We are pleased to introduce you to Irwin Ramirez who will be blogging for us this summer. Irwin is completing his Master’s Degree in computer science and is working as an intern for the American Foundation for the Blind’s web department. He will be sharing his experiences and perspective as a young adult who is blind. His areas of interest are accessibility consulting, web design and assistive technology training. He was born in Guatemala and moved to the United States when he is 17. I urge you to follow his blog, ask him questions and post comments.
I would like to share my college experience as a visually impaired student. There are several things that I would like to recommend to someone who plans to go to college.
It is important that a student is well trained with the assistive technology that works for them. A visually impaired student needs to be well acquainted with the devices and software for the specific tasks they will have to complete. For instance, a totally blind person needs to be able to use a screen reader for web searches, MS office Suite, or e-mail. A person who has low vision can develop a comfortable use of the computer with the help of magnification software such as ZoomText or Magic. In my case I use a combination of both screen reading software and ZoomText and depending on the specific task I would use only a screen reader.
It is important to be aware of the types of assistive technology that are available, affordable, and easy to get. There are always newer technologies that are released to market. Some are costly. Some devices might not be able to serve the purpose as a less expensive alternative. Thus, it is important to make a cost-benefit analysis to evaluate if the investment might be worthwhile.
Communication and early planning
Work closely with the services office at the institution. Establish and maintain communication with professors or teachers. It is important to build a relation with a teacher as their cooperation can make a big impact in the class. Some professors who are aware of the impairments of the students might be more cooperative in providing accommodations. For instance, providing seating preference and providing accessible format materials. Having a good relationship with a professor is not only helpful in the classroom but they can advise about careers, give important information of program or research opportunities. They can also write a letter of recommendation for a scholarship, internship, or a job application.
Getting involved in student life
Get involve in clubs and organizations of interest. A college experience for a visually impaired student should be the same as any other student with or without a disability. A good way to get involved and participate in college events is through becoming a member of a club or organizations. Clubs are made for students with similar goals, or interests. Being part of a group will enable a student to learn more of a particular topic and share valuable information for finding jobs or internships.
Practice sports in college
The busy life of college might lead a student to become more sedentary unless he or she is studying physical education or a similar major. Practicing sports or working out will help a student to maintain good health. These activities would also help student to get to know more people and relate with others.
Be your own advocate
Being in college provides greater independence. However, in order to maintain good academic progress it is important to have certain skills such as good organization and being proactive. For instance, keeping track of deadlines and having a to-do list will help a student to be more organized. Sometimes things might go wrong in college and a student needs to learn how to deal with this situations. In a personal experience, my disability office would not provide accessible notes for a physics class. I wrote a letter to the dean of student’s affairs and they immediately contacted my disability office and he made them provide a transcriber to type out the notes after the note taker handed in the hand-written notes. No one will be there to help and you need to be your own advocate. Issues might occur depending on the disability office you have and the situation you might encounter but there are alternative ways to go about things. That is why it is a great idea to have good communication with professors as they can get school materials accessible. After all, college is all about learning about life and about you. These are only a few suggestions to try to make your college life a little better.