Disability Services at UMass Amherst

Information For Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Blindness may be defined in several ways. A person is considered "legally blind" if their best corrected visual acuity is 20/200 or less. This means that, at best, the person can see an object from a distance of 20 feet that a person with "normal" (20/20) vision can see from a distance of 200 feet. A person is also considered legally blind if their visual field - everything seen while looking straight ahead, including peripheral (side) and central (straight ahead) vision - is 20 degrees or less. The typical human visual field is 180 degrees. Some individuals, while not legally blind, may need some type of accommodation due to other eye conditions that prevent them from reading print for extended periods of time.

Common Accommodations

Although accommodations are determined on an individual basis, the following list includes those most frequently employed to eliminate barriers to access for students who are blind/visually impaired. Once a student and their Consumer Manager determine reasonable accommodations, the Consumer Manager, with the student’s permission, sends a letter to the student’s professor or other University personnel requesting the accommodations.

Printed materials in alternative formats
Books on tape/readers
Proctored exams and/or accommodations on exams
Exams at the Assistive Technology Center
Access to assistive technology
Preferential seating
Use of paratransit service
Lab assistants
Reduced course load
Extension of statute of limitations

Tips For Students

Contact Disability Services as soon as possible after being admitted to the University.

Always get the materials you will need for your courses in advance so that they can be made available in alternative formats.

If you need books on tape, try to find out as early as possible what books the professor will be using in their class. This should be done as much as a semester ahead of time.

Learn to use the technology available in the Assistive Technology Center.

Get to know your professors and talk to them about accommodations. Before meeting with a professor, prepare what you want to say at the meeting and decide what you hope to accomplish. Your Consumer Manager can help you decide how to approach meetings. An open relationship with your professors can really help you in the long run.

Be open-minded to accommodations proposed by your professors that differ from those that you and your Consumer Manager have discussed. Take advantage of your professors’ and TAs’ office hours.

Schedule rides from paratransit as early as possible

Make sure when you schedule your rides with paratransit that you know exactly where the drop-off, pick-up site are.