An Introduction to Finding Accommodations for Blind Students at College and University
Choosing a college or university and going off to school for the first time is an exciting and important step. If you are an incoming student with a visual impairment, the accessibility options and academic accommodations schools can offer you can influence your choice. Many of the possible options for accommodation will be familiar to you from high school, but the specific offerings at each school may differ.
When you are comparing schools, make an appointment with an Academic Counselor and with the Student Services department. They will be able to give you comprehensive information and details of the school’s academic supports, as well as the accessibility and other amenities available on campus and in residence. If you are accustomed to specific accommodations, be sure to ask if they are available at your prospective school.
Service animals are always welcome on college and university campuses and in most student residences, if you choose to live on campus. Just be sure to confirm that the campus residence you are interested in is properly equipped for the service animal to live with you.
Along with the usual accommodations and accessibility options, with every year there are more high-tech, mobile, and internet-connected tools available to students with visual and other impairments.
There are options for whatever methods you prefer when studying, and they way you learn best with your level of visual impairment; digital recorders, both audio and video, are a great tool when attending lectures. In addition, many computer, smartphone, and tablet apps that can provide text-to-speech and speech-to-text functions to help you prepare notes and write assignments.
Some schools also offer note-taking assistance from an aide or another student, but availability of this service will vary between schools, and should be inquired about specifically if this is a service you wish to use.
For students taking STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, there are talking standard and scientific calculators available, with various functions including a voice reading the buttons pressed, or the equations on screen.
Whether you prefer to use audiobooks or Braille textbooks, your college or university can order these for you. As it may take a few weeks to a few months depending on the text, most schools will request that you submit your textbook order as soon as you have registered for your classes, to allow time for the books to arrive before the start of class.
One thing to keep in mind is regarding accommodations for writing tests, midterms, and final exams. Unlike in high school, where your teacher is familiar with you and your Education Plan, and most likely makes the exam arrangements, in college and university the exams are scheduled by computer. It is up to students to contact their academic counsellor and request accommodations for date and time, separate rooms, verbal exam taking, having an aide to assist, or any other accommodation you require.
Whatever college or university you choose, they will do their best to ensure you enjoy your educational experience with them. Once you’ve decided on your school, get ready for a great few years!
University of Western Ontario Student Development – Services for Students with Disabilities
University of Western Ontario – Accessibility: Services for Students with Disabilities