Let’s Look at Uni: Tips for visually impaired students

Going to university can be daunting and if you’re visually impaired there can be some extra barriers to overcome. From applying to disability students allowance and learning your way around campus, to talking about your visual impairment with lecturers and friends, there’s a lot to think about. This is why graduate and mentor coordinator Chris Styles, has come up with a range of tips that can help make the experience of going to university a little easier. If you would like further support and advice after reading these tips, check out our free student mentoring scheme. You will be matched with a visually impaired graduate, who can give you advice and support based on their own lived experience.

1. Choosing Your Uni

  • Consider the routes to your campus. Will you be on a single campus, or are your lectures spread out throughout the city?
  • Consider transport and pedestrian links to your campus. Is the route easy to walk to, or if it’s too far can you easily access buses, trains or taxis?
  • Consider travelling home when term is over: cost, distance, journey time
  • The social life (big dreamy London or quaint Chester)

2. Choosing Your Course

  • The choice is yours.
  • Make sure you’ve chosen the right subject: is this your passion?
  • Consult the course rankings
  • Check out the course content and teaching methods (exams, coursework, etc.)
  • Consider whether the course is the right direction for your life goals

3. Self-Advocacy

  • Let your tutors know about your needs – email, phone call, face-to-face
  • Suggest ways they can meet your needs (e.g. handouts, pre-lecture slides, check-in meetings)
  • Be patient – not everyone hasexperience of VI 
  • Don’t be afraid to remind your tutors 
  • Find a comfortable way to let your teacher know if you need additional help.

4. Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

Disabled Students allowance is a grant you can get from the government for any costs you may incur due to your visual impairment.

  • Start the application early: The process usually can take, over three months to complete!
  • Get evidence ready; You’ll need to prove your sight loss, so gather up any Doctors letters and certifications of visual impairment you may have.
  • Get advice on all forms of support (technology, 1-to-1 support, note-taking, travel to Uni costs you have access to before your Needs Assessment. Look staff and mentors are here to help with this!

5. Independent Living

  • Be prepared
  • Think about tasks you would need to practice (cooking, cleaning, shopping)
  • Research equipment that would enable you to live independently – chat with a habilitation officer and other VIPs
  • Use the summer to prepare
  • Ask family members for help and advice
  • Use your early induction to learn how to use domestic equipment (e.g. microwave, oven, washing machine)
  • Liaise with the disability support service to communicate with halls about your needs.

6. Study Skills

  • Find methods that suit you best
  • Use your time efficiently – sometimes we take more time to study as VIPs
  • Keep ahead and pre-read/listen
  • Use all resources your uni offers
  • Does your university offer extensions on deadlines? Find out the process

7. Uni Life

  • Find out what societies and sports your Student Union has to offer
  • Don’t be peer-pressured into something you don’t want to do
  • Have fun, be safe
  • Be honest if you need some help
  • Find other freshers on Facebook before you go
  • Look for opportunities outside of university (e.g. volunteering, sports, hobbies, other interests)

8. Orientation 

  • Make use of the open days
  • Visit your uni before you start
  • Explore the city before you start
  • Get family, friends or the My Guide service (https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services-we-provide/my-guide)to help orientate you around the city 
  • DSA can provide funding for sighted guide orientation in university campuses – Look can help you prepare for this meeting 

9. Shared Living

  • Be casual about your sight loss
  • Some people may be a bit messy
  • Establish which cupboards and fridge space are yours
  • Be calm – things may get moved now and again 
  • Be friendly and open – some people have not met anyone who is VI, so get ready for questions
  • Shared bathrooms: have a set place for your things – remind your housemates why you need this 

10. Enjoy!

  • Have fun! There will be times which are hard, but there will be great and fun times: meeting new people, going to socials, visiting places, doing nothing, (whoops typo meant working hard of course) messing around and making the most of student discount 
  • Look will be here through the highs and lows! Look staff and mentors are here to hear all about it!

If you like what you’ve read, and want to find out more about our student mentoring scheme email Ruth Storey at: youth@look-uk.org or call: 07826 795033