High school graduation brings many uncertainties for all college bound students. While blind and visually impaired individuals face the same difficulties and questions, there are other issues they might encounter. Unfortunately, some students are not fully prepared to face and overcome these challenges, and they struggle unnecessarily. The following tips and suggestions are some of the things I found most helpful as a college student. These tips are in no particular order, as I feel they are all equally important!
- High Expectations at home and school
Preparing to succeed in college and work begins at home even before a child enters high school. Parents should teach children from an early age to be independent and to take responsibility. Likewise, teachers, both from special and regular education classrooms, should also encourage this at school. Blind and visually impaired students should be expected to complete the same assignments given to their peers.
Often, special education and mainstream teachers feel it’s their responsibility to do everything for children with disabilities throughout their years in school. Rather than do that, parents and teachers should expect children to acquire several important skills, which leads me to my next point.
- Learning good time management and advocacy skills
Ever since I was a freshman in high school, my teachers always stressed to me that college would be quite different. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign I realize they were right!
Young students should be taught from early on how to manage their time effectively. When they start college, they will be completely on their own scheduling their courses, completing assignments, taking exams and of course, finding some time to have fun!
Advocacy is another crucial skill for blind and visually impaired students. Often, teachers and parents feel the urge to speak for the child about his or her disability and needs. I remember that beginning in first grade my parents and teachers taught and expected me to become assertive. This is a skill that may not come naturally to some, hence the importance of instilling from a young age. By the time I was in high school I was completely in charge of asking my teachers for accommodations, explaining my disability to them and getting my textbooks and assignments in either audio, Braille or electronic formats. This is probably the most important skill that has helped me succeed in college and work.
- Finding resources
Blind and visually impaired college students will have to keep up with the regular curriculum whether or not adaptations are in place. That is why they should know about all of their options and resources even before graduating from high school. They should find out what services are available at their chosen college for students with disabilities, how to obtain textbooks in alternative formats or any adaptive devices that will help them take notes and available funding sources.
Students should also learn to be creative and think about possible alternatives to complete assignments. There will inevitably be instances when textbooks will not be available in alternative format, and this is when the help of a reader – someone who reads materials to the student – would come in handy.
These are basic but important suggestions that will help blind and visually impaired students have a smooth transition from high school and positive experience in college. I strongly believe that if a child has the right preparation and skills in place, then there is absolutely no reason for him or her to struggle once the time for college comes.
Finally, I invite you to take a look at this fun quiz from The American Foundation for the Blind. This is a good and fun site for high school students to learn more about college. Good luck to all the students out there, I wish you a successful, fun-filled and positive college experience!
What other tips would you add to this list? Remember that you can send any questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks and have a great weekend!