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Educational Review


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In this article, we amplify the voices of visually impaired people to explore the authenticity of simulating visual impairment (VI) as a means of developing empathy among sighted student teachers. Participants were nine visually impaired adults who read vignettes narrating simulation experiences of student teachers in a university setting before being interviewed. Interviews were conducted via telephone, and were recorded, transcribed, and analysed thematically. The discussed themes are: (1) Involving visually impaired people in simulations increases authenticity; (2) Visual impairment is too diverse and complex to be authentically replicated; (3) The suddenness and duration of the simulations are inauthentic; and (4) Removal of blindfolds compromises the authenticity of the experience. Most of our participants were sceptical that VI could ever be authentically simulated because it was too diverse and complex for sighted people to embody. However, given its potential for facilitating the pedagogical learning of student teachers, we propose the involvement of disabled people in the construction and, if possible, delivery of disability simulations and a change of focus relating to the aim, purpose and claims made about disability simulations. Specifically, we encourage a move away from endeavouring to simulate VI in order to live and embody it, towards teacher educators working with visually impaired people and using equipment such as blindfold and VI glasses to facilitate pedagogical learning that may be of value when teaching visually impaired and sighted pupils. In short, we should not claim to “simulate VI” but rather use specialist equipment for pedagogical purposes.


© 2022 The Authors.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original Publication Citation

Maher, A. J., & Haegele, J. A. (2022). The authenticity of disability simulations through empathetic imaginings: The perspectives of visually impaired people. Educational Review. Advance Online Publication.


0000-0002-8580-4782 (Haegele)