Increasing numbers of students who are blind are enrolling at postsecondary education institutions. Four (4.1) percent of all student in postsecondary education have visual impairments. Thirty-nine percent of students with disabilities are blind or visually impaired (Profile of Handicapped Students in Postsecondary Education, 1987). It is critical that institutions and faculty determine how to best accommodate the needs of these students in order to assure a successful experience for all parties involved.
People can lose their vision at birth, through genetic causes, or through illness or injuries. Each person experiences his/her blindness uniquely and may have differing needs. Some students may use service animals (such as Seeing Eye dogs) for mobility while others may use the white cane. Some students may read Braille while others may rely upon electronic text or taped books. It is important to remember that each student is a unique individual. The student is usually best equipped to explain his/her special needs and how to best accommodate those needs.
The Office of Disability Services is available to assist both the student and faculty in addressing the needs of students who are blind. Each student should contact the ODS to schedule an appointment with a counselor. The student must provide documentation of disability to this office, where confidential files are maintained. The ODS generates an individualized Accommodations Checklist that lists the specific accommodations that the student may use. Students are advised to schedule an appointment with each instructor to discuss their needs and accommodations.
Additionally, services for the student and faculty are provided through the ADA Lab. The Accessible Lab houses specialized equipment for providing access to classes and labs, such as specialized software that enables the computer screen to become "audible" for the student who is blind. The Assistive Technology Lab also converts standard print into alternative formats, such as Braille, large print, and electronic text.
HEATH Resource Center; American Council on Education; One Dupont Circle, NW; Suite 800; Washington, D.C. 20036-1193.
Texas Commission for the Blind