By Tessa Wright, Research Assistant, APH
Recently the California School for the Blind renovated their preschool room with some very specific goals in mind to create a versatile yet structured area that would cater to the needs of preschoolers with visual impairments. The result was a room that was not only a user-friendly environment for any preschool child, but an adaptable space conducive to the needs of students with visual impairments. With its adaptability and basic principles, the room, more specifically, can provide a good environment for children with cortical visual impairment (CVI).
The largest advantage of this room is the way it lends itself to adaptability. Every child with CVI is different and thus has different needs. The room was designed with plain, white walls. While these can be decorated, simplicity is the key to enhancing the acuity of children with CVI. Also, for contrast on these low, 30-inch walls, a blue border was added to the top of them. The border doesn't have to be blue and the walls don't have to be white; a red or yellow border atop black walls would prove ideal depending on the color preference of the child/children. The point is that it contrasts highly and is simple providing a great reference for tracking, something necessary for any child with a visual impairment. Additionally, the organized, structured nature of the room helps provide the routine from which preschoolers benefit. The basic, low walls that create a specific area and limitations for all preschoolers provide the same for a student with CVI as well as the opportunity for a work and play area with simple, controlled backgrounds and surroundings.
The Touch It Tent likewise allows for the same private environment with simple, easily controlled surroundings as well as a darkened area that permits light box use with the added benefit of easy access to students and supervising teachers/parents.
In other words, the paramount aspects of this room can be summed up in just four words whether the intended users are preschoolers with CVI, students with other visual impairments, or children with no visual impairments: organized stability, adaptability, simplicity.
Additional reading and photographs can be found in D.V.I. Quarterly (48) 2, Winter 2003 on pages 18-21.
For additional information on this classroom design and adaptation, Karen Courtemanche, Preschool Classroom Teacher, California School for the Blind, firstname.lastname@example.org