Ultimate Guide for Blind & Visually Impaired College Students
By: Kathleen Gaines
Earning a college degree is challenging in itself, and there are even more obstacles for students who have visual impairments. When your vision is impaired, class materials are more difficult to access, navigating through campus takes more than just a map, visual social cues are missed, and most importantly, getting support from your college will likely be crucial to your success.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are over 1 billion people in the world that suffer from some degree of visual impairment. Research has shown that students with visual impairment including blindness have the ability to succeed in higher education curriculums. Furthermore, visual impairment does not have a significant negative impact on the number or types of degrees awarded by a college or university.
According to the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) by the American Foundation of the Blind (AFB), there were approximately 547,083 children with vision difficulty in the U.S. There were 276,322 males and 270,761 females with vision difficulty under the age of 18 in the U.S. Additionally, the 2019 Annual Report from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), found there were approximately 55,249 U.S. children, youth, and adult students in educational settings who were designated as legally blind.
This guide offers a complete walkthrough to help blind and visually impaired students navigate their college experience. You’ll find a list of the things to consider when choosing a college, information on financial aid for students with disabilities, and the top schools for students with visual impairments, among other helpful information and advice.
Defining Visual Impairment and Blindness in Students
The term ‘visual impairment’ is a broad umbrella term that covers a wide range of vision loss. Most people whose vision is impaired fall under one of three major degrees of blindness, listed below from the lowest level of impairment to the highest.
1. Visual impairment
For the purposes of this guide, a visual impairment will refer to any type of vision loss. However, when speaking technically about a person’s degree of blindness, “visual impairment” means something more specific. It also refers to an inability to see that cannot be helped by simple solutions, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, or even corrective surgery.
Also referred to as “low vision,” this is the most basic level of serious vision loss, meaning you have a corrected visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better eye. Additional factors that impact visual disabilities include light sensitivity, glare sensitivity, contrast sensitivity, and light/dark adaptation.
The American Foundation for the Blind states that vision that falls between 20/200 and 20/400 is defined as severely impaired, while vision from 20/500 to 20/1000 is categorized as profoundly impaired. A visual impairment causes everyday challenges with sight. For example, low vision students usually have difficulty seeing classroom boards (chalkboards, whiteboards, etc.), but may be able to read close print materials, such as books and worksheets, either with or without aides.
2. Legal blindness
This means you may still be able to see (perceive light), but your vision is poor enough that you need visual solutions similar to those needed by people with “total blindness.” According to the American Foundation for the Blind, “legal blindness is a level of vision loss that has been legally defined to determine eligibility for benefits. The clinical diagnosis refers to a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction, and/or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.”
Students who are legally blind usually experience extreme limitations when viewing classroom visuals, reading texts, and seeing other educational presentations. They also have trouble participating in hands-on activities and navigating their way around a college campus.
3. Total blindness
That means you can’t see anything at all (no light) with either eye. The condition may be recorded by doctors as “NLP” or “no light perception.” Students with total blindness experience the same challenges as those who are legally blind, as well as challenges that arise from not being able to perceive any light, such as seeing the difference between night and day.
Because your needs will be unique to your own degree of blindness, it may be helpful for you to have this basic terminology at the forefront of your mind when talking to people on campus.
How Do Colleges Support Visually Impaired Students?
Supporting students with visual impairment is essential to their success. For students applying to college, accommodations need to be made to ensure the college has the proper tools to support their academic endeavors. Accommodations for visually impaired students are typically provided through the college’s office of disability services.
When you first enroll in college (or before you even apply), be sure to visit this office and explore the options available to you. Most colleges also have information provided on their website for students requiring accommodation. Common accommodations include:
- Enhanced-font presentations
- Course materials and exams in alternative formats (Braille)
- Additional time to complete assignments/exams
- Assistance with note-taking, reading, etc.
- Permission to record class lectures or provided recordings
Beyond accommodations, many college campuses and academic experts incorporate Universal Design of Learning (UDL) into the classroom. UDL helps ensure inclusion for students with disabilities in classroom settings.
Assistive technology is a common way academic programs support students with visual impairment. Types of assistive technology utilized include,
- Screen Reader
- Screen Magnification
- Braille Embosser
- Braille Display
- Optical Character Recognition
- Portable Note-Taker
- Video Magnifier
- Adaptive Keyboard
- Portable Note-Taker
Choosing the Right School
Identifying the right school can be difficult for students with visual impairments because a student’s needs can be very specific to the disability. It’s not only important that the college fits a student’s accommodations but it is also important it is a good fit for the student academically, socially, and financially. Having a visual impairment requires a student to take multiple things into account besides any accessibility needs they may have.
This will include the typical college deciding factors including,
- Distance from home
- Format (online versus on-campus)
- Cost, scholarship and financial aid
- Academic programs and degrees
- Campus life (sororities/fraternities, sports, extracurricular activities)
- Public versus private college
- Size (large versus small, rural versus urban)
While almost all colleges and universities are required to offer the most basic accommodations for people with visual impairments, such as accessible class materials and extra time for test-taking, there certainly are campuses that offer more support than others.
To find the right fit for you, follow these tips:
Consider your special needs.
One of the most important ways to prepare yourself for college is to identify what exactly you need to succeed. If you do not know what you need to succeed, then it is impossible for a college to support you. You will need to clearly communicate these specific needs to those who need to know, such as your college’s disability office, your teachers, and any new friends you make.
Will you navigate campus with a cane or a guide dog? Will you need permission to record lectures? Do you need course texts provided in braille? By answering these questions for yourself ahead of time, you can make sure the school you attend can provide everything you personally need to succeed.
Because you are not required to tell your school that you have a visual impairment, support services cannot help you unless you volunteer the information. Get comfortable talking about your needs and impairment. You will have to inform everyone who will be involved in your education, including the school’s disability services office, your department, and your professors. Even if the school doesn’t commonly offer the specific resources you need, your academic department may be able to make special arrangements for you.
Visit college campuses.
Going onsite to assess any challenges you might face is key to choosing a college that will help you succeed. It is difficult to know if a campus will be a good fit without visiting. Ask yourself – Does the campus have sidewalks and crosswalks that are friendly to visually-impaired pedestrians? Is the campus large and maze-like, or is it small and easy to navigate? Are there nearby bus services for transportation?
Visiting a campus allows you to not only see the physical layout but also anything that is already in place that could be helpful. Furthermore, you can also identify special requests you might need to make, consider where you might need to live to most easily navigate to your classes, and visit the school’s office of disability services.
Assess the quality of the disability services office.
When you go on-campus, make sure to speak with someone at the disability services office. Ideally, make an appointment with the director or one of the counselors. Prepare questions such as “What accommodations and assistive technologies are available?” and “What are the retention and graduation rates for disabled students?” It’s important to consider the size and accessibility of the office itself. Is it a big, prominent office with a full-time staff, or is it tucked away in a hard-to-reach corner with only one or two staff members? Knowing if the office can really help, can be essential to your continued success.
Find out how many students with disabilities attend the school.
The more students who are registered with the school’s office of disability services, the better. It is also important that students that are registered have similar disabilities to you. This shows that the college is equipped with handling specific requests and needs. It’s more likely that your school will be able to help you succeed if attending students already require similar support. Conversely, if you’re the only student on campus who has a visual disability, you may have trouble finding the accommodations and support you need.
Check out the college website.
If a college or university’s website is designed to make content accessible to people with visual impairments, there’s a good chance that students with visual impairments are well-supported by the school in other ways as well. Web content is often made accessible through good color contrast, compatibility with assistive technology (such as screen readers), intuitive navigation, text descriptions of images/videos/other visual components, and transcripts of videos.
Tips to Succeed as a Visually Impaired Student in College
Choosing the best school for your needs is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to succeeding in college with a visual impairment. Consider these additional tips for making your time in school as smooth as possible:
Ask for an orientation and mobility (O&M) specialist to prepare you to navigate campus.
Make sure you can travel safely and efficiently to your classes, your dorm, the cafeteria, and any other important campus areas by becoming oriented with help from an O&M specialist. This preparation can also help you choose a class schedule that works best for you.
Network with other students with disabilities.
Get insights, tips, and tricks from students with similar disabilities who have already walked the walk at your school. You may find people to talk to through a campus club for students with disabilities or online through Facebook groups.
Get help from a campus advisor.
Choosing a major and selecting the right courses is easier for visually impaired students when they talk to an advisor. You’ll want to discuss the practicality of completing your chosen major, as well as the required classes. If certain required courses present barriers due to your visual impairment, you may be able to receive special accommodations to complete them, or you may be able to substitute one course for another that is more suitable to your level of vision.
You may even have the realization that a different major would be better to pursue. An advisor can walk you through these considerations and make sure you’re taking the best college path for you.
Find a professional mentor.
While you’re in college, connect with a visually impaired professional who can talk with you about your future career. Get answers to questions about the best classes to take, the kinds of experiences you should get, and networking opportunities. A good resource for finding suitable role models is called “Career Connect” and can be found for free by the American Foundation for the Blind.
When you’re attending college with a visual impairment, it can be too easy to isolate yourself, especially if you need special accommodations that force you to be away from your classmates. Don’t let yourself remain alone. Get involved in your campus community by joining a club or fraternity/sorority, attending campus events, or finding a few study buddies. College can be the time of your life, so take part in every aspect of it!
What Technologies Can Help Visually Impaired Students?
In addition to standard accommodations provided by colleges for visually impaired students, you will also ideally have access to a wide range of assistive technology/devices through the school’s on-campus assistive technology center.
When it comes to education, these assistive technologies will prove most useful:
- Screen readers: These devices help visually impaired students read text on a computer by either reading on-screen text aloud or recreating the text using a refreshable braille display. In order to use a screen reader during college, your texts will need to be compatible with screen reader technology.
- Refreshable braille displays: Braille displays are used with screen reader software. The electronic device connects to your computer and sits in front of your keyboard for you to feel with your hands as it recreates the on-screen text using “cells” that rise and fall.
- Speech-to-text word processors: By allowing you to dictate aloud what you want to type, this type of software helps students do everything from writing emails to professors to participating in online message boards.
- Braille printers: Although braille printers may not be common at college campuses, you may get lucky and be looking at a school that does have one, allowing both you and your professors to print any braille materials you need.
- NVDA Screen Reader: Adds a speech synthesizer and braille display support to your Microsoft Windows PC. Can run off a USB drive without PC installation. Free and open-source.
- VoiceOver: Provides audio descriptions of on-screen elements. Built into Apple computers, iPhones, and iPads. Supports refreshable braille displays.
- Dragon Speech Recognition Software: Powerful speech recognition computer program for Windows. Enables voice commands to direct the computer. Also provides speech-to-text input. Various versions are available at various costs.
- ZoomText: Magnifies and reads aloud selected text on-screen, for either Mac or Windows computers. Works with peripherals, such as ImageReader, large-print keyboards, and the ZoomText Camera for use with print materials.
- “TapTapSee” for iOS and Android: Identifies objects by recognizing any object in front of the device’s camera and speaking aloud the name of the object.
- “Color ID Free” for iOS and Android: Uses the device’s camera to identify and read aloud the color detected. Helpful for people with color blindness.
- “KNFB Reader” for iOS and Android: Powerful text-to-speech app reads aloud any text in front of the device’s camera. Highly accurate.
Scholarships for Blind and Visually Impaired Students
Many grants and scholarships are available to people with varying degrees of blindness. Visually impaired students can also apply for scholarships that are not just for visually impaired students. Specific scholarships for visually impaired students are either open to anyone with a disability that impacts their access to education or specifically only to people with visual impairments. It’s also important to know that these awards are almost always offered based on academic ability, not on the student’s disability.
Grants are typically offered by the state according to need. By talking to a rehabilitation counselor and/or student disability services at your college of choice, you can find out which grants may be available to you.
To help you get a jumpstart on your search, here is a brief list of the top sponsors of scholarship opportunities for college students with visual impairments.
- Application Deadline: March 31st
- Amount: $12,000
- Eligibility: Full-time college student; legally blind; “exemplifies the fruits of Dr. Jernigan’s teachings.”
The Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship
- Application Deadline: April 30
- Amount: $2,500
- Eligibility: Legally blind; “studying full-time in the field of rehabilitation or education of persons who are blind and/or visually impaired;” letters of recommendation and essay.
The Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship
- Application Deadline: Early April
- Amount: $500
- Eligibility: Legally blind; female undergraduate student studying music; music performance in a digital audio format; letters of recommendation and essay.
The Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship
- Application Deadline: April 1
- Amount: $2,000
- Eligibility: Legally blind; full-time undergraduate or graduate student in the field of engineering or in computer, physical, or life sciences; letters of recommendation and essay.
Thomas H. Miller Scholarship Program
- Application Deadline: Mid April
- Amount: $1,000
- Eligibility: Full-time college student (especially in music or fine arts); spouse, dependent child, or grandchild of a blinded veteran.
Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program
- Application Deadline: Mid April
- Amount: $2,000
- Eligibility: Full-time college student; spouse, dependent child, or grandchild of a blinded veteran.
- Application Deadline: Late March
- Amount: $1,000 to $5,000
- Eligibility: Visually impaired, legally blind, totally blind or any of these with an additional disability; full-time college student; letters of recommendation and essay; transcripts; financial statement of need.
The Fred Scheigert Scholarship Program
- Application Deadline: Early March
- Amount: $3,000
- Eligibility: Full-time college student; minimum 3.2 GPA; “low vision from 20/70 in the better eye with best possible correction, or a field restricted to no greater than 30 degrees and to those who have less vision but are still able to benefit from the use of low vision devices to perform daily visual tasks.”
The College Bound Scholarship
- Application Deadline: Late March
- Amount: Up to $10,000
- Eligibility: Legally blind in both eyes; planning to attend college as freshman in the upcoming academic year; letters of recommendation and personal statements.
The Graduate School Scholarship
- Application Deadline: Late March
- Amount: Up to $10,000
- Eligibility: Legally blind in both eyes; pursuing any post-baccalaureate degree (Master’s, Ph.D., MD, JD, MBA, etc.); letters of recommendation and personal statements.
- Application Deadline: Late March
- Amount: $3,000 to $12,000
- Eligibility: Full-time college student; legally blind in both eyes.
Can I Get Extra Financial Aid for My Visual Disability?
When applying to college, all students are required to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used by the government to calculate each student’s estimated cost of attendance and to award aid accordingly. Because your cost of attendance as a disabled student may include costs related to your visual impairment, you may receive offers for financial aid that cover a portion or all of these costs.
In addition to this standard aid, any student with a disability, including a visual impairment, may be eligible for financial assistance through their state’s vocational rehabilitation agency. Talk with your rehabilitation counselor to find out more.
Resources for Visually Disabled College Students
- American Council of the Blind
- American Foundation for the Blind
- Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
- Helen Keller Services for the Blind
- National Federation of the Blind
- National Association of Blind Students
- The Chicago Lighthouse
Top Colleges for Students with Visual Disabilities
Many states across the country have schools specially designed for students with visual impairments, or where special accommodations are guaranteed. In Florida for example, there is the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind, and in California, you’ll find the California School for the Blind.
However, you don’t have to attend a special school for the blind to access accommodations for your visual impairment. Plenty of traditional colleges and universities are more than well-equipped to support you. The following 10 traditional institutions offer some of the top accommodations in the country for students with visual disabilities (in no particular order):
|Missouri State University||Springfield/MO|
|University of Connecticut||Storrs/CT|
|Mississippi State University||Starkville/MS|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor/MI|
|University of Arizona||Tucson/AZ|
|Texas Tech University||Lubbock/TX|
|College of Charleston||Charleston/SC|
|University of Wisconsin-Whitewater||Whitewater/WI|
|California State University-Fullerton||Fullerton/CA|
Missouri State University in Springfield is a public university that makes sure all its students can feel involved in the campus community. Known for having an outstanding Greek life and a large number of student organizations, the university uniquely has a Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society for students with disabilities who shine academically. The College of Humanities and Public Affairs also has a minor in Disability Studies, while the Department of Counseling, Leadership and Special Education offers a Master’s in Blindness and Low Vision.
- Campus Size: Small (225 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 20:1
- Transportation: Bear Line Shuttle (on-campus, free)
Not many schools can say they have a disability services office quite as great as the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at Missouri State. For example, the DRC maintains a blog to keep its members informed about relevant news and events. Furthermore, the Access Technology Center (ATC) makes it easy for students to find the assistive equipment and software needed to succeed in their classes.
In addition to the DRC, Missouri State supports students with visual impairments through the TRIO Student Support Services program. TRIO is an academic support program exclusive to qualified students, such as those who have a disability or low income. Accepted students are offered a wide array of services, including tutoring, advising, personal assistance, and career exploration, to help them succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.
Commonly known as UConn, the University of Connecticut is located in the small village of Storrs, approximately 30 minutes from Hartford. It is consistently listed by New Mobility Magazine as one of the top ten most disabled-friendly colleges. UConn serves about 18,000 undergrads and is especially popular with business and health majors.
- Campus Size: Large (4,200 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 16:1
- Transportation: University Transportation Services (on-campus and off-campus, free), Accessible Van Service (on-campus, free)
The University of Connecticut has long been known as having one of the most accessible college campuses in the country. Its Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) has been working since 1967 (originally as the Program for the Physically Handicapped) to modify any areas of campus that aren’t fully accessible to students with disabilities.
Today, the CSD operates out of a state-of-the-art 12-room facility and helps more than 1,100 students with disabilities such as visual impairments. A large staff of more than 200 employees (including students) all collaborate to make UConn an outstanding model for making higher education institutions accessible. With all this manpower, the CSD offers a huge array of services that you can’t find at just any university.
Through the online summer program Husky GPS, incoming students with disabilities at UConn are given the opportunity to create personalized plans for getting the support they need. Students are introduced to assistive technologies and other resources they might use at the university. Particularly beneficial for students with visual impairments, the program also offers help with navigation of the university’s physical campus.
As a public research university in the rural South, MSU offers students big-time opportunities and a small-town feel. The school is located in the city of Starkville, Mississippi, about 170 miles southeast of Memphis, TN. It has about 17,000 undergraduate students enrolled and offers top programs in engineering and education.
- Campus Size: Large (4,200 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 19:1
- Transportation: MSU Shuttle Service (on-campus, free); Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit – S.M.A.R.T. (off-campus, free)
MSU stands out as a top school for visually impaired students partly because the university is home to the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC). The NRTC is “focused on employment outcomes of persons with blindness or low vision,” according to the Center’s website, and helps visually impaired students succeed beyond their college years. Services include an Online Employment Preparation Program designed for blind users, which offers a growing list of people with visual impairments who have built successful careers and who are available to talk with current students.
Furthermore, the Office of Disability Support Services at MSU not only assists students with standard accommodations,but it also helps students get involved with United Students, an organization of students that focuses on providing support to students with disabilities.
Located less than an hour away from Detroit, the University of Michigan’s main campus in Ann Arbor is a public university in a city environment. Along with the university’s exceptional transportation options, its location makes it easy for students with visual impairments to enjoy all that the city has to offer without making an arduous trek. The school has about 27,000 undergraduate students, many of whom choose to major in business, psychology, or political science.
- Campus Size: Large (3,200 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 15:1
- Transportation: Paratransit (on-campus and off-campus, free), University Transit System (on-campus and off-campus, free); AAATA Fixed-Route Bus Service (off-campus, free)
Founded in 1973, the campus’s Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) has become known as a global advocate for college students with disabilities. As a result, the office has served as a model for other universities that have endeavored to fully support the success of students with disabilities. The University of Michigan’s free services includes (but are definitely not limited to) the HathiTrust Digital Library, which “14 million digital books will soon be made available to blind and print-disabled users.”
The SSD also has a Student Advisory Board made up of students registered with the SSD who advocate for the office and all its members. Similarly, the school has a Council for Disability Concerns (CFDC) that handles concerns regarding students with disabilities.
Other services/resources include Service Dog Central, which provides various information about service dogs; the James Edward Knox Center Adaptive Technology Computing Site (Knox Center), which is a computer lab designed for students with disabilities; the Initiative on Disability Studies, which promotes educational programs focused on disabilities; and the Office for Institutional Equity, which promotes equal opportunities for all students.
The University of Arizona is a top-ranked public research university located in the heart of the desert city of Tucson. Popular with business and biology majors, the school has a large student population but is still extremely accessible for visually impaired students. The College of Education’s Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies at the university has a graduate program with a specialization in visual impairment for students who want to become Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments. That means students with visual impairments have access to experts in their own educational challenges right on campus.
- Campus Size: Small (392 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 23:1
- Transportation: Daytime Disability Cart Service (on-campus, free); Nearby Buses/Shuttles (off-campus, free and paid)
The Disability Resources Center (DRC) at the University of Arizona makes it simple for students with visual impairments to request and receive the support and accommodations they need. The DRC provides a special orientation for all students, as well as an “Access Consultant” to help students with disabilities identify the accommodations they personally need, such as document conversion. The university also uniquely provides an on-campus Daytime Disability Cart Service that helps students with disabilities get around.
Furthermore, the second-floor lounge of the DRC building has an assistive technology lab outfitted with computers set up with assistive technology, study tables, and scanners. The university has a long list of assistive technologies available. Finally, an entire section of the university’s website (itAccessibility) is dedicated to “achieving full accessibility of all electronic and information technology.”
As one of the country’s top public research institutions, Texas Tech University is located in the West Texas city of Lubbock, known to the locals as “Hub City” for being the region’s economic, education, and healthcare hub. Texas Tech is well-recognized for its research projects in epidemiology, computing, atmospheric sciences, wind energy, and other scientific areas of study. The school has a Center for Research and Education in Sensory Disabilities (The Virginia Murray Sowell Center), which “promotes quality research to address the academic and social needs of school-age students with visual impairments and provides public service to assist local, national and international constituencies.”
- Campus Size: Large (1,839 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 22:1
- Transportation: Lubbock’s Citibus & Night Shuttle (on-campus and off-campus, free)
The university’s Student Disability Services (SDS) has about 2,000 registered students, and all those students chose Texas Tech for good reason. The SDS department is one of the best in the nation, offering unique programs such as free “drop-in tutoring” for help anytime on any academic subject, as well as special RaiderReady courses “designed to help students develop college readiness skills for the academic classroom, and…to meet the specific needs of various disability populations.”
Founded in 1770, before the Revolutionary War, the College of Charleston in South Carolina is rich with history and tradition. Popular with business and communications majors, this mid-sized public university has about 10,000 undergraduate students in attendance. It’s located right in downtown Charleston, making urban life exceptionally accessible via nearby transportation services, perfect for students with visual impairments.
- Campus Size: Medium (4,200 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 15:1
- Transportation: Nearby Transit Service – CARTA Bus & DASH Shuttle (off-campus, free)
The school specifically focuses on encouraging professors and other staff to incorporate the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into their students’ educational environments. The Center for Disability Services (CDS) also has one of the best websites for browsing information on services provided, including a section dedicated to Web Accessibility for students.
Visually impaired students are further assisted by the CDS through its SNAP (Students Needing Access Parity) program. SNAP endeavors to make sure every registered student with a disability receives special advising, personalized accommodations including assistive technology, and alternative courses if necessary. More than 900 students at the College of Charleston are members of SNAP.
Together, CDS and SNAP regularly hold events for members, such as study nights and midterm recovery get-togethers. This is especially helpful to students with visual disabilities who are looking for an easy way to socialize and network with their peers. The CDS even organizes Disability Awareness Day.
About 50 miles west of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, popular with finance and accounting majors, is a public university within the University of Wisconsin education system.
- Campus Size: Small (400 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 21:1
- Transportation: Weekend Bus Services (off-campus, paid)
The CSD at UW-Whitewater has been providing comprehensive support services since 1972. One of the most notable programs organized by the CSD is the annual Opening Horizons Conference. Designed for high school students with disabilities, the conference invites future college students (as well as parents, teachers, etc.) to come and “explore the many aspects related to the post-secondary setting for students with disabilities.” The conference is free to attend with pre-registration. Due to COVID restrictions, this conference is being held virtually but there are hopes to have social distanced events in the near future. Virtual tours are given by current students with point of view access.
UW-Whitewater also has an Adaptive Computer Lab for use by registered students with disabilities. Computers are set up with assistive technology software, while the lab also provides braille printing and specialized keyboards, just to name a few of the assistive devices available. Staff is present during opening hours to help anyone in the lab.
Known as Cal State Fullerton or CSUF, this small-sized public research university sits only 25 miles away from Los Angeles in California. Every minority at CSUF, including students with visual impairments and other disabilities, is deeply considered in the school’s goal “to transform into a national model of equity and inclusion.”
- Campus Size: Small (236 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 25:1
- Transportation: Nearby Train/Bus Stations (off-campus, paid); Carpool Partner Service
As part of the CSU system, Cal State Fullerton is expected to adhere to the CSU’s Accessible Technology Initiative (ATI), but this CSU goes above and beyond. Disability Support Services (DSS) at CSUF offer more than your standard request forms and advising. The Abled Advocators program, for example, helps the school maintain a community that regularly meets to raise disability awareness on campus, organize social and professional events, and make sure students with disabilities experience the concept of inclusion that CSUF is so dedicated to. Students also have access to workshops, advising, a peer mentor program, counseling, and much more.
Located southeast of Buffalo, Alfred University is a small private college in the rural Village of Alfred, NY. is small indeed with a campus of only 232 acres and about 2,000 undergrad students. It’s perfect for visually impaired students who want to avoid the challenge of navigating an enormous university campus. Despite its small stature, the school offers a wide selection of more than 60 majors and concentrations, including top programs in the arts (including ceramics) and engineering.
- Campus Size: Small (232 acres)
- Student/Faculty Ratio: 12:1
- Transportation: Hornell Area Transit (off-campus, free to the Walmart/Wegmans Plaza in Hornell); Nearby Bus/Train (off-campus, paid)
In addition to its small campus size, Alfred University stands out as a great school for visually impaired students due to its Center for Academic Success (CAS). As the core of the school’s Services for Students with Disabilities, CAS gets ahead of your college success by giving every student a CAS registration form during the admissions process, allowing visually impaired students to report their needs without any hassle. You can then receive assistance from CAS, such as early orientation, training in self-advocacy, and personalized help from an Academic Consultant. Your consultant will help you create a plan unique to your needs, identifying the accommodations and services that you will need to succeed while attending Alfred.