To a lot of young adults, high-school means the beginning of independence. Entering your final years of public school is a huge step in one's education, and this was very true for me. Things were made a bit more interesting by going to five different high-schools because of my dad's work but I don't regret all the fantastic people I got to meet and the new experiences I was lucky enough to have. Just as grade-school and Junior high had unique challenges, high school came with its own set of challenges as well.
First and foremost was the issue of gym class. Any low vision student will be able to tell you that physical education is often a less than pleasant experience for them. Most activities played in P.E. classes require a high amount of sight, which I didn't have. Games like floor hockey and basketball were extremely difficult, not to mention dangerous, and other sports like badminton or tennis were just impossible for me to play. I would often try to participate in sports so that I felt included, but the pity I got from other classmates was very hard for me to handle. It was frustrating and embarrassing for me, because I was and still am very active. My vision made me look clumsy and uncoordinated to others, and I often got very upset at the limitations my vision put on me. Oftentimes I would run a fixed route that I knew well while the class participated in sports lessons. Honestly, it was lonely, but at least it kept me fit and healthy. I should note that there are ways to adapt sports for low vision students. Often times you can get balls with bells in them so that you can rely on your hearing. In fact, one of my favorite memories from gym was playing goal-ball, a sport for the blind, with the rest of my class. But in general, I would suggest taking a short summer course to try and get P.E. over with since there are very few adaptations that work in physical education classes.
As in earlier grades, a lot of what helped me get through classes other than PE in high school was my adaptive technology and IEP (Individualized Education Plan). I had the opportunity to try out a lot of equipment, including two-in-one laptops, different types of cameras, and iPads. I wasn't a huge fan of laptops because I didn't use a screen reader and had to bend down very far to be able to see the screen, resulting in a sore back and neck. However, laptops had the advantage of being compatible with most software programs made for the visually impaired like Kurzweil and Zoomtext. My personal favorite piece of tech was my iPad. It was able to read out any text that I selected which helped me prevent eye strain. It also had a zoom function, similar to what most modern smart phones have now. I could pick up my iPad, hold it close to my face, and zoom in on the screen with the tap of a finger. The iPad also had a program allowing it to connect with smart-boards. This was helpful if teachers did in fact have smart-boards in their classrooms. The only downside to the iPad was that it's display screen was very small.
Finally, the increased independence most of my classmates were experiencing posed a new sort of challenge for me. My fellow students were getting drivers licenses and part time jobs, while I found it very difficult to simply navigate to a friends houses independently. Because of that, I started to focus on my Orientation and Mobility training more thanjn in previous years. I learned how to take buses by myself, cross lighted intersections, and use a long white cane. It was difficult for me to accept that I needed mobility aids, but once I started becoming more safe and independent with their help, I didn't regret a thing.
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