Are you a VI student about to move into the world of work? This one’s for you. We caught up with Chris, a LOOK Mentor, to ask him some quick questions about his experience as a young VI graduate moving into his teaching career.

Chris has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and he began losing his sight as a teenager. He studied Developmental Psychology at the University of Worcester and did a PGCE (teacher training) at the University of Birmingham. He works as a teacher in a specialist (SEN) primary school. He is partially sighted.

Close up of Chris in rugby kit, holding a rugby ball in both hands. He has a full head of dark brown hair and a beard.

Megan Adams, our Student Mentor Project Officer at LOOK, asked him some quick questions about how he has adapted to his professional life. 

Megan: How do you conduct lesson observations as a teacher with a visual impairment? 

Chris: You get a vibe from the way things are done – ask to do the observation with someone else, at the end deconstruct together. Have someone else to be your eyes if possible. I am applying for a support worker through Access to Work to help with admin and the extra work that some sighted people take for granted. Once approved, you can explain what help you need. They are there to support you to teach, not to teach for you. 

Megan: How do you manage the workload of a full-time teaching schedule as a blind teacher, given the challenges that come with your visual impairment and the significant demands of the profession? 

Chris: It is very demanding. The delivery of teaching is important, but there are always more important things like annual review paperwork, risk assessments and learning new systems which are just as important.

I try to be as organised as possible. I have applied for a support worker to help with admin as I can be overwhelmed by admin as it is very visual. I don’t find the teaching and delivery to be as stressful as the admin. Be honest with your school and outline that you need support. The school must make reasonable adjustments.

Some reasonable adjustments I have used are: my own printer because I can’t see the buttons on the school’s printers. I couldn’t see the normal whiteboard so I got a black ‘whiteboard’. The contrast on the interactive screen was bad so they bought a better one, my laptop connects to a big monitor and massive whiteboard screen. This was paid for by the school as reasonable adjustments.

Megan: How do you tell fellow teachers about your VI?

I didn’t tell anyone at old school about my VI, but for my new school I sent an email telling staff about my VI and what I needed from them. This broke down the awkwardness. 

Megan: How do you effectively deliver slides as a teacher with a visual impairment?

Chris: Make slides as suitable to you as possible (contrast, colours, clear text). I have taught history to upper school and used slides as jump-offs, dates and countries on slides that triggers what you want to be saying. I don’t use slides as much with younger students. You can use an ipad with the slides on to see them up close.

Megan: Thanks for your time, Chris! Thanks also to Mentor Naseem for helping out with this interview. 

In September we are launching a new Student Hub page. We are trailing content between now and then, so please save the link: www.look-uk.org/studenthub and check in on it where we’ll posting interviews. We’ll also be sharing news about our exciting new Student Mentor Project. Applications will soon be open, and if you’re a recent graduate, with a visual impairment, who would like to support a VI young person as they prepare for and start uni, please contact Megan on megana@look-uk.org

Useful links:

Access to Work is a government scheme that helps you get or stay in work if you have a physical or mental health condition or disability.

The support you get will depend on your needs. Through Access to Work, you can apply for:

  • a grant to help pay for practical support with your work
  • support with managing your mental health at work
  • money to pay for communication support at job interviews

Find out more about this grant scheme here.

Careers Advice and Guidance

Thinking about what you would like to do after school/college/university can feel a lifetime away? Perhaps you have clear career goal in mind or just don’t know where to start.

It is important to start thinking about your options so that you can plan what subjects you want to study.

Every school should offer some form of careers provision from year 8 to 13 (12-to 18 year olds) which includes impartial advice and guidance from a qualified careers adviser.

The Thomas Pocklington Trust has useful resource on this, click here to access it.