On this page we attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions by visually impaired students.
Q: Who do I contact at a university to receive support?
Most universities employ a dedicated disability officer who will be able to help you with your questions. While they are not usually specially trained to work with VIPs, they will know what kind of resources are available or who to talk to for further support.
Q: When do I contact the university about my visual impairment?
As soon as possible. Once you know which course you are going to take, we encourage you to speak to the university and your lecturers as soon as possible. Certain accessible media can take months to produce, so the more time you allow for this, the better. Sometimes it can be hard to find out which literature you'll need - some lecturers complete the course curriculum just before term starts. In that situation, you can check whether the course has run in previous years and whether there is an old curriculum available.
Q: What kind of help is commonly offered to visually impaired students?
Universities can usually offer you the following support:
Extra time in exams. The amount of time will differ between systems and countries.
Adapted exams, such as writing the exam on a computer with magnification software or a screen-reader.
A note-taker (usually a PhD student or a fellow classmate) who takes notes for you in the lectures and transcribes them into an electronic format.
Extended library loan times.
Accommodation (if available) close to the university campus.
Q: I can't find the course literature in an accessible format.
There are a number of things you can do. In some countries, government services exist where you can order the books to be produced in an accessible format (this depends on the country in question). Sometimes, this can take as long as eight weeks, so if possible make sure you investigate this well before the course starts. If no such service is available, talk to your lecturer. Perhaps there are other books that might work too - an older edition might contain the same teaching material, for example. Sometimes university libraries can also convert books into PDFs for you, but they might not be able to scan pictures properly. Lastly, you can always search the web - sometimes the book is available to download as a Kindle book or as a PDF.
Q: We are doing a group project in class. Which cloud-based platforms work well with screen-readers?
Dropbox and Google Drive allow you to share a folder which is stored locally on your computer. The documents in that folder should then be usable with your standard accessibility software.
Q: I use audio books for studying. What is a good way to keep up my concentration?
Everyone has a study technique that suits them best. Some general suggestions are however to break up your study time into segments with many breaks and to take notes while you listen.
For more questions, you can read the FAQ compiled by the RNIB.