The Vision Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research at the University of Birmingham will be hosting a free online conference from Tuesday 22nd to Friday 25th of June, to mark the conclusion of the Longitudinal Transitions Study.
What is this event about?
During the event, which is being supported by Thomas Pocklington Trust, you will have the opportunity to learn about the findings from this research study. For over ten years VICTAR has followed the post-school transition experiences of 80 young people with vision impairment, including LOOK’s Volunteer Development Coordinator Elin Williams. The study has included investigating the participants’ experiences in further education, higher education, apprenticeships, gap years and entering the labour market. This is a unique study in the field of vision impairment, and the findings from the final report will be shared with attendees of the conference next week.
As part of the four-day event you will also have the opportunity to attend a series of workshops focusing on a range of important topics relating to supporting post-school transitions. Delivered by experts in the field of vision impairment and incorporating personal experiences from young people, Elin and LOOK mentors Ussud and Azeem are running a workshop with Thomas Pocklington Trust on Wednesday the 23rd of June at 09:30am.
During the opening session of the conference, Elin will share her reflections on her personal experiences of transitioning through mainstream to specialist school, then to university and on to employment, and on participating in the longitudinal study. She will also share insight into the most common challenges around transition for VI young people that emerge through the LOOK Mentoring Project, and some ideas on how voluntary sector organisations can support specialist services.
Ahead of this exciting event, we caught up with Elin to find out more about her involvement with the study and why she thinks this event is important.
Q: Hi Elin – can you tell us a little bit about your VI?
A: I have Lebers Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and Nystagmus.
I was diagnosed age 7 and was losing sight very gradually as a child. Then I had a big, sudden dip in vision when I was 14. I can now mostly just see light and dark, sometimes big shapes or really bright colours.
Q: How did you hear about the Longitudinal Study?
A: My parents were told about it through my QTVI at the time, who encouraged me to participate.
Q: Looking back over the years, how do you feel to have been involved in such a study?
A: It’s a little surreal for the study to have been completed and for the findings now to be being shared. I hope the research and findings will result in some positive outcomes or positive change.
Q: Why is this study important?
A: By gathering all this data I hope we will be able to pick out trends and examples of what works well, and to draw attention to and find solutions for how things can be done better.
Q: How did you hear about LOOK UK?
A: My parents accessed support from LOOK when I was a child and my dad ran the London Marathon for LOOK in 2001. Years later, I always knew about LOOK but didn’t get involved myself until I trained as a LOOK Mentor and LOOK agreed to support me to access a volunteering abroad project called European Voluntary Service in 2017.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
A: I’m most looking forward to seeing how all the research has come together, and any recommendations that come out of the research to improve the experiences of VI young people.
Q: Why should people attend the LOOK & Thomas Pocklington Trust workshop – what can they expect?
A: During the workshop we will be talking participants through some of the barriers, support available and policy around FE and HE, with case studies from VI students sharing their own experiences and information on how LOOK and TPT services support VI students. We will also have a Q&A session.
Q: What do you hope attendees of the conference will come away with?
I hope attendees will come away with testimonies from real VI people about their experiences, and tangible ideas on how they can make educational transitions a smoother experience for the VI young people they work with.
Join our Workshop
On the 23rd of June at 9:30am we are co-running a workshop with Thomas Pocklington Trust featuring case studies from LOOK Mentors. During the workshop we will be talking to participants about some of the barriers, support available and policy around FE and HE. We have two LOOK Mentors sharing their stories at the workshop.
Ussud started his first year studying Creative Practice at the University of Birmingham. Ussud’s LOOK Mentor provided a lot of tailored support for him when completing his disabled students allowance application, and Ussud felt much more confident talking about his VI with other students with support from his LOOK Mentor. Ussud has completed his first year during Covid, so it’s been an unusual experience, but overall has been positive.
Azeem is currently doing an MA at the University of Salford in Digital Business. Azeem is a great problem solver and had a positive experience with support during his time as an undergrad because he was able to talk with his university about the support he needed. However, he’s receiving less support at postgrad level. He’s passionate about helping others and is a LOOK Mentor to help other VI students navigate the maze and be able to access everything as best as possible.
The panel will also be taking questions from participants.