Tools for Students with Visual Impairments

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act require that college campuses offer learning facilities accessible to all students, regardless of ability, and provide devices to accommodate students with various disabilities. It should be noted that the quality and availability of these services and resources are not the same from school to school, and should be considered during the college selection process. Some factors to consider are what campus services are offered and do they have dedicated personnel, what the is the process of requesting accommodations, what other resources are available, and what percentage of students at the school also have a visual impairment. Compare your needs to those services and technologies the school offers.

In compliance with the acts mentioned above, schools  today generally have assistive technology centers, where visually-impaired learners may find the necessary equipment and resources to aid them in their college career. It is advisable to learn what your college offers, and to meet with someone from the college’s office of disability services, or equivalent, upon acceptance, if not before.  Not only will you build relationships with staff on campus who can help advocate for you and other students with visual impairments, but you can make sure you are taking full advantage of what the school is able to offer in terms of assistance. Generally the office will also handle official communication with professors regarding necessary accommodations for you to help ensure that such accommodations are provided and honored. Make sure you know the time-lines necessary for any technology or other accommodations you request, as many times there is some bureaucracy and time involved in getting everything set up for you.

That being said, it is advisable that you speak to your professors at the beginning of a new semester or quarter. This allows you not only to share your needs but also for the professors to ask any questions s/he might have.  Should you find a professor who is unwilling to provide necessary accommodations, contact your office of disability services immediately.