Knowledge Before College (Part 2)
As a high-school student, Sarah Holloway was one of the founding members of Club VIBES. She has received her B.S. in microbiology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This is Part One of an article written by Sarah as a guest writer for “Freed to Fly”.
In Part 1 of this blog, I discussed the skills that a visually impaired student must possess before entering college. I discussed utilizing vocational rehabilitation and the college’s office of disability services to obtain needed accommodations. In this blog, I will explain in more detail about what services these two agencies provide as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
- Vocational Rehabilitation (voc rehab or VR): Vocational rehabilitation is a government agency whose sole purpose is to help people with disabilities obtain employment. They provide funding for services such as orientation and mobility, transportation, and independent-living skills training. For a prospective college student, they help purchase adaptive equipment such as screen readers or CCTV’s. They also help pay for tuition and books. There are a few weaknesses within this agency that need to be discussed. VR counselors have a high client load, so it may take a great deal of persistence on the part of the student to get the ball rolling with voc rehab. In addition, students must also contend with the ‘red tape’ that is an inherent aspect of government agencies. The summer before I was a freshman in college, I consulted VR about buying some equipment that I would need for school. I expected to have my equipment when school started, but did not get it until my first semester was already over. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying on top of them to ensure that you get the services you need.
- Office of Disability Services (ODS): The university’s Office of Disability Services is an important resource for a visually impaired college student. They will provide needed accommodations (such as extended test time or note takers) that will help the student be successful in the classroom. In addition, they also loan adaptive equipment (but it must be returned by the end of the semester). They can also act as advocates on the student’s behalf if an instructor is unwilling to provide accommodations. ODS cannot, however, purchase adaptive equipment or provide services such as orientation and mobility.
While both of these agencies have their strengths and weaknesses, it is important to take advantage of both in order to be successful in college.
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