Welcome to my Navigating College Campuses series, where I talk about all of the different ways I use Orientation and Mobility (O&M) techniques and my blindness cane as a student with low vision at my large public university. After spending four years living on my college campus, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating in several different conditions and situations, and am so excited to share my tips and tricks with other students and future students. Today, I will be sharing my experiences with going on college tours as a student with low vision, and tips that I give students on touring colleges with a blindness cane.
When I was touring colleges during high school, I hadn’t started using a blindness cane yet, though I still had low vision and mobility challenges related to my brain condition and requested accessible materials and routes. However, I started using a blindness cane on my first day of college and have joined my friends on college tours while using my blindness cane, and give tours to prospective students with visual impairments, many of which use blindness canes.
How to request college tours
Each college has a different way of requesting college tours, though almost tours are organized through the Office of Admissions. Tours usually take place at the same time every day of the week, though there are also special events throughout the year that allow prospective students to attend an open house-type event where there are lots of staff members to answer questions. I prefer to attend the smaller tours since it gives me a better feel for the campus layout when there aren’t a ton of visitors.
- Blindness Canes and Building Identification: Navigating College Campuses
- What I Wish I Learned About Assistive Technology Before Starting College
- Blindness Canes and Classrooms: Navigating College Campuses
Places to visit on a college tour
All of the college tours I’ve been on gave students the opportunity to visit the following locations:
- Dining hall
- Freshman dorm building
- Recreation center
- Student center
- At least one classroom building
- Athletic areas, if the college had them
These tours are incredibly helpful, though when I have students touring colleges with a blindness cane, I like to add a few other stops that are specific to students with visual impairments. I have an entire post written about where I take students, though if you only have time for one place, I recommend going to the Disability Services office- more on that in a minute.
- Places Every Visually Impaired Student Should Visit On College Tours
- College Libraries and Low Vision
- Blindness Canes and Dining Halls: Navigating College Campuses
Go on a stairs-free tour if possible
I was thrilled to learn that every college I toured had a stairs-free or stairs-optional tour for people who did not want to walk up and down stairs, or that use mobility aids. I recommend those who are touring colleges with a blindness cane to take advantage of these tours, since they are often smaller and it’s more difficult to get separated from the group.
Some colleges also allow prospective students to use disability transportation services to tour campus, which means that students can ride around campus in a golf cart or similar vehicle with a guide, and the guide can provide descriptive information along the way. I have done a version of this tour for a tired student by narrating a trip around campus on the campus bus system, and it worked out well. I recommend contacting Admissions for more information on this option.
- Using Disability Transportation Services In College
- Blindness Canes and Construction: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and Accessibility Issues: Navigating College Campuses
Talk to Disability Services in advance
Before visiting campus, it’s helpful to reach out to Disability Services to get more information about what to expect when attending this college as a student with a disability, and to schedule an appointment with a staff member or student with the same condition. I have a list of ten questions to ask when choosing a college which is linked below for reference that is filled with great questions to ask Disability Services and other students with disabilities.
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a College
- Ten More Questions to Ask When Choosing A College
- How To Create A Disability Services File
Request or create accessible copies of tour handouts
Many colleges will hand students flyers and papers filled with information for applying. I typically would request digital copies whenever possible for tour handouts, or scan in information so I could read it on my iPad or Android phone. If I was on a college tour right now, I would use the Microsoft Office Lens app to scan in any documents I was handed so I could read them clearly, or use my phone as a magnifier.
- Common File Types For Vision Impairment and Print Disabilities
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
- How I Use My Phone For Orientation and Mobility
Pair it with a virtual reality tour
Recently, I had a student go on a virtual reality tour of my college in addition to touring the campus in person, and the virtual reality tour helped to fill in a lot of information about the campus layout and what buildings looked like. I’m linking a post I wrote on the topic below about how to find virtual reality college tours and how to find tours that are accessible with a screen reader.
- Touring Colleges With Virtual Reality
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Navigate Your Dorm
- Blindness Canes And Satellite Campuses: Navigating College Campuses
Navigating college campuses can be tricky, but I’m so grateful to have my blindness cane to help me every step of the way. My blindness cane provides me the independence I need as someone with low vision and allows me to go all of the places I want to go on campus, all while keeping me safe from obstacles and safety hazards along the way. Whether you are new to using a cane or have used one your entire life, I hope this post is helpful for learning how to navigate your college campus, no matter what gets in your way!