I wrote this post after completing my first year of college and first year using a blindness cane full-time. I have chosen to keep the text of this post intact and only updated the links so that I could share my unfiltered thoughts about the experience.
Before I left for college, my mom was talking with someone, expressing how worried she was about my transition to college, since getting my accommodations in high school was so frustrating. This person reassured my mom that college was completely different, and I would be fine- and they were definitely right. Here are ten things that surprised me about how different college with a disability is than high school.
No one really notices my cane
I started using my blindness cane shortly after freshman orientation. I had delayed getting a blindness cane for many reasons, one of which was the worry about social stigma. Surprisingly, no one seems to notice that I use my cane when walking around. None of my peers have ever treated me differently or in an unfair way just because I use a cane. Of course, they acknowledge it exists, but it’s not common for people to go “check it out, she has a blindness cane!”
- Blindness Canes and Imposter Syndrome: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and GPS Applications: Navigating College Campuses
It’s easy to drop classes
I attended exactly one class period of a mythology class, and then came to the conclusion my accommodations would not be followed. Instead of filling out a bunch of forms and going to the counselor like I did in high school, I just clicked a few buttons in my student account and chose a different class.
- How To Schedule College Classes
- How To Choose General Education Courses In College
- Taking Online English Classes With Low Vision
- Coursicle Class Scheduling App Review
Accessible materials are abundant
Digital materials are extremely common in college classrooms, as is assistive technology. This is great news for people attending college with a disability. It’s easy to make anything accessible, and there are also resources to help students learn how to create accessible materials.
- Ten Spooky Inaccessible Assignments and How To Fix Them
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
- Using Blackboard Ally With Low Vision
- ScanMarker Air for Print Disabilities
Testing is much easier
I had a few high school teachers say my large print was unfair to the other students or was an unfair advantage. I have never had a professor say that, or have anyone make me feel bad for attending college with a disability. I’ve also had the resources of the testing center reserved for students with disabilities.
- What To Bring To The Disability Services Testing Center
- Testing Accommodations For Low Vision Students
People are proactive, not reactive
This is absolutely critical for attending college with a disability. My Disability Services file was set up in order to ensure I receive accommodations from day 1. I didn’t have to wait until there was a problem to receive my services. Another bonus is that I didn’t have to constantly justify why I need accommodations or accessible materials.
Class attendance is flexible
Skipping class is not a good thing, and I do not recommend doing it often. Sometimes though, there is severe weather, illness, or other circumstances preventing a student from getting to class. In these cases, professors are happy to have students attend class remotely or send alternative assignments.
- Blindness Canes And Pouring Rain: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and Snowstorms: Navigating College Campuses
- How To Use Campus Alert Systems
Technology isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged
As I have mentioned in past posts, my high schools favored pencil-and-paper learning, which make accessing materials challenging. Since technology is used in every career, professors encourage students to bring technology to class and use it to complete assignments. Everyone is using laptops and tablets, not just those going to college with a disability.
There are many other students like me
I have found a sense of community at my college with various students who also have chronic illness. I’d never met anyone else my age with low vision until I got to college, and now I have lots of vision impaired friends. I’ve even met a few people with Chiari Malformation. Often times, we were the only ones in our schools that we knew of with chronic illness, so it’s amazing to meet other people who have had similar experiences.
- Questions To Ask Other Students With Low Vision
- How I Talk About Disability With New Friends
- Ways To Support New Accessibility Advocates
Professors are open to having students with disabilities
Almost all of my professors fully embraced having a student with a disability in the classroom. They were willing to work with me on accommodations and ensure I did well in their class. Often times, the professors that were most enthusiastic about working with me wore glasses, worked with someone who was blind/low vision, or had a background in working with disabilities. Not every professor is like this, but many of them are.
- How To Explain Disability Accommodations To Professors
- Why You Should Get A Disability Services File
It’s way better than high school
High school was extremely difficult for me not because of the content, but because my disability was frequently perceived as an inconvenience. In college, I am able to self-advocate and work closely with professors to make sure I succeed. I have loved being in college, and hope that others can have the same positive experience that I have.