Transition tips for young people with vision impairment starting university

Post date: 
Thursday, 2 November 2017
Photo of Dami on graduation day in his gown

With the UCAS application deadline looming, Dr Melanie Thorley from the University of Greenwich's *AccessAbility team shares suggestions for students preparing for higher education.

Going to university can be a scary (but exciting) thought for the majority of new students. Possibly moving to an unknown area, meeting hundreds of other students and staff, getting to grips with the academic workload, and navigating around a campus can be unsettling. This can be further complicated if the potential student has vision impairment (VI).
We have developed a few transition tips for university students with VI to hopefully ease some of your anxiety and worries:
  • Local vs away: You need to decide whether to stay at home and go to a local university, or move away to study at a university elsewhere.
  • Applying for funding: Apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) as soon as you complete your UCAS application. This will hopefully ensure the funding is in place when you start your course.
  • Check out campuses: Visit each university you have applied for to enable you to get a feel for the campus and surrounding area. Some university campuses are compact, with everything from classes to accommodation being in close proximity, while other campuses can be sprawled over a wide area.
  • Guide dog requirements: If you have a guide dog, ensure there is access to outside space for exercise and toileting.
  • Meet the team: Meet with the disability team before you enrol to gauge their knowledge of your requirements. They will also act as your advocate should you need support, for example academics refusing to provide PowerPoint slides before the lecture.
  • Practice using tech: There’s lots of assistive technology that can assist you at university. We suggest you learn how to use the tools most appropriate for you before you start university to give you time to practice before lectures begin and assessments are due.

Case study: Dami, who is a recent business graduate from the University of Greenwich, talks about his experience as a student.

When I was in school, students from the University of Greenwich visited to talk to us about why they loved studying there. After hearing all the wonderful things they had to say and having them answer all of my questions so quickly, it was an easy decision to make that it was the right place for me and I couldn’t wait to start.
When I was preparing for university, I spoke to the *AccessAbility Ambassadors and got some amazing advice about how to ready myself for the experience. I also had family who were a studying at the time, so I asked them for tips to prepare for student life.
I recommend doing research to make sure that you have an idea of what the university has to offer and what they can do for you. I also found online research really useful because it allowed me to find out where everything was, so that when I started I could find my way around quicker. 

When I was approved for DSA, I received a laptop with magnification software and a large screen to make it easier for me to see my work. I also received an audio recorder, which allowed me to record lectures and listen to them later on so I could recap what was said if there was a large amount of information to take in.

I was very involved within the Students Union, and was given the opportunity to be the Disabled Students Officer for the first half of 2017. It was an amazing experience because not only did I represent disabled students across the University, it was also my job to ensure that their experience was as smooth and positive as possible. I was also an *AccessAbility Ambassador, which gave me the exciting opportunity to speak at conferences in a number of different universities.
All of my work at Greenwich was challenging to say the least, but it was also a fun and life-changing experience. Next, I would love to work in social media or marketing, or maybe something creative – I guess we will have to wait and see!

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