By the time I graduated high school, I felt confident in my abilities when it came to my own education. A new turning point in my life is coming however, and with it I am finding myself taking my education into my hands like never before. Starting university is nerve wracking for any young adult but going into it blind, pun very much intended, means adapting and being more flexible then ever before. Whether it be learning to advocate for adaptations yourself, finding organizations to help support you, or developing the skills to simply travel to a large university campus stress free, the transition to university life is a tricky, yet exciting, one.
The first thing on my agenda was figuring out how I was going to afford University. I am going into political science and law, and like many students my age, the cost of my future education is daunting. However, there are a few perks to being legally blind. Vocational Rehabilitation, a government funded organization devoted to getting people with disabilities into the work force, is a great resource for someone with vision loss. Because I met very specific vision requirements, they purchased the low vision technologies that I will need to succeed in school. Not only that, they will sometimes help with the cost of post-secondary education if you're a successful student. This organization's goal is to get people working, and since a mere 30% of blind individuals are employed, they are more than willing to help students who are determined to start a career.
Of course, having the means to get adaptive technology and knowing what will be practical are two very different things. I had to work long and hard to find the technology I needed, and the search for adaptations is only getting more challenging because of new equipment being developed. By no means am I complaining, but it is a challenge to find what works for me. I would highly suggest using resources like this web site to search through technology reviews and also talk to people who are in similar situations to yourself to find what will work best. There are hundreds of choices out there but overall, everyone knows their own needs and what will work for them best. In the end, I received a screen magnification and reading program called Zoomtext Fusion, a portable camera and CCTV called an E Bot, a laptop, and a pair of E Sight glasses. I would suggest getting all of this technology at least a month before starting your classes, as there is always a learning curve when dealing with so much new equipment.
Finally, my last matter of business was visiting my university and talking to the Disability Resource Center. Every university or college will have a department devoted to working with disabled students. It's vital to talk to the staff employed there and communicate what you have learned has worked for you in the past. There are no IEPs in university and it is up to you to push for the adaptations you need. Furthermore, one's local DRC has likely dealt with many students with similar needs and knows how to help. For example, my DRC adviser suggested I use a guide dog in order to traverse the busy campus safely. These people are very experienced, and it's important that you are proactive when getting these appointments set up to make sure that when school actually starts, you are fully prepared. Transitioning to University has definitely been a handful, but I am excited to get started with the next chapter of my life, and look forward to sharing it with all of you too.