Guide for Students with Visual Impairments: Accessible Education

Unfortunately, getting an education is not that simple for an average student with visual impairments. Statistical data backs this fact. For example, among 7 million grown-ups with visual impairments registered in the National Federation of the Blind, only 15% managed to get a degree, and 25% didn`t graduate from high school (2015).

Hopefully, this article will assist some students with different visual disabilities in transforming their study into a compelling and inspiring adventure. 

Main types of visual impairments

There are several most frequently occurred types of visual disabilities that we will dwell upon in this article. It’s important to know about them because each of them causes particular difficulties for a student. 

  • In case of blurred vision, a student can’t see things well, no matter what the distance is, and it’s impossible to focus to see distinctly. The glasses can help sometimes, but not always.
  • When a student can see in front of him/her but loses, his/her side vision is called the loss of peripheral vision. In almost all cases, this type of visual disability negatively affects the ability to read as the focus doesn’t allow us to see the number of words a student with a healthy vision sees.  
  • The loss of central vision is characterized by spots in the middle of the visual field. The condition can progress with age, but in some cases, the vision may be restored. The state of the peripheral vision is decent in many cases. 
  • Photophobia (or extreme light sensitivity) is the condition when a student can’t tolerate even a standard level of illumination. Sun or flashlight may cause extreme discomfort, and the ability to study in such cases is low. 
  • Night blindness. Sometimes a student must to write an essays and work at night to be able to hand in the assignment in time, for example. For a student who has night blindness, it’s impossible to see properly at night, and vision is severely impaired even under artificial light. 
  • Generalized haze. It happens when students have to work a lot with computers and blue light from the screen. This can cause the sensation of glare beyond the viewing field. If a student has to work a lot with visual materials, that might become a problem.  

The list of the eyesight problems that we’ve given above is far from being complete. There are more various visual impairments that students all over the globe have to cope with. Every visual disability can lead to such serious illnesses as cataract or glaucoma and even lead to blindness.

In the modern world, the number of students with eyesight problems is rapidly growing due to many reasons. In the USA, for example, the number of visually impaired students is supposed to grow by 100% by 2050 due to the expensiveness of eyesight correction. Today around 8 million American citizens suffer from impaired vision due to diagnostic and treatment delays.

More than 60,000 American students with various eyesight problems asked for voiceover or Braille-based materials and applied for the assisted learning programs. 

Statistical data of 2019 shows that only 31% of visually impaired Americans graduated from high school, 30% didn’t manage to graduate college with a diploma, and only 14% got a Bachelor’s degree. 

Visually impaired students in colleges

The problem of students with visual disabilities became evident to the broad public not too long ago. Nowadays colleges in the USA have special facilities with students with eyesight problems. As such, students have particular needs; some changes to the infrastructure are constantly made to suit those needs. There are also study materials for students with low vision. 

Organizations that help visually impaired students

It’s difficult to live a full life for a person with visual disabilities. Several organizations help applicants and provide the necessary support when they want to get a degree and in other cases. Below you will find a list of such organizations. 

  1. ACB Families. This organization kindly helps those families who have a blind member and assists visually impaired to get an education.
  2. Contact American Foundation for the Blind (also known as AFB) if you or someone you know needs particular help.
  3. One of the most important governmental priorities is the ability to provide educational materials for all students. The mission of the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) is to give access to disabled people to the study materials that are adapted to special needs. 
  4. In case you need to adapt educational materials and have them published for the blind, don’t hesitate to address the American Printing House for the Blind. 
  5. To help parents with their emotional needs is the main goal of Alliance for Parental Involvement in Education. Parents are the first and most important assistants when it concerns their children’s problems.    
  6. A visually impaired person should live a full life, and the Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired helps such persons with social integration. 
  7. If a student with visual impairments wants to get a secondary education, the Hadley School for the Blind is the best place for people with different visual impairments.
  8. In NICHY (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities), you can find a well-trained assistant to meet all needs of your child who has a visual impairment. 
  9. Sometimes, there are cases when an eyesight loss may accompany excessive pigmentation. NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation) helps to cope with this condition.

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Apps for students with visual disabilities

Modern computer technology and programming can make our life easier. There are special applications for people with visual disabilities as well.

  1. TapTapSee helps people with visual disabilities to identify a person or a thing in front of them. This application helps a visually impaired person to identify an object. It’s easy to use it, you just have to tap on the screen of your phone, and the application pronounces what is in front of you. 
  2. Access Note. If you have problems with your eyesight, you might have difficulties when you need to take notes. This app records whatever you consider is worth recording. 
  3. Talking Calculator. If you need to proceed with a mathematical operation, you just have to pronounce it to hear the answer.
  4. Be My Eyes. This app will be your visual assistant. When you need to see something, you will have to run the app, and you’ll hear what is in front of you.
  5. When you need to find an app for a student with low vision, you should use ViA by Braille Institute. It will help you to choose one among more than 500,000 apps to use during your studies.

How a visually impaired student may get a higher education

Even if you are a person with visual impairment, your dream to obtain a higher education may come true. Below you will find a list of several scholarships that offers you wonderful opportunities. 

  • The program that is called Brother James Kearney Scholarship Program is a collegiate scholarship, and it covers a one-year fee in college. 
  • If you have an eyesight disability, applying for National Help America See Scholarship for a Blind Student will be a great chance to get higher education. 
  • Lighthouse Guild Scholarship is for post-graduate and first-year students and is meant to support visually impaired students in their wish to have access to education.
  • To supports, students with eyesight loss are the main goal of ABC Scholarship. 
  • Christian Record Services for the Blind Scholarships was initially meant for Christian students who have visual impairments, but it also can help people from many religious backgrounds. 
  • Nola Webb-McKinney Scholarship Fund. This scholarship is accessible for visually impaired students from all over the United States.

To put it in a nutshell, applying for college for persons with visual disabilities is often difficult. Still, to live a fulfilling life and even get education for such people is more than just a dream today! Lots of solutions will help such students to drastically improve their lives and make their studies effective. 

Hopefully, the information from this article will help you and other students with visual impairment to achieve their goals and reach the success that hasn’t been possible before.