Info & Tips

Preparing for a Successful Semester: Tips for Students with Vision Loss

Preparing can be stressful, whether you’re just starting college or returning for a new semester. In addition to finalizing your course schedule and your living arrangements, students with vision loss usually have added steps to take to prepare for the upcoming semester.

However, making a plan and preparing in advance will give you a college semester with considerably less stress. It will not always be easy, but following the tips below will give you the tools you need to succeed and overcome your challenges.

Learn about your university’s disability services.

These services will vary by university type. Many state universities have a more extensive Student Disability Services program. Small and private universities may only have one coordinator of services for disabled students who also have additional job responsibilities. A small university may not have an onsite staff member to assist with adaptive technology, braille translation, or audiobook coordination.

Disabled students should find this information before applying to a university. Most programs will list the contact information and the types of services they can offer on the university’s website. 

Typical accommodations for blind students include:

Additional accommodations may include:

What is the process? 

  1. Self-identify. Any new student needs to self-identify to the university before classes begin. This typically involves meeting with a Student Disability Services program staff member to discuss your disability and needs. The university will require additional documentation, such as eye exam records and previous testing related to your disability, and may review an IEP plan to determine what accommodations could be provided.

  2. Establish a 504 plan. This is a blueprint for how the school will support a student with a disability and remove learning barriers. You can work with your counselor to create this plan. Given to your instructors, this plan introduces them to you and information relevant to your disability. Be your personal advocate. Educate your instructors on your limitations in the classroom and discuss with them what accommodations you will need. The signed 504 plan form shows that the instructor understands your needs and agrees to provide the in-class accommodations.

  3. Communicate. Communicate regularly with Student Disability Services program staff. Make them aware of any issues encountered in the classroom. Discuss challenges with your instructor, such as not following PowerPoint slides or displaying notes because of unverbalized content. You may need to give them a periodic reminder.

  4. Use office hours. Meet with your instructor during office hours to discuss your challenges regarding following teachings or content. Ask questions about the lecture or for assistance understanding how that chemistry problem looks visually. The instructor will only know if you are having difficulty if you tell them, especially when you might be in a lecture hall with 100 other students.

Here are some things to do before your semester begins.

Track down your books early.

An early book list gives you time to check the availability of books in electronic or audio formats. If books are not currently available in audio formats, it may take some time for a reading service to complete the recording of the books promptly. You can find books in alternative formats from sources such as Bookshare and the National Library Service.

Find classroom locations.

Learning the location of campus buildings and your specific classrooms will allow you to plan your route, locate rooms, and troubleshoot obstacles. You can do this independently, with the help of a friend or family member, or with your orientation and mobility instructor. Most university buildings will be open during the summer because summer classes are still in session.

Build relationships.

Meeting peers in your classes can help you find readers and note-takers by looking around and introducing yourself to those around you. Even with all of our technology, these resources might still be needed. You can find readers through your university’s service organizations looking for volunteer hours. Campus bulletin boards can also be a way to recruit readers.

The Outlook Enrichment team is here to help you begin your new college semester. Feel free to contact us today with any of your questions or concerns.

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