Valuable CVI Awareness of “Mistakes”

Awareness of the unique visual behaviors of CVI can provide teachers, parents and other service providers with context and understanding when learners with CVI make “mistakes”. I put “mistakes” in quotes because the “mistakes” that learners make will always allow us to understand their visual perception of their world if we consider them in the context of CVI. Matt Tietjen’s What’s the Complexity Perkins Elearning online class helped me to think more deeply about these visual “mistakes”.

Images in literacy materials in the community and at school are supposed to add information that supports the text or the situation.

This map symbol confused rather than supported my student’s understanding.

Seeing this icon on a subway wall, my student asked why there was a picture of a purse on the wall. This allowed me to understand the inaccessibility of this highly symbolic image of this map icon. It helped me understand how the student completely missed details in this image. It helped me understand how my student only really understood the shape of this square image and because he visually understands that purses are square shapes, he mistook this for a purse. “Why was a purse on this wall?”  “Am I missing something?” he wondered aloud.

Seeing this icon in a library book, another student identified it as a “flower”

Once again, the highly symbolic image was not understood. The student only perceived the shape not the meaning that the icon was supposed to provide. The “mistake” was made due to the impact of CVI on the student’s functional vision. The “mistake” helped remind me of the inaccessibility of highly symbolic images and helped me to remind me to always ask Matt’s question “What do you see?”

These two students can verbally communicate through their “mistakes” to help me understand how they see the world.

For our students with non-traditional language, we need to also diagnostically consider their “mistakes”.

In an assessment, it was clear that another student who is using a communication device understood the green “yes” symbol and the red “no” symbol when answering questions regardless of where the symbols appeared on the device page of 6 symbols.

I swapped out the red and green symbols for completely different symbols that were also colored green and red. The student continued to answer questions “yes” and “no” by hitting the “wrong” symbols based on color seemly with no awareness of the icon’s details and icon’s shape information.







It was so important for me and for her speech therapist to understand the reliance on color when using the device so color is considered when adding any newer icons.

“Mistakes” are a window into how student understand their world and how they function in their world. Without understanding CVI, these mistakes could be thought of as cognitive lack of understanding rather than the reality of visual inaccessibility.


  1. I like this. I associate colours with things. When we go out I have to remember what colour coat the person I am with is wearing. Otherwise if we get split up, I’m lost.


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