Advocating for Your Rights as a College Student

As your child prepares for college, it is crucial to encourage them to advocate for their own rights, especially if they are blind or have low vision. Indeed, mastering this skill is vital to ensuring they receive the necessary accommodations to succeed both academically and socially.

Choosing the Right College

Begin by exploring the disability services offered by potential colleges. Your child needs to discuss their needs openly with these offices to gauge how well the school can support their academic and social integration. This process includes explaining the specific tools and technology they use. Additionally, it involves understanding the types of accommodations available, such as housing adaptations and classroom support.

Five Considerations when Choosing a College:

Accessibility of Campus Facilities: Ensure that the campus layout supports mobility and access, with features like braille signage and barrier-free paths.

Supportive Technology: Check if the college offers technology support that aligns with what your child already uses and see if there are upgrades or additional resources available.

Experienced Staff: Look for colleges with experienced disability services staff familiar with various needs, especially blind or low vision.

Community and Peer Groups: Investigate whether there are active community groups or clubs for students.

Feedback from Current Students: Try to get feedback from current students about their experiences with the college’s accommodations and campus life.

Communicating with Professors

Once enrolled, your teenager should proactively reach out to their professors. This can start with an email introducing themselves, outlining their disability, and the technology they rely on, and requesting a meeting to discuss these needs in detail. These interactions allow professors to understand how best to support your child’s learning and ensure course materials are accessible.

Five Tips for Effective Communication with Professors:

Be Clear and Concise: Encourage your child to be clear about what accommodations they need and why.

Provide Solutions: Suggest specific adjustments or tools that will help in their learning process.

Schedule Regular Check-ins: Setting regular meetings can help maintain open lines of communication throughout the semester.

Educate on Challenges: Help professors understand the unique challenges faced by someone who is blind or has low vision.

Express Gratitude: Remind your child to thank professors for their efforts, which can foster a positive relationship.

Handling Difficult Situations

Despite preparations, a college student may encounter resistance. Some professors might be reluctant to provide the agreed accommodation or question your child’s abilities. In these instances, reminding them to persist in their advocacy is key. Encourage them to involve disability services when necessary, reinforcing that adherence to accommodations is not optional but a legal requirement.

Strategies for Handling Resistance:

Document Everything: Keep records of all communication and requests as proof of attempts to resolve issues.

Seek Allies: Encourage your child to find allies among faculty or other students who understand their needs.

Utilize Formal Processes: Make sure they know how to use formal grievance procedures if necessary.

Stay Professional: Maintain a calm and professional demeanor even in frustrating situations.

Escalate When Needed: Do not hesitate to escalate the issue to higher authorities in the university if compliance with legal requirements is not met.

Extending Advocacy Beyond the Classroom

Advocacy should not stop at accommodations. If your child finds that discussions on diversity in their courses overlook those with disabilities, they might consider addressing this gap. One approach could be forming a campus organization dedicated to disability awareness, which can foster inclusive conversations and policy changes.

Finding Support

Encourage your child to connect with both peers and faculty who can offer support and guidance. Participating in or even leading campus groups can enhance their advocacy skills and ensure disability becomes part of the broader conversation on diversity and inclusion.

A Final Note

Advocating for oneself as a college student with a visual impairment requires courage, persistence, and resilience. Equip your child with the right tools and support networks and remind them that their voice is powerful. As they embark on their journey, encourage them to always advocate for their rights and never hesitate to speak up for their educational needs.