To My Teachers, From Your Student With a Visual Impairment and Anxiety
To my teachers,
I am a student who is visually impaired, and I need accommodations for class. I need large print handouts, preferential seating, printed PowerPoints, and to write on the test instead of on ScanTrons. Because of my disability, I also have anxiety. I get anxious when working in groups, I get anxious when reading four inches from my face in front of people, and I get anxious when we have to spontaneously present work to the class.
My hope is for you all to understand what a day is like from my perspective, and to hopefully accommodate for the class, instead of for students like me. I still need my accommodations, but I would be more successful if class assignments were fair for all, and not stress-inducing.
I know that every class is different, but perhaps you can read my story and consider how to take my needs into account when making lesson plans.
On a typical day, as soon as I walk into class I have to find my name on the attendance sheet, holding up the line and causing many people to try to help me find my name. My confidence drops before class even starts. If I cannot even find my name on the attendance sheet, how can I even be successful in this class?
I sit in my seat and try to think positive thoughts.
Later in class we are split into groups, and we are supposed to read over new material and then present what we learned to the class on a poster. My anxiety skyrockets, and I just try to breathe. You see, when I present information to a group; it takes careful planning in order for me to make sure I can read it and present it for all to see, and then to mentally prepare to read in front of class.
Assigning a spontaneous assignment where a group has to create a poster of information and read to the class is extremely hard for me because of my vision. I cannot read the writing because it is too small, so I have to memorize it. But what if I forget it because I am too anxious? Then I am embarrassed in front of the entire class, even though everyone already knows I am visually impaired. That happened once, so now I dread these assignments.
Let me clarify, it is not teaching in front of students that makes me anxious; it is being in front of my peers. This is known as social anxiety. The hardest part of having a disability is not the disability itself, but how others react to me.
I cannot stress enough that the entire embarrassment can be alleviated by structuring the entire class in a way that is more fair, instead of making me try to memorize something, or find other ways to be able to read the assignments. Even if I wrote down my part of the poster and read it from a notebook when presenting, this singles me out. And instead of thinking about the material we are learning, I am trying to breathe through the assignment. There are other ways we can learn the material besides singling out students with disabilities, or adding to our anxieties.
Instead of giving us spontaneous presentations, you could assign PowerPoint presentations days in advance, or you could teach us the material and assign individual assessments. Students like me tend to prefer working alone because then we do not have to worry about others, or worry about how to accommodate other partners’ work.
Having a disability does not mean we cannot perform the same tasks as our non-disabled peers, it just means we have to find our own ways to complete the task, and this requires time to do so.
I cannot stress this enough – accommodating the entire class will elevate stress from singling out your disabled students.
Please consider each student and their needs before planning your instruction. The success of your students depends on it.
Your anxious student
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