Shortly before my second year of college, I received a few orientation and mobility lessons for learning how to navigate with low vision and a blindness cane. These lessons were helpful for learning general travel skills, but I noticed they didn’t get into specifics about navigating college campuses or using university resources available for students with vision loss. I wish I had gotten O&M lessons sooner, because a blindness cane would have been really helpful for touring colleges, and the specialist could have helped me figure out important places to visit. Here are my tips for touring colleges with a blindness cane, from a student who toured multiple colleges and would give tours to prospective students with vision loss (inclusive of low vision/blindness).
What to do before a college tour
I wasn’t using a blindness cane when I went on college tours during high school, as I didn’t start using a cane until shortly before my freshman year of college. There are a few ways that students with vision loss can prepare for a college tour or research information ahead of time, including:
- Setting up a college interview
- Contacting Disability Services with questions
- Talking to other students with vision loss
- Checking out information about campus events
- How To Find Colleges To Apply To
- College Interview Tips For Disabled Students
- Questions To Ask Other Students With Low Vision
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a College
- Online Activities That Help Prepare For College Transition
How to request college tours
Each college has a different way of requesting college tours, though almost all 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.
For requesting disability-specific tours, students should reach out to Disability Services to ask if a student from their office can give a tour. I received messages from Disability Services a few times asking if I could give a tour to prospective students with vision loss, even though I wasn’t part of the official campus tour guide program.
- Identifying Campus Buildings: College O&M
- My Talk At A Future Date: What I Wish I Learned About AT Before Starting College
- Finding College Classrooms: College O&M
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
- Navigating The Dining Hall: College O&M
- How To Choose A Dorm And Pick College Housing
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
- Campus Construction: College O&M
- Reporting Accessibility Issues: College O&M
- How I Learned To Use The City Bus System With Low Vision
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’ve linked a few more in-depth posts on this topic below.
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a College
- Ten More Questions to Ask When Choosing A College
- How To Create A Disability Services File
- Ten Questions To Ask When Choosing A Virtual Class
- College Scheduling Hacks For Students With Chronic Illness
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 any documents I was handed so I could read them clearly, or use my phone as a magnifier.
- File Formats For Low Vision and Print Disabilities
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
- Smartphone Apps For Orientation and Mobility
- Using GPS Apps On College Campuses: College O&M
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
- Satellite Campuses: College O&M
More tips on touring colleges with a blindness cane
- When I was researching colleges, I toured about five different colleges in high school and ended up applying to three of them
- I strongly recommend enjoying a meal in the dining hall on the day of a college tour, since it’s important to know about the food when living on campus.
- Are you planning on touring George Mason University with a blindness cane or vision loss? Send me an email and I can give you a list of buildings to check out, as well as other area recommendations.