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.
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.
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.
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.
- ACB Families
This organization is considered to be a beacon of hope for the American people who suffer from visual impairments. It assists families of blind individuals, especially when it comes to obtaining an education.
- Alliance for Parental Involvement in Education
It is crystal clear that parents are the first resort of help to blind and visually impaired people when it comes to education. This organization provides professional help to parents who are in an emotional need.
- American Printing House for the Blind
This organization has been established as the primary public publishing house for the blind. If you need any educational material or a resource adapted to your visual needs, do not hesitate to contact them.
- Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired (AER)
Living with a visual disability does not mean that you cannot live a fulfilling life. This organization has been created to rehabilitate blind people and integrating them into society.
- The Hadley School for the Blind
This school in Illinois is one of the best places for blind and visually impaired people willing to obtain a secondary education.
- National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
This voluntary organization has been created to provide educational assistance to the parents of visually impaired children.
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
If you are looking for a proper assistant to meet the needs of your child with visual impairment, this is the organization you should contact in the first place.
- National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled
Equal access to educational materials for all is a governmental priority. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is an institution that serves the disabled people with the study materials which they find easy to use.
- The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation
Plenty of cases are known when a distorted pigmentation in the body may lead to a partial eyesight loss. This organization is the only one in the United States that deals with this issue at the federal level.
- American Foundation for the Blind
If you need any kind of assistance in case you or anyone you know need special help, make sure to contact this organization.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
The program offers college scholarships to students from all over the United States, given that they have a partial or full eyesight loss.
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.
The scholarship by the American Council of the Blind provides financial backing to the students with a complete eyesight loss.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.