Improving the university experience for blind and partially sighted students – Natalie Greenhough
Black Country SLC met with representatives from Wolverhampton University Student’s Union to discuss how to better the social aspect of university life for visually impaired students during their studies. We asked Black Country SLC member Natalie Greenhough to write about the meeting and why this work is necessary.
As we know, university is not just about gaining qualifications to better future employment opportunities. It is also a time where people have the freedom to do as they wish and meet people and experience things they have not before. However, blind and partially sighted students often face additional challenges when first attending university. From not knowing where the best places to go in town are to inaccessible flyers, leaflets or posters advertising university events. Furthermore, there is often a general lack of awareness within the rest of the student body about visual impairment and how to interact with a visually impaired person.
My student experience
In my own experiences as a student, other students were unsure how to approach me; this made me feel on the edge of the student community rather than a proper part of it. One aspect that contributed to this was my accommodation arrangement. The university decided to house me separately, among a group of other visually impaired students, thinking this would be in our best interest. As much as I appreciate some of the thinking behind this, I feel this confounded my social isolation.
What we’re doing to improve student experience
Black Country Sight Loss Council will be working with Wolverhampton university to engage with the student body to help raise awareness of visual impairment. At the beginning of the second semester, they hold events during refreshers week. Black Country Sight Loss Council has proposed to deliver VI awareness training to students during refreshers week in Jani, challenging students entering the student union to carry out a task, such as kicking a ball while wearing a pair of simulation glasses.
We are also discussing working with groups or societies and potentially doing some visual impairment awareness training within some of these organisations.
Volunteering with Sight Loss Council has allowed me the chance to effect some form of change that I would have loved to see myself during my own university experience. I do hope that this change reaches further and helps as many people as possible.
– Black Country SLC member Natalie Greenhough
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Publication date: 30 November 2021