Considering Light When Utilizing Technology

What was once thought as non-purposeful gazing at light has now shown to be an important element in CVIers’ daily routines. Light can still be a distractor for our learners, but it also has a purpose. Learners with CVI have shown an ability to utilize light to access their functional vision. In either case, light will remain an important element for learners with CVI. 

Dr. Christine Roman Lantzy’s CVI Range score places students in what she refers to as one of the three Phases of CVI; Phase I, II, or III. Light can be used differently across these three phases. Light as a distractor can easily be forgotten after a learner is out of Phase I. Whether it be a bright light in the room, the sun shining in through the window, or a bright toy across the room, IEP teams should be mindful of various light sources. Consider where the lights are and observe how and if the lights impact the learner’s ability to locate/interact with visual targets.

One of our low tech options to support a learner’s need for light can be a light box or a flashlight. Visual targets can be placed on a light box with an occluder to block unnecessary light. Flashlights can be used by shining the light from behind the student on to the visual target.

Using Technology to Help Learners

More often, we are using technology to help our learners gain access to their curriculum. Various tablets and computers are backlit and offer a natural way to utilize light within technology to support your learner. The backlighting acts similar to the use of a light box. Unlike a lightbox, with technology, IEP teams are able to customize so many more details of the target to ensure it meets their learner’s needs.

Educators have many options to create accessible content; CViConnect, BoomCards, or presentations (Google Slides, Powerpoint, Keynote), etc. In addition to adding photographic images, teams can use these programs, or other similar options, to add special effects to utilize light. Effects such as fireworks and sparklers can utilize light, color, and movement. 

Using Special Effects and Background

By adding special effects when the screen is touched, light can be used to increase a learner’s hand eye coordination. For our learners in Phase I, these light effects can also be used during instruction to gain and maintain visual attention. Adding special effects briefly to a presentation for a learner in Phase II or III can be used to draw our learner’s attention to a specific part of the screen or a salient feature on a target. 

Teams should consider the background when truly making sure to utilize light. When considering backgrounds, we typically only think of the color that offers the most high contrast. While this is still very important, we also have to balance the amount of light coming from the background. A white background will emit more light than a black background. We want to offer a visible target, but be mindful that our learner could potentially be distracted by a bright white light too.  

When it comes to all accommodations, there isn’t a simple yes or no answer.  Each of these edits must be considered on an individual basis for what each learner needs.

Using Neural Networks to Assist Educators, Caregivers, and Parents to Better Understand What Their Child With a Visual Impairment Sees

While at the Pediatric Cortical Visual Impairment Society’s conference in Omaha, Nebraska covering the current research in the field, I was speaking with a parent who has a child diagnosed with CVI. She spoke about how her child got a fishing pole this summer and caught his first fish.

He also had the opportunity to do a rope course that was designed for those with difficulty walking and or seeing. She went from storytelling to utmost pride when reflecting on how these opportunities had opened her child’s perception of what is possible in the world. This Brave New World sort of talk.

We also spoke about how unique of a sensorial experience it would be to feel a fish biting and pulling on a fishing line, or the sensation for him of falling through the air guided by a rope. One could only imagine how a child’s brain, if being analyzed by one of the very many doctors at this conference using MRI, would light up like a Christmas tree with unique patterns and communication pathways to interpret what in the world just happened.

“You know what is funny?” she said.

“We were walking at an event that was in a cornfield and we passed a porta-potty. My son immediately says, “What is a vending machine doing in a corn field?” Isn’t it amazing what he can see and how he sees it!?”

It really is. As she said this, I immediately thought to myself, if I was not paying attention to my surroundings, and quickly passed a porta-potty, I too could easily associate that visual outline as a vending machine. Having 20/20 vision and healthy visual pathways, my life’s experiences do not associate a corn field as having a vending machine, my brain would probably have never conjured the association.

BUT, what could make this association? What is not trained to omit certain possibilities, like my brain? 

Text to image neural networks can do just this.

Here is a potential example of how this parent’s child saw the cornfield via an image rendered by a neural network given the following instructions: “a blurred image of a vending machine in a corn field as seen by someone with poor vision.”

CVI child sees vending machine in cornfield CVI child sees vending machine in cornfield CVI child sees vending machine in cornfield

Over time, once the child is taught to recognize the context and associations of a porta-potty, this is potentially what they could see via an image rendered by a neural network given the following instructions: “a foggy image of a porta-potty in a corn field as seen by someone with poor vision.”

CVI child sees vending machine in cornfield CVI child sees vending machine in cornfield c

Then, hopefully with even more training and life experiences with a porta-potty, the sharpness and clarity could improve to something like this via an image rendered by a neural network given the following instructions: “a realistic photo of a blue porta-potty in a cornfield.”

porta-potty in cornfield porta-potty in cornfield porta-potty in cornfield

The potential here is having a tool that could, for the first time, create images for parents, caregivers, and educators to better visualize the world that a child with cortical visual impairment lives in. Each child is unique, and each experiences their own representation of the world. One that is often beyond our grasp.

The better we understand that world view representation, the more accurately we can work with children with CVI to make bridges to the generally accepted societal world. Having a better understanding of the world, as the general society experiences it, helps make every day independent living safer for the child.