Whether you are just starting college or coming back for a new semester, preparing can be stressful. 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.
But 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 challenges you face.
Learn about your university’s disability services.
These services will vary by university type. Many state universities have a larger Student Disability Services program. Small and private universities may only have one coordinator of services for disabled students who also has 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:
Note takers or scribes
Written materials in alternative formats such as large print, braille, or audiobooks
Additional accommodations may include:
Giving exams in alternative formats – a written exam delivered orally or changing the recording method for answers
Extended completion time
Permitting use of a dictionary or spell checker (unless test is designed to measure spelling ability)
Providing a quiet room to decrease auditory or visual distractions
What is the process?
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 what your needs are. The university will require additional documentation such as eye exam records, previous testing related to your disability, and may review an IEP plan to determine what accommodations could be provided.
Establish a 504 plan. This is a blueprint for how the school will support a student with a disability and remove learning barriers. 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 own 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.
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 displayed notes because of unverbalized content. You may need to give them a periodic reminder.
Use office hours. Meet with your instructor during their office hours to discuss your challenges around following content. Ask questions about the lecture or for assistance understanding how that chemistry problem looks visually. The instructor will not know if you are having difficulty unless 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 in a timely manner. 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 give you the opportunity to plan your route, locate rooms, and troubleshoot obstacles. This can be done independently, with the assistance of a friend or family member, or with the aid of your orientation and mobility instructor. Most university buildings will be open during the summer because summer classes are still in session.
Meeting peers in your classes can often help you find readers and note takers just 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. Contact us today with any of your questions or concerns.