19 Ways to Step Back–Adapted from Classroom Collaboration, by Laurel J. Hudson, Ph.D. (Perkins School for the Blind)

It often feels right to give help to students with visual impairments, but this may not be in their best interest.  Use this list to help yourself to step back.

  1. You’re stepping back so your students can step forward and become independent.  Keep this in mind.                                                        
  2. Clock how long it actually takes for students to start zippers, pick up dropped papers, or find page numbers.  What’s a few more seconds in the grander scheme?                                                                                           
  3. Sit on your hands for a whole task while you practice giving verbal instead of touch cues.  Hands off the hands!
  4. If you need touch cues, try hand-under-hand instead of hand-over-hand.  This gives students much more choice.
  5. Let your students make mistakes and get into trouble.  It’s part of the human experience!     
  6. Acknowledge your own needs.  There’s a reason you chose the helping profession.
  7. Sit further away.  If you’ve been within arm’s reach, sit just within earshot.  If you’ve been sitting just within earshot, sit across the room                                          
  1. Pat yourself on the back every time you help with seeing, not thinking.  Your job is to give information.
  2. Even though helping can feel right, be aware that too much assistance is short-sighted.  Sometimes less is more, less is better.
  3. Catch yourself before you correct your students’ work.  Don’t cover for them.  This is about their skills… not yours.
  4. Commit to no intervention for a whole activity.  Take data instead.  Things might not fall apart as much as you had expected.
  5. “What page are we on?” “What’s for lunch?” Have students ask their classmates instead of you, both during school and on the telephone.
  6. Assign student learning partners and sighted guides.
  7. Teach students to decline assistance, “Thanks, but please let me try it by myself.”
  8. Whenever you add prompts, include a plan to phase them out.
  9. Let the boss know that you need to step back so that your students can be more independent.  You’re not shirking your responsibilities.
  10. Collaborate with other adults to break your habits of helping too much.  Agree to remind each other to step back.
  11. Try helping only when classroom teachers give you a signal.  They may prefer to respond directly or to give students longer to work it out alone.
  12. Post a sign, “Are there any other ways I could step back?”




The Chaffee Amendment in 1996 addressed the concerns of accessibility.  Below is an excerpt:

(a) IN GENERAL–Chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 120 the following new section:
“SEC.121. Limitations on exclusive rights: reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities
“(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 710, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.
(1) Copies or phonorecords to which this section applies shall–
“(A) not be reproduced or distributed in a format other than a specialized format exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities;
“(B) bear a notice that any further reproduction or distribution in a format other than a specialized format is an infringement; and
“(C) include a copyright notice identifying the copyright owner and the date of the original publication.
“(2) The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to standardized, secure, or norm-referenced tests and related testing material, or to computer programs, except the portions thereof that are in conventional human language (including descriptions of pictorial works) and displayed to users in the ordinary course of using the computer programs.
” (c) For purposes of this section, the term–
“(1) ‘authorized entity’ means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities;
“(2) ‘blind or other persons with disabilities’ means individuals who are eligible or who may qualify in accordance with the Act entitled ‘An Act to provide books for the adult blind’, approved March 3, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 35a; 46 Stat. 1487) to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats; and
“(3) ‘specialized formats’ means braille, audio, or digital text which is exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.”.
(b) TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT–The table of sections for chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after the item relating to section 120 the following:
“121. Limitations on exclusive rights: reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities.”.

Sensational BlackBoard offers a fun, fast, easy and inexpensive way to get tactile access to images. Draw your own raised line pictures or you can have photo copy images of text book or research materials quickly traced.


  • Light weight at just 7 ounces.
  • Flexible enough to not break in your backpack but rigid enough to draw on your lap.
  • Smooth surface holds the paper in place. No clamps makes it easy to tuck into a briefcase or binder 11 1/2” x 9”.
  • Inexpensive since it is designed to be used with a regular ball point pen and standard copy paper.

Go to: http://sensationalbooks.com/ to see a video on this great tool

This test contains all the braille contractions your student should know. Test and get a quick idea of where your student’s speed is at in addition to the contractions she knows. Great baseline to begin instruction.


Download your copy and quickly translate to braille with Duxbury Braille translation software:

Then download copy below and translate in duxbury or another braille translator

Informal Braille Competency Test

Math Window® is an easy-to-use math teaching tool utilizing magnetic tiles on a conveniently-sized work surface.  It is portable and comes with its own carrying case.  Math concepts are easier to understand using this tactile method of building and solving math problems.  Tiles can be stored along the perimeter of the board or on our new attachable tile pallet (optional).

Order products at: Math Window

Children have little fingers that need to be strengthened to press the keys on a regular brailler. Therefore, I want to tell you about the Mountbatten brailler.

I have started students as young as 3 years old on the Mountbatten brailler, and find they can braille with perfect finger positioning.

Click here for the Mountbatten brialler website

Click here to watch the Mountbatten brailler in action

We want to be careful when letting young children use the regular brailler so they don’t start poor brailling habits, such as using 2 fingers to press one key. This is not only time consuming, but also very slow because it takes so much effort to press the keys. The Mountbatten brailler, however allows for good habits to form while fingers are growing and getting stronger. Starting out correctly, our children will then be successful braillers with an ability to increase their output as they get older, creating a joy in reading what they wrote