Guide for Students with Visual Impairments + Scholarships

26 May 2020

For students with visual impairments, the experience of obtaining tertiary education is double the challenge that an average student has to deal with. To understand how detrimental the situation is, here are some statistics for you. In 2015, the National Federation of the Blind registered more than 7 million adults with visual disabilities. Only 15% of them were able to get an academic degree, while more than 25% were not even able to graduate from high school.

The first step to make helping those people was to compile a guide meant to simplify their college life.

Types of Visual Disabilities

It would be wise to start our conversation by talking about what kind of problems students with visual disabilities may encounter. There are several types of visual disabilities and each affects a student’s life in its unique manner.

Loss of Central Vision

Losing central vision feels like missing detail or seeing blur spots in the centre part of your visual field.
As the damage progresses, the blur spots will turn into dark or blank spots. However, the peripheral vision remains in proper shape in cases like these.

Loss of Peripheral Vision

It takes not much prowess to guess that this impairment is the opposite of the first one on the list. In cases like these, people lose their side vision but can see right in front of them. Loss of peripheral vision can significantly affect a person’s ability to read as an abridged amount of words makes it into the focus of one’s eyes.

Blurred Vision

When a person encounters a blurred vision problem, she cannot properly see the objects, regardless of the distance that they are situated. Everything seems to be out of focus, and sometimes the glasses, even with the most saturated lenses, do not help.

Generalized Haze

Due to an overdue exposure to the blue light from the computer screens, students can often suffer from the generalized haze state. It can cause the sensation of glare or a film that might extend all over the viewing field. It may become a severe problem for people who have to work with a lot of visual materials just like students do.

Night Blindness

Students quite often need to pull an all-nighter for a  deadline pressing them hard. Well, those who suffer from night blindness are not able to see at night, and their vision is significantly impaired even under the artificial sources of light.

Extreme Light Sensitivity

Students who have to deal with extreme light sensitivity cannot stand even the standard levels of illumination of any type. Everything from flashlight to sun can cause serious discomfort to their eyes and thus deprive them of any ability to study.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the list. There is a whole myriad of other visual impairments that the students from all around the world are dealing with. What is more, each of the eyesight problems mentioned above can lead to the development of more severe diseases, such as glaucoma or cataract. These, in turn, might cause full blindness. 

More Statistical Data

The biggest problem with data on visually impaired students is that their number is rising exponentially.  Visual impairment among Americans, as well as total blindness, is expected to double by 2050, as per NIH. Nowadays, the problem is so burgeoning due to the high cost of eyesight correction offered by the American health care system. NIH claims that 8.2 million Americans suffer from impaired vision problems due to the late reaction to the problem and eventually postponed treatment.

At the beginning of 2016, more than 60,000 American students applied for the assisted learning programs due to their visual impairment conditions, which meant that they were asking for the Braille-based or voiceover study materials. While there is no substantial gender gap within the eight million visually impaired Americans, when it comes to education, there is a striking difference.

As of the beginning of 2019, only 14,9% of the visually impaired Americans have managed to obtain a Bachelor’s degree from a college or a university. Only 30.6% claimed to have managed to get “some” college education, which means that they have failed to graduate with a diploma. Finally, 31.3% graduated from high school, while the last 23.2% could not even step over this educational threshold. 

How Colleges Help Students with Visual Disabilities

It is a sorrow to admit problems of people living the visual impairment came to public sight not long ago. An there wasn’t much done regarding this. Nonetheless, there some specific domains in which colleges from all over the United States are helping the low vision students. 

The college campuses’ infrastructure is being constantly adjusted to the needs of the visually impaired students as the accessibility rates of campuses, and these adjustments are growing exponentially. A number of colleges have installed sound streetlights near their facilities as well as special tiles on the pavements. It should help the students to navigate better throughout the campus. Study materials are also being adjusted according to the low vision students’ needs.

A Piece of Advice for Students with Visual Impairment

Undoubtedly, it is hard to become an advisor to those who'd been living with a visual disability all his life. However, society is gradually moving towards the point of understanding the needs of people with visual impairment. 

We’ve prepared a rank of special scholarships designed for students with visual impairment. 

Resource for Low Vision Students

Below you can find a list of organizations whose mission is to help the people with visual impairments live a life to the full. Mainly, they might help to get the support you need when applying for college and getting a degree. You can find their contacts on the official website of the American Council of the Blind.

Tools and Apps for Visually Impaired Students

Modern technology is evolving to help students with visual impairment. Here you will find the list of five apps and tools that might be a considerable use if you happen to suffer from a visual impairment condition.

  1. ViA by Braille Institute 
    This app is nothing else but your universal guide into the world of apps and tools for students with low vision. With its help, you can find more than 500,000 apps that may ease your educational process in one way or another.
  2. Be My Eyes
    You can have your visual assistant with you wherever you go. Just download this app and lets it use your camera, and you will have another person’s voice verbalizing things you need to see.
  3. TapTapSee
    It is a unique product helping people with impaired vision to identify the objects in front of them. Everything you have to do is bring your phone closer to the object, double-tap on the screen, and the app will pronounce what is in front of you. It might become especially handy when you need to choose the right book in a library.
  4. Talking Calculator
    There is, probably, no student-oriented app than Talking Calculator. Just open it and start pronouncing the mathematical operations that you need to proceed with and hear that answer right away.
  5. Access Note
    Taking notes might be hard for you, especially when you have the information from the blackboard. So, this voiceover app will help you take your notes without any need for writing something down. Just take your phone, open the app, and start narrating what you think is worth writing down

Scholarships for Visually Impaired Students

The list of scholarships below represents fifteen brilliant opportunities for obtaining a higher education for people with visual impairments. If you are interested in pursuing a degree, you should have a look at scholarship providers’ websites. Each of the programs offers its unique conditions for application and awards. You will be able to find all the information you need, including the deadlines for application on the respective websites.

National Help America See Scholarship for a Blind Student

This is a national scholarship for students with impaired vision from all around the country. Anyone eager to obtain higher education while suffering from an eyesight disability can apply for this scholarship.

Lighthouse Guild Scholarship

This scholarship’s key aim is to support those who want to have a brighter future even if they are not able to see it. It is provided for first-year students and post-graduate students

National Foundation for the Blind Scholarship Program

The program offers college scholarships to students from all over the United States, given that they have a partial or full eyesight loss.

Brother James Kearney Scholarship Program

It is a special collegiate scholarship that is meant to ease the lives of those with impaired vision. It envisages a grant that covers the tuition fees of one year in college both for undergraduate and post-graduate education.

ACB Scholarship

The scholarship by the American Council of the Blind provides financial backing to the students with a complete eyesight loss.

William and Dorothy Ferrell Scholarship Fund

William and Dorothy Ferrell have been taking proper care of the blind students for more than twenty years already. However, they only provide grants to students in post-secondary studies.

Judy Van Nostrand Arts Scholarship Award

The Judy Van Nostrand Arts Scholarship Award is one of the country’s best programs for visually impaired students who embark upon paving their way in music, writing, arts, etc.

Christian Record Services for the Blind Scholarships

This program has been developed especially for the visually-impaired students from the Christian communities. However, the scholarship’s board allows no discrimination on a religious basis when it comes to helping people from other religious communities.

Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship program has been created for the sake of supporting the best young American talents in their volition to become great professionals and outstanding individuals.

Nola Webb-McKinney Scholarship Fund

This ACBO scholarship exists for the sake of providing personal allowance grants to legally blind or visually impaired students. It has been initially functioning solely in the state of Ohio, but today, it is accessible for the student from all over the United States.

Applying for college while having a visual impairment can be quite challenging. Thanks to technological progress, there are a lot of solutions that low vision students can use to improve their life. Students with visual impairments have to deal with the issue that does not exist for the other students, but they manage to prove that there are no limits for them. It is excellent that some organizations and colleges take proper care of these students. Even though the statistical forecast is not that optimistic as we would like it to be, we like to think that our this country is on the right path when it comes to improving low vision students’ life and education.