Visually Impaired Learner (VIL)

Quick Facts

  • 65 credits to a master's degree + initial licensure
  • Flexible hybrid model:
    • Year one 3­-week summer session
    • Fully online courses after the first summer
  • Cohort program
  • Field placements within graduate student’s local community at residential schools for the blind, and itinerant work across numerous schools, and within classrooms

Visually Impaired Learner Overview

Nationwide, there is a critical shortage of teachers of students with visual impairments (TSVIs). The need for supporting students with visual impairment in the home, school and community is particularly strong in rural areas. In such places where there may be fewer resources, TSVIs must step forward to provide equity in education.

Portland State University offers the only program for TSVI training in the Pacific Northwest using an innovative and flexible hybrid format. Whether you are seeking an endorsement or pursuing a master’s degree with initial licensure, in the Visually Impaired Learner (VIL) program, you will acquire skills to provide high-quality services to students age birth to 21 with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. Help those students fully access the general education curriculum.


Holly Lawson
Program Coordinator


Tracy Williams-Murphy
Admissions Advisor

Program Benefits

  • Learn to assist students with visual impairments to fully access the general education curriculum
  • Study coursework needed to apply for licensure in special education with a TVSI Endorsement in visual impairment
  • VIL endorsement can be combined with initial licensure, endorsements, and/or master’s degree
  • Experience incredible value: Learn from experienced teachers who have scholarly expertise and advanced degrees—and do so in convenient locations and at an accessible price
  • Gain practical experience via field placements in local educational agencies or at residential schools for the blind
  • Explore multiple ways of educating with small-scope projects across numerous schools

Program Specifics

  • Part-time
  • Enjoy convenient, hybrid scheduling for working professionals, including face-to-face and online learning environments where students learn individually and in groups
  • Benefit from your peers’ knowledge and experience in our unique cohort model

About the program

Our master’s thesis core offers a unique experience to engage in innovative research with mentorship from faculty. Professionals who do not require licensure may take individual courses to satisfy a personal development plan with the permission of the instructor. Be aware that by taking individual courses, you will not satisfy program and licensure requirements.

Visually Impaired Learner (VIL) is part of the Western Regional Graduate Program. This program provides in-state tuition to qualified students in member states: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

There are PSU-based scholarships available to students through Project BRAILLE, a federally-funded program through the Office of Special Education Programs. In addition, we recommend checking with your State Department of Education as they often have scholarships available for low incidence rate populations. School districts may also be willing to fund part of your education with a commitment to return to the school district. Students may also be eligible for the teach grant.

Our graduates

Most of our graduates are TSVIs working as itinerant professionals, overseeing a caseload of students with vision loss across multiple schools within an educational agency. Several of our alumni serve in leadership positions, such as school principals at residential schools or outreach coordinators. Graduates are also early intervention specialists working with infants and toddlers who are blind and visually impaired.

Why PSU?

PSU is at the forefront of preparing leaders in diverse fields, such as this one. It has prepared teachers in the field of visual impairment since 1964. At PSU, our deep welcome and inclusive environment unlocks the hidden potential in students of all life stages, viewpoints, and backgrounds. Our individual support resources and real- world applications incorporate the needs of the whole person. This nurtures in students the strong convictions and fearless confidence critical to academic success. PSU has held this philosophy—and practice—since the University’s beginning. Now, PSU is the regional university preparation program for the Pacific and Northwest Consortium for Vision Education (PNWCVE). With a focus on consortium member states Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana, the VIL program encourages new TSVIs to seek work in some of the rural areas with the most need for TSVIs.