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Deafblind Fact Sheet: Tips for Teachers with Students with Usher Syndrome

Classroom Accommodations and Adaptations


  • Lighting should be adequate without glare. Use full spectrum lighting whenever possible.


  • Teachers should provide group instruction from a non-cluttered background area, and avoid unneeded movement.
  • Windows should be behind students. Teachers should never be in front of windows.
  • Furniture should be arranged to provide easy movement in open space.  Keep drawers and doors closed. Discuss all furniture rearrangement with students. Seat students where they are comfortable (e.g., possibly front side so they can see the chalkboard and other students in the class).

Colorado Services to Children with Deafblindness: Assistance for those with both vision and hearing loss

Classroom Environment

  • Chalkboard/White boards should be cleared of unneeded marks, and regular printing (instead of all capital letters) used. Use white chalk only.
  • Colors should be softly neutral, yet textured, in the background of the teaching area. Floors and carpets should not be dark red or brown.


Learning Media

  • Conduct a learning media assessment to determine appropriate learning media and strategies.
  • Print should be maximum contrast. Avoid dittos; if dittos must be used, give the student a yellow acetate overlay to use.
  • Use non-glare paper, and evaluate the size of type which is most appropriate for individual students.
  • Develop the use of tactile skills as early as possible.

Individualized Classroom Materials and Procedures

  • Students may need individual copies of wall-hung graphs or charts, or they may need time to examine these charts close up.
  • Tests may have to be adapted for individual use, including allowing students to mark answers on test booklets or providing the test in a different format.

Assistive Technology

  • Low-vision aids may eventually be prescribed, and assistive listening devices can be used.


Sign Language

  • Others may have to adapt their sign language to adjust to the student's limited vision. Keep signs as small and concise as possible, and increase the duration of each sign. Eventually, tactile sign may be an option.
  • Interpreting services may be necessary to allow access to instruction and interaction. Evaluate the need for these services on a regular basis, to ensure that the student is aware of what is happening around him or her.
  • Begin including more and more tactile and olfactory materials and cues for the student. A vision teacher and/or an orientation and mobility specialist can recommend techniques to use during specific activities.

Orientation and Mobility

  • Document the assessment and support needs for the student to travel independently.
  • Explore the use of sighted guide, self-protective techniques and trailing skills, and land marking skills and techniques.

Time Allowances

  • For all tasks, students may need "time and a half" to complete the same work as their peers. When doing repetitive academic work, students can be assigned half the questions or problems their peers are assigned to equalize the length of time spent in homework or academic drill.


Adaptations and Accommodations

  • Assist the student in developing strategies to discuss necessary adaptations and accommodations, or to communicate other needs.


  • Encourage the student and family to link with others for support and networking.


Everson, J. (Ed.), (1995). Supporting Young Adults who are Deaf-Blind in their Communities
Baltimore: Pail H. Brookes Publishing, Co.

Hicks, W. (1981). The Usher's Syndrome Adolescent: Implications for School Administrators, Teachers, and Residential Advisors.
American Annals of the Deaf.

Miner, I., & Cioffi, J. (1997). Usher Syndrome in the School Setting.
Sands Point, NY: Helen Keller National Center Technical Assistance Center

Sauerburger, D. (1993). Independence Without Sight or Sound.
New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Torres, I., & Corn, A.L. (1993). When You Have a Visually Handicapped Child in Your Classroom: Suggestions for Teachers.
New York: American Foundation for the Blind

Information for this fact sheet kindly supplied by California Deaf-Blind Services, January 2002

More information

Colorado Department of Education
Phone Number: 303-866-6694 – Ask to speak with a Deaf-Blind Specialist on staff with ESSU
Fax: 303-866-6918
Deaf-Blindness Webpage

Exceptional Student Services Unit
1560 Broadway, Suite 1100
Denver, CO 80202

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