Disability and Learning Support Service

Case Study: supporting a visually impaired student

Case study highlighting the support that can be implemented for a visually impaired student

Fiona is a new international postgraduate student who commenced her undergraduate studies in the College of Science and Engineering at the University in September.  Having obtained exceptional grades at school, Fiona was able to gain admission as a direct entrant into the second year of her BSc degree. 

Fiona has a number of eye conditions which result in her having extremely limited vision in both eyes.  She made contact with the Student Disability Service at the beginning of her first semester, and it was clear that, in addition to the provision of a range of support/adjustments, Fiona would also benefit from the provision of assistive technology in order to enable her to be able to access all elements of her studies.

Although the advisory staff within the Disability and Learning Support Service are skilled and trained in the use and application of a very broad range of assistive technology and software, there are occasions when even more specialist knowledge and expertise are required.  Consequently, the Service worked with the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), and referred Fiona to them for a detailed assessment of need.  This also allowed her to trial equipment which the Service did not have available.

As a non-UK student, Fiona was not eligible for state funding for any support requirements through Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).  Therefore, any recommendations for equipment, software or technology that arose from her RNIB assessment would be funded through the allocation that the University makes available in the form of the Disabled Students Support Fund (DSSF). 

Fiona met with RNIB staff in October and they were able to let her try out a range of equipment which had practical benefits for her studies.  On the basis of her feedback on ease of use and application in the academic context, the Service agreed to purchase a number of items, using finance from the DSSF, up to a total cost of £2,000. These included a digital voice recorder to record lectures, a laptop with Windows and MS Office and a ZoomText magnifier, optical magnifier and monocular telescope.  This equipment enables the student to enlarge and adjust text size and utilise text to speech functions, which also minimise the need for human support and enables the student to maximise her capacity for independent learning.

Fiona has settled into her studies and is making effective use of the equipment, which she will be able to utilise for the duration of her studies.  On completion of her degree, much of the equipment will be returned to Disability and Learning Support Service so that it may be used by other students in future.