Getting Ready for College – Blindy Style

Picture of the University of Texas - Austin Campus - Go Longhorns!

Getting ready to head off to college in the fall?  Want some tips to make the transition a little bit easier?  Check out these tips below and ace your higher education experience.

1.  Visit your College 

Going off to college is scary when you are an individual with a visual impairment.  Whether you are moving off to a whole new city or town or continuing to live at home with your family, entering into a new environment with new buildings and obstacles can be overwhelming.  So, to help ease this challenge, plan some trips to your new stomping grounds before the semester starts.  You will be able to map out your classes and learn some basic routes without any pressure, crowded walkways or the time crunch to get to class on time.  As an added bonus, if you are working with your local Vocational Rehabilitation, your Orientation and Mobility Teacher may be able to help you learn your way around.

2.  Register Early with Your Disability Support Services Office 

As an individual with a vision impairment, you already know that getting through any academic training will require the use of accommodations.  College is very different than your high school experience.  In high school, your classes can be very easily accommodated or modified based on your Individualized Education Program (IEP).  Accommodation and modification requests are typically provided by the K-12 school staff without too much difficulty or approval.  In college, a significant amount of advanced planning will be necessary starting with an appointment with your representative at your Disability Support Services office.  You will want to be sure to bring proof of your disability including documents such as a previous IEP or information from your medical provider.  Also it is helpful to have in writing accommodations that you have previously used.  During your appointment, your representative will review the process for requesting accommodations from your instructors and professors and for requesting accommodations such as audio and electronic books from the Disability Support Office.

You can typically expect similar accommodations in college that you received in high school with the exception of any curriculum modification or the allowance for turning in late or shortened assignments for full credit.

3.  Use Your Accommodations 

When I started my first year of college I thought that I had everything together.  I had my books, my notebooks (don’t judge me it was 2001) and my bold pens…what could go wrong?  Well, I ended up not accessing my Disability Support Services Office and, well, lets just say it was not my most stellar year.  I let my pride and my desire to want to appear as a “normal” student get in the way of my own success. I didn’t access my extra time for tests in the Disability Support Office, I didn’t get my books electronically and I didn’t even tell my professors that I had a vision impairment.  BIG MISTAKE – don’t be a bonehead like me.

4.  Don’t Be Afraid to Socialize

One of my biggest regrets during my college years was being too afraid  to experience all of the great social activities around campus.  I was always afraid that I would appear too awkward or run into a wall…again, so I just didn’t even attempt.  College is a time when you can really make some great connections and meet some fantastic people and I’d hate to see you miss out on all of those great opportunities.  Sure, you may have to have some awkward moments and some people even might be uncomfortable around a person with a disability, but the ones that you meet that will embrace you as a person can turn into lifelong friends.

5.  Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

College is going to be full of difficult classes that may contain confusing graphs, diagrams and charts.  I am hear to tell you that it’s okay if you need to ask your instructor or professor for additional clarification or assistance.  Remember, they ultimately are there to help you learn the information so don’t be afraid to use those office hours.

6.  Keep the Balance

It can be tempting to take as many credit hours as possible, but remember, it’s not a race.  Keep a manageable course load especially for your first year.  You’d be surprised exactly how much reading and writing you will be doing your first year and no matter how great your accommodations are, the reality is that completing assignments when you are an individual with a vision impairment just takes longer.  It’s all about quality, not quantity.

 Have more tips for getting through college, leave them in the comments below.

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