Compensatory Access Skills

Photo shows a young student exploring a page of braille with tactile markers

Image shows a logo with a hand exploring a tactile bar graph.Compensatory skills allow students with visual impairments to access and communicate information about the world. These skills encompass the following areas such as concept development, spatial awareness, listening skills, study and organizational skills, and use of specialized materials and equipment (Guerette, 2017).

Compensatory skills provide students with visual impairments with the skills they need to effectively access the core curriculum and collaborate with their peers.

Check out the Compensatory Skills section in #Outreaching - the blog of the PRCVI Outreach Team.

Connections to the BC Curriculum – Core Competencies

""The British Columbia K-12 Curriculum emphasizes Collaboration as a core competency. Collaborating “involves the skills, strategies, and dispositions that people use to work together to pursue common purposes and accomplish common goals”. The curriculum identifies three facets of collaborating:

  • Working collectively
  • Supporting group interactions
  • Determining common purposes

Compensatory skills and strategies enable students with visual impairments to work collaboratively with their peers by lowering the access barriers to shared action and learning. 

Compensatory Access Skills – Students with Visual Impairments

Students with visual impairments often must use unique strategies to access information about the world and communicate with others. Compensatory access skills are crucial because they enable learners to understand the world around them, organize their environment efficiently, and communicate effectively with others. Direct instruction in these skills allows students to effectively access areas of the core curriculum and provides them with strategies to collaborate with others.

Research indicates that young adults with visual impairments face numerous barriers once they enter the workforce (Shaw, Gold, & Wolffe, 2007). Compensatory skills equip young adults with many of the skills they will need in the workforce, such as accessing print independently, keeping work organized, and using specialized equipment to work in mainstream environments.

Examples of Compensatory Access Skills

  • Placing tactile markers in strategic locations on a keyboard during the process of learning to touch type.
  • Using a magnifier to examine a picture in a library book that is not readily available in an alternate format.
  • Effectively organizing materials and resources while researching and writing a report.

Resources to Support Instruction

PRCVI Library Catalogue

Poppe, Karen J. Beginner’s Abacus Kit. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.  [Resource Kit]

American Printing House for the Blind. APH Cranmer abacus. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Resource Kit]

American Printing House for the Blind. Draftsman tactile drawing board. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Resource Kit]

Orbit Research. (2013). Orion TI-48 Plus talking graphing calculator. Louisville: KY: American Printing House for the Blind.

American Printing House for the Blind. (2008). Tactile treasures: Math and language concepts for young children with visual impairments. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind. [Resource Kit]

American Printing House for the Blind (2015). Tactile graphic line slate. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind

McClennan, MN, et al. (1998). The Good Tactile Graphic: Guidelines, Resources, and Samples. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind.  [Resource Kit]

 TacWorks Assistive Technology (2016). Tactile Caliper [Device]

  • This tactile caliper is an innovative device that allows students with visual impairments to measure with a great degree of precision to 1/16th of an inch. The caliper uses raised pins that create a mechanical refreshable braille display.

Web-Based Resources

Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Abacus Video Trainings. Retrieved from

Litman, Jane. Hey, where do I plug this in? Oh, it's an ABACUS! Retrieved from:

Image shows a QWERTY keyboard with two hands positioned over top.Perkins School for the Blind. Strategies for Teaching Touch Typing to Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved from

  • Check out this page from Paths to Technology on teaching touch typing skills - it's about more than finding the best typing program! 


Guerette, A. R. (2017). Compensatory Access. In M. C. Holbrook, C. Kamei-Hannan, & T. McCarthy (eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (pp. 875-913). New York, NY: AFB Press.

Shaw, A., Gold, D., & Wolffe, K. (2007). Employment-related experiences of youths who are visually impaired: How are these youths faring?. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 101(1), 7-21.

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