The College Experience by a Visually Impaired Student

The transition from second-level education to college is a rather large step for anyone, least of all those with a visual impairment. In 2008, I was one of many to make that transition. I moved from Wesley college, Dublin, with almost a thousand students (this being a little larger than most secondary schools) to NUI Maynooth, with over fourteen hundred in first year alone, an over seven thousand in total. I should mention this is also the smallest college in Ireland.
I have never been challenged extraordinarily hard in school, so I was not too worried about the workload I thought I might receive. I think the biggest jump for me – as I’m sure would be the same for any person – was the social change. The idea that I was no longer forced to learn this, memorise that, like a good little student. For the first time, I was given the spoon, as it were.
On balance, I would say the workload in college is far less than that demanded of the Leaving Cert. This is coming from someone studying Computer Science, Anthropology, and Astrophysics. Forgetting the work for a moment, I think the hardest part of college life in general is getting around, finding specific rooms and such. In general, the more commonly used rooms are easier to find, but I have found over the months that quite a few of my more obscure lectures – Cosmology and Universal Constants, for instance – take place in the nooks and crannies of the college, and can be difficult to find. Maynooth was very good in this respect, as a week was set aside before the start of term, in which students with a disability (along with other students that qualified for a separate programme called Access) were shown around the college. While on this week I was registered with the Disability Office, met with the assistive technology advisor to discuss any supportive technologies I might need, and could be shown where each of my lectures on my timetable would take place, though this had already been surmised during the tour an earlier day. Their attitude was very much “tell me what I can do to make things easiest for you.” something I am not very used to, given the usual second-level supports.
Currently, I live on campus four to five days a week, depending on the amount of work needed to be done on any given week. This was, needless to say, a new experience for me, but one that I now find quite enjoyable. Because of my registration with the Disability Office, I was given one of the wheelchair-accessible rooms. While this is obviously unnecessary, I’m not complaining; the room is quite a bigger than it’s regular counterparts.
Anyone who can manage secondary school will feel perfectly at home in college.