks and boosted my confidence.”

LOOK staff addressing event attendees

Competition time

Things then got a little bit interactive. John Lewis ran a quiz offering a snazzy pair of premium Ray-ban sung glasses as a prize for anyone who could guess how many sun glasses brands were in the store. The first guess of 99 brands was way off the mark, but it was only two guesses later, when Fiona correctly guessed 17!

Personal shopper

For the final session everyone was divided into two groups. One group stayed with the John Lewis personal stylists and Lucy Edwards, to get more personalised advice while the other group went downstairs to check out the John Lewis personal shopper service. This is where you can book an appointment and a John Lewis partner will take you into a room and help you choose clothes that you might like to buy. The benefit being that you can get one to one advice from your personal shopper. Many of the young people who attended were interested in this service, as a lot of the fashion trends are shared on visual magazines, and products aren’t labelled in an accessible format, leaving many visually impaired people feeling isolated from the fashion industry.  So, what can the industry do to become more accessible? Lucy Edwards thinks labelling more products in braille would be a great start and having an online advice service tailored for visually impaired people could bridge the gap for those who may not know routes to the high street.

Event attendees and LOOK staff with John Lewis personal shopper, examining a piece of clothing

In the meantime, Lucy hopes to work with LOOK to develop the fashion event further to help more visually impaired young people get more out of fashion.

“We can work together to really make it something that visually impaired people come to, maybe on the regular to learn tips and tricks. Having this community and making it stronger, is only going to make everyone happier.”

 

Lucy Edwards speaking to event attendees, standing before a clothing rack and the LOOK banner

To stay up-to-date with future LOOK events, sign up to our email newsletter, using the sign-up form on our homepage.

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Look Roving Reporters Media Training

August 8th, 2018 / View in own page?

Look UK Media Training for Roving Reporters, Focus Birmingham

6 October 2018

Free event

Calling all visually impaired 11 – 25-year olds.
Interested in radio reporting? Come to our media training day and become a roving reporter for Look UK. Learn how to tell the stories that matter to you.

You will:

• receive training from top BBC radio broadcaster

• Learn how to spot a good story

• Learn communication and interview techniques

• Learn basic sound skills

• Have your work broadcast in the Look podcast

“I really wanted to get into radio broadcasting so working as a Look roving reporter gave me the opportunity to put those ambitions into practice. I learned how to plann the interviews, the questions I hoped to ask, but also to be ready if people said something I wasn’t quite expecting. I also learned aspects of post-production including editing skills. It was a great experience.” Ed, roving reporter.

To apply, send us a recording no longer than 90 seconds long introducing yourself and explaining why you would like to become a Look Roving Reporter.

Send your submissions to info@look-uk.org before Monday 17th September 2018.
To speak to one of the Look team or if you have any questions, please call the office on 01432 376314.

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The Importance of Mentoring: Attending a LOOK Mentor Training Weekend

July 24th, 2018 / View in own page?

 

On 13 July, a group of trainee and current LOOK mentors gathered for our mentor training weekend.  Our online mentor scheme matches visually impaired mentors with blind and partially sighted mentees aged 11-29. Mentors use their experiences of living with a visual impairment to give support and advice through a structured programme of conversations.

Sam is our Project Assistant, who also trained to become a LOOK mentor. He writes about what the training involves and why he wanted to become a mentor.

If I could sum up the whole weekend in terms of questions answered, those questions would be:

“What is mentoring”? “Why is it important”? and “Why is it needed”?

After the orientation and the icebreakers, which in hindsight we might not have needed, as the ice had already melted the moment we started interacting with each other; we began our training journey.

Through a succession of workshops designed to give a greater understanding of the responsibilities of a mentor. We covered communication skills and safe guarding, where we looked at some case studies. We also talked about mentoring in regards to scheduling a conversation and creating a boundary agreement with the mentee.

The sessions felt more like seminars/discussions, both relaxed and intense, informal yet informative, locating the problems as well as directing the attention to solving them.

The group discussions served as a reminder of the reasons why I wanted to be a mentor and help another VI young person struggling to find someone to relate to.

One of my highlights of the weekend was definitely during the safeguarding session with the case studies. I found that session quite challenging as we were asked to respond as a mentor to the different scenarios. Some of the tips sounded quite simple for example asking open questions etc.

Another of the highlights was the speed mentoring activity, which I found also challenging, as it required us to be able to respond in real time to our partner/mentee, as well as taking on the role of the mentee.

As I was leaving the venue what stayed with me was the importance of mentoring and it’s role in bridging and in some cases removing those barriers that VI people encounter in their daily lives.

If you want to find out more about our mentoring scheme, email Megan on mentor@look-uk.org or call 01432 376314.

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LOOK Fashion Event

July 24th, 2018 / View in own page?

Come to the LOOK Fashion Event!

 

28August 2018

John Lewis Birmingham

12-4pm

Free event

Are you visually impaired and 11-29? Interested in getting fashion tips from fashion experts and VI vloggers? Always wanted to sport the latest look, or wear a new outfit, but don’t know where to start? Then our fashion day is definitely for you.

What’s happening on the day

We’re hosting our fashion day in John Lewis Birmingham on 28 August. Blind beauty YouTuber Lucy Edwards, featured by Buzzfeed in 2015, will join stylists and fashion experts to give fashion tips and advice.

You’ll become a dab hand at doing your own make-up, you’ll get tips to identify and match clothes and you’ll also learn the best ways to pick the look that’s right for you.  Gentlemen, think this event isn’t for you? Wrong. Cristiano Ronaldo is a pretty stylish player, wouldn’t you say?

Places are limited so make sure you book your place fast.

To sign up please email events@look-uk.org or call 01432376314.

Fashion matters. Being blind doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

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