Antoinette M. Lechowicz
The tenth annual precollege orientation for blind and visually handicapped students was held from June 26 to July 1 at the State University of New York at Albany. This program was jointly sponsored by the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped and the University at Albany Disabled Student Services Office. Students participated in a variety of workshops, seminars, and activities dealing with such topics as study skills, attitudes, student life, controversial campus issues, etc. These exercises were designed to heighten studentís awareness of resources available to them and their rights and responsibilities to make their college education a success.
One such group activity was a panel discussion facilitated by two visually impaired professionals willing to share college experiences and answer any questions the students might raise. One individual is the Director of Middle Earth, Peer Assistance Program Coordinator for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and a University Psychologist who presently works at the University where she was previously a graduate student. I also talked about my experiences gaining my B.S. and M.A. in Education, as well as my experiences instructing young children, and teaching courses to public employees. As an ice breaker, each student was asked their name, what college they were planning to attend, something positive about themselves, and one thing they had learned from the orientation program thus far.
From their questions and concerns, here are some of the ideas and suggestions the facilitator and students shared with each other.
1. Be patient with yourself: It may take awhile to adjust to college life. You will spend more time studying and preparing for classes than your sighted peers. Be organized with your work. This will save you time in the long run.
2. A special lamp, earphones and/or a computer table or shelf maybe needed for adaptive equipment in the residence hall.
3. Visit the campus to become familiar with your surroundings and dorm to see how much space you will have available before moving in.
4. Participate in a campus activity i.e. something you like or are good at. This will help you to relax and meet others who share the same interest or hobby.
5. Talk with your professors ahead of time to obtain book titles. Check with RFB&D (Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic) to see if the titles are in their collection or make arrangements to have them recorded if desired.
6. Put up signs and announce your need for readers in your classes very early in the semester.
7. Find a mentor on campus who can answer questions and give you information when needed.
8. Take advantage of campus services i.e. health services, academic, counseling, etc. and find out how to reach them. Ask for help in finding the buildings on campus. This will make you more independent and allow you to help others who may be lost.
9. Know how to identify your own money, clothing and other possessions.
10. Join an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind such as ACB Students (ACBS). This organization unites and supports blind and visually impaired college students nationally. It identifies concerns, promotes educational program opportunities, and advocates legislation to meet the needs of students. In addition, it is a great way to make friendships and attend annual workshops. With a membership, students will receive THE STUDENT ADVOCATE NEWSLETTER.
Hopefully, some of these tips will help other college students to make an easier adjustment to their college surroundings and will result in their participation in a fulfilling career with their sighted peers.
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