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Visual Impairments in a Visual World

The importance of sight to a complete understanding of the world cannot be overemphasized. The other four senses play their part, but sight completes and furnishes answers to the questions that other senses bring to mind. We feel a sharp point and we look to see what the point is, how to avoid it or how we use it; we hear a noise and we look to see where it originated and how its closeness might affect us; we smell a skunk and look to see where it is; we taste something and we look to see its appearance.

A greater quantity of information is gained in a shorter period of time with vision than any other single sense organ. When entering a room, an immense amount of information is immediately available through one's visual system: how many women vs. men, older vs. younger, and so much more. Incidental learning occurs more through vision than any other sense.

A visual impairment certainly affects how one gathers and processes information. The visual system can be thought of in terms of the eye, the optic nerve and the brain. The eye collects the information, the optic nerve transmits it, and the brain interprets the information. All parts must work together for good vision or a clear image to occur. There are numerous things that can go wrong with the visual system, resulting in hundreds of eye disorders.

At The Watson Institute students diagnosed with an intellectual disability often have visual impairments as well. A teacher of the visually impaired will assess the student's vision using a functional vision evaluation. The student's educational team works closely in developing appropriate adaptations to materials, instruction and the environment to increase each student's ability to use their visual system to the fullest extent.

Vision provides the tool for actively organizing one's world and one's experiences and is critical to learning and development.

For more information on programs and services at The Watson Institute, call (412) 741-1800 or visit our website at www.thewatsoninstitute.org

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