Three national sight loss charities are urging everyone who works within Higher Education (HE) to access their guidance on supporting students with vision impairment during COVID-19.
Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT), Guide Dogs and LOOK UK have worked with Disability Advisers, Qualified Teachers for Visual Impairment (QTVI), lecturers and other professionals to produce this Covid-19 specific guidance for Higher Education Providers.
Tara Chattaway, Student Support Manager at TPT, said: “Students with vision impairment already had multiple challenges and barriers as they move onto Further and Higher Education – Covid has made this even worse.”
“These additional barriers include safely navigating campus and local amenities, accessing shared facilities and accessing online learning. By encouraging all Higher Education Providers to adopt these guidelines, we hope to achieve consistent good practice across the country in the way that students with vision impairment are supported”.
The guidance is designed for those working within HE either supporting students with vision impairment (VI) directly or designing systems and policies that impact on students. This includes disability advisers, examination teams, student support services, lecturers and library support. Each section in the guide includes an overview, checklist, examples of good practice and links to information, advice and support.
Clare Messenger, Head of Children and Young People’s Services at Guide Dogs, said: “The lack of consistency across universities on the level of support students with vision impairment will get for orientation on campus, for example, makes it even harder for these students.”
LOOK UK Director Charlotte Carson is severely sight impaired and has set up the UK’s first and only VI student mentoring scheme. She knows first-hand the challenges visually impaired students can face. She said: “COVID-19 has raised our anxiety levels. Social distancing is so difficult when you can’t see and we are concerned about the impact on VI students’ mental health. There is so much uncertainty around at the moment and it’s essential that VI students get the support and guidance they need to fulfil their potential and have a great university experience.”
Tara added: “If you have put in measures into your college or university to support students that you think other HEPs may benefit from. Please get in touch and we will share these. It is important to build upon these examples of best practice.”
Higher Education Providers and education professionals can download the guide through the TPT website: pocklington-trust.org.uk/guide-for-higher-education-providers-to-support-vi-students
TPT’s Student Support Service provides resources and guidance both for students and professionals in Further and Higher education.
HEPs or students who have specific concerns or questions around starting Further or Higher education can contact the team via the Student Support Line 0203 757 8040 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Students can also join the Student Service Facebook group to gain or share advice, ask questions and connect with those going through similar situations in a positive, supportive environment.
For more information visit: www.pocklington-trust.org.uk/student-support
For further information or images please contact: Penny Wilkinson, Thomas Pocklington Trust, email@example.com / 07974 578 637.
About Thomas Pocklington Trust
Thomas Pocklington Trust is a national charity dedicated to enabling and empowering blind and partially sighted people of all ages to live the life they want to lead. We are committed to increasing awareness and understanding of their needs and aspirations, to working with partners and to developing and implementing services which meet these needs to increase independence and improve lives.
About Guide Dogs
Guide Dogs is here to help the two million people living with sight loss live the life they choose. Children and adults. Friends and family. Our expert staff, volunteers and life-changing dogs are here to help people affected by sight loss live actively, independently and well. Founded in 1934, following our first guide dog partnership in 1931, we are a charity that is almost entirely dependent on donations. Find out more at guidedogs.org.uk
About LOOK UK
LOOK UK offers a student mentoring scheme where VI students are linked with a VI graduate. They are a VI user-led charity that creates opportunities for families to connect, provides vital information and services, and removes barriers so visually impaired children and young people can fulfil their potential. For more information about the student mentoring scheme, visit: www.look-uk.org/the-students-handbook