Art - Help

Making Art Accessible
for Students with
Physical, Visual, Severe
and Multiple Disabilities
Mari Beth Coleman, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Stephanie Cramer, Ed.D.
University of Tennessee
Importance of Art
for Students with
Significant Disabilities
• Art is a visual language that provides
another means of communication
• The openness of art instruction (many
solutions, not single answers) naturally
allows the expressions or voices of
multiple learners.
• How can all students become empowered
and engaged in learning experiences?
What Makes an Individual
Well Rounded?
• Just passed in the Senate is an amendment that
states that the arts are essential to a wellrounded person and healthy future
• Providing opportunities where all of our students
participate in the arts is paramount to assisting
our students to becoming more well-rounded
• Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) requires that
the abilities and needs of all students are
considered in the learning environment so that all
learners are included in the classroom as much as
possible: Classroom, co-taught classroom and
special education teacher, and special education
• Art is a conduit to experiencing life long
learning in ways that are creative and
encourage problem finding and solving
• Art also provides opportunities to observe,
participate in and strengthen aesthetic
awareness and critical thinking (likes and
• Built into art classrooms are ways our
students can participate in a community of
diverse learners since the art teacher sees
almost all students in the school (usually
within the week) and has them for the entire
time that they attend that school
(elementary, middle and/or secondary)
• One way to provide empowerment to all of
our students is through educating ourselves
to learn how to provide and model best
practices of accommodating and improving
accessibility to learning and participating in
the rich visual language of art
• To make this happen there needs to be
collaboration between the special needs
educator and the art educator
Art Teacher Survey
• We recently collected data on a survey
regarding accommodating and
providing accessibility to students with
physical, visual, severe and multiple
• 88 art teachers responded to the
– Mean years teaching 13.31
– Most (56%) teach 1-10 students with
physical, visual, severe, or multiple
disabilities per year
Results: Preparedness
• Ratings of knowledge and skills for
teaching art to students without
disabilities ranged from somewhat
extensive to extensive
• Ratings of knowledge and skills for
assessing and teaching art to students
with physical, visual, severe or multiple
disabilities fell between somewhat
minimal to medium
Types of Assessment
• For students with physical, visual,
severe, and multiple disabilities:
– 73.8% assess based on participation
– 67.5% assess based on effort
– 57.5% assess with modified rubrics
– <20% assess with unmodified rubrics, or
unmodified quizzes or worksheets
Results: Types of
Instructional Adaptations
• 87.5% provide peer or adult assistance
with materials management
• 62.5% provide extended time to complete
• 57.5% provide peer or adult hand-over-hand
or hand-under-hand assistance
• <50% use:
– Special equipment
– Modified materials
– Projects partially completed by someone else
Results: Technology
• Only 52.6% reported having limited
knowledge about assistive technology
– No technology solutions were reported as
being used more than sometimes
– Adaptive scissors, large-handled
implements, and larger-sized materials
were used rarely to sometimes
– All others were used between never or
• Types of Disabilities We Will Discuss
– Vision Impairment
• Low vision
• Legal blindness
– Complex Communication Needs
– Physical Disabilities
– Intellectual Disabilities
– Multiple Disabilities
• Adaptations (Accommodations,
Modifications, & Assistive Technology)
• Accommodations
– Adaptations that do not result in changes to the
number or level of standards achieved
– Most students with mild disabilities will only receive
– Students with visual or physical disabilities may need
significant accommodations to meet all standards
• Modifications
– Expectations for standards achievement altered
– Generally for students with moderate to profound
intellectual disabilities
• Assistive Technology
• Assistive technology is defined in the
Individuals with Disabilities Education
Improvement Act as, “…any item, piece of
equipment, or product system, whether
acquired commercially off the shelf,
modified, or customized, that is used to
increase, maintain, or improve the
functional capabilities of a child with a
Levels of AT
• No Tech – accommodations or
• Low Tech
• Middle Tech
• High Tech
Basics of Working with
Students who have Disabilities
• People First Language & Disability
– Language places person first (e.g., “a child
with a disability” instead of “a disabled
• Understand differences in background
knowledge and concept development
• Partial Participation
Vision Loss
Vision Loss:
Levels of Participation
Independent with materials assistance
Independent with alternate materials
Partial assistance - partially prepared
materials such as cutting with scissors
• Partial physical assistance (HUH)
• Alternate mode (e.g., express through clay
instead of paint)
Strategies for Students with
Visual Losses
Vision Adaptations
• Students with low vision
– Contrast
– Color (e.g., black text on yellow background)
– Brighter colors (fluorescent colors work well
for some).
– Light box
– Enlarged text or graphics
Computerized (backlight helps) with or without
magnifier (located in control panel)
Vision Adaptations
• For students with more severe visual
– Auditory access to text: CD, MP3, text-tospeech software such as ReadPlease Free
(PC) or Natural Reader (Mac).
– Tactile rather than visual materials
– Different medium to use other senses (e.g.,
represent art elements in clay rather than
Complex Communication Needs
Communication Impairments:
Levels of Participation
• Student communicates verbally
• Student communicates every message
with communication device
• Student communicates most thoughts
independently via communication device
• Student makes most choices via pointing,
gesturing, or using a communication
• Student participates in only some choicemaking by gesturing, pointing, or using a
communication device
Strategies for Students with
Communication Impairments
Communication Strategies
• Build in opportunities to communicate
• Have boards with specific vocabulary
available and ask the special education staff
to train the student how to use them
AT: Communication Devices
• Low tech
– Created with specific software or images pasted
into a word processing document
– Different boards with vocabulary for each primary
form of art: painting, clay, drawing, sculpture,
printmaking, photography, collage, fiber, etc.
– Number of items should be consistent with
student’s cognitive, physical, and visual abilities
• Middle tech
– One message – program something that can be
used frequently (I want more paint)
– Multiple messages – vocabulary specific
Low Tech: Created with
Boardmaker Software
• General Art Page
Low Tech: Images in
Word Table
• Simple page for painting activity
Low Tech: Boardmaker
• Interactive phrases
Mid Tech Devices
• One message – something that can be
repeated to provide more interactive
experience (e.g., “I need more”)
• Multiple messages: Help special
educator decide vocabulary / phrases
AT: High Tech
Communication Devices
• Help the special educator design
boards for each type of activity
• Make sure there are items that allow
the student to get needs met in class
(e.g., requesting materials) and have
social interactions (e.g., questioning,
• Art educators need to talk with your
special education teachers and
describe your needs for the classroom
High Tech: Computerized
Communication Board for Painting
Physical Disability
Physical Disabilities:
Levels of Participation
**Physical disability does not mean
intellectual disability – regardless of severity
or inability to speak**
• Independent with accommodations such
as more time and adapted tools
• Assistance with materials
• Verbally directing others to assist
• Partial physical assistance (hand-underhand or partial completion)
• Full physical assistance
• Alternative activities (if they provide a
more meaningful experience through art)
Strategies for Students with
Physical Disabilities
• Nonslip material
• Slantboards!
• Positioning equipment (even rolled up
towels can make a big difference in ability to
access and use materials)
Strategies, cont.
Physical Adaptations
• Adapted implements
– Shorter
– Large handles
– Rounded
• Adaptive scissors / cutting
– Spring open
– Double loop
– Platform
– Pre-cut materials
Physical Adaptations, cont.
• Clay alternatives
– Use of tools instead of hands
– Creating parts and directing others to put
• Painting/drawing alternatives (only if
more meaningful)
– Use of pictures from other sources as part of
product (e.g., magazines, internet)
– Stamps instead of writing or drawing
– Battery-operated (switch adapted if needed)
scribbling or painting devices
– Computerized drawing or painting software
(e.g., TuxPaint).
Tux Paint
Intellectual/Multiple Disabilities
Moderate to Profound
Intellectual Disabilities:
Levels of Participation
• Foster independence in any way
possible through adaptations previously
• Modifications (alterations to number
and/or level of standards achieved –
but still standards-based!)
Strategies for Students with
Intellectual Disabilities
• Modifications:
Students with ID
– Instruction
• Mountain peaks
Most Students
Students with Gifts/Talents
• Students with severe/profound ID: Consider the
addition of alternate activities (e.g., switch painting
– Decision point: What is more meaningful - an art project
completed by a paraprofessional or the student learning a
concept through art (e.g., communication skill such as
“more” or cause & effect)?
Students with MoID/SID/PID
• Example of modified objectives and assessment
• Elementary school student with MOID
– Derrick will demonstrate an understanding of one of
the art elements by pointing to examples when asked
4/5 opportunities.
• High school student with SID
– Juanita will actively view examples of impressionism by
clicking a switch to activate a PowerPoint presentation
containing the art of famous impressionists at least 5
independent clicks in a given session 4/5 sessions.
• Assessment
– Data collection, including writing and filming
– Modified rubrics – student is accountable for partial
acquisition of standards or rubric indicates amount of
Example of Cause & Effect PowerPoint
Presentations for Art History for a
Student with a Severe Intellectual
• Student hits a switch to advance slides.
• Teaches causality and provides control over
• One way to address teaching standards
• Used in addition to other art activities
Impressionism: Claude Monet
Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge
Example of a PowerPoint that
could be used with students
who have moderate to severe
intellectual disabilities
• Provides extra practice on fewer standards
• Used in addition to other art activities
Elements of Art
A line is the path of a point moving through
Let’s look at some lines
Straight lines
Wavy lines
Working with
• Training & rationale!
• Concept of process over product may
need to be explained
• Provide the paraprofessional with a list
of task steps with levels of partial
participation specified
• Communicate with the paraprofessional
about your expectations. Ask them to
help you engage the student in
participating as fully as possible
Task Analysis
Task Analysis Steps:
1. Select materials
Level of Participation Expected:
Verbal direction
• Coleman, M. B. (in press). Successful implementation of assistive technology to promote access
to curriculum and instruction for students with physical disabilities. Physical Disabilities: Education
and Related Services.
• Coleman, M. B., Cramer, E. S., & Bell, S. M. (in preparation). Art educators’ knowledge,
attitudes, and experiences working with students who have physical, visual, severe, and multiple
• Coleman, M. B., & Heller, K. W. (2009). Assistive technology considerations. In K. W. Heller,
P. E. Forney, P. A. Alberto, S. J. Best & M. N. Swartzman (Eds.), Understanding Physical, Health, and
Multiple Disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 139-153). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
• Gerber, B. L. & Guay, D. M. (Eds.). (2006, 2007). Reaching and teaching students with
special needs. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
• Gerber, B. L. & Kellman, J. (2010). Understanding students with autism through art.
Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
• Guay, B. L. (2003). Paraeducators in art classrooms, issues of culture, leadership,
and special needs. Studies in Art Education, 45(1), 20-39.
• Nyman, A. L. & Jenkins, A. M. (Eds.). (1999). Issues and approaches to art for students
with special needs. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
• Vize, A. (2005). Making art activities work for students with special needs. Arts and
Activities, 138(4), 17, 41.
• Zederayko, M. W. & Ward, K. (1999). What to do when students can’t hold a pencil.
Art Education, 52(4), 18-22.

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