By: Alicia Chenier, Will Honcharuk, Eitel Houedaker, Curtis Ruttle and Emilee Schevers
CNIB National Youth Council Members
Heading back to school can be an incredibly stressful time for students living with sight loss and their families. It’s time to meet new teachers, explain your vision loss and the necessary accommodations you require, arrange for technology/assistance, and get settled into a new environment.
The traditional school system is not one that was built for people with disabilities, specifically those living with sight loss. We have constantly had to change and adapt to fit in with everyone else. From accommodation letters to private testing spaces to segregated learning, we’ve had it all.
We thought it would be beneficial to share some helpful tips that we’ve learned from our lived experiences navigating the educational system as youth living with sight loss.
What students who are blind or partially sighted need to know
Learn how to effectively advocate for yourself.
In high school, you should try to focus on developing your advocacy skills. These skills are typically acquired through regular day-to-day interactions and progress as we mature. If you don’t know where to start, CNIB has resources available (visit cnib.ca/advocate) and knowledgeable staff that can help guide you on your advocacy journey.
Finding your voice and fostering your ability to self-advocate can help make the transition to post-secondary a bit easier to navigate.
Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you need in order to succeed.
What students and teachers need to know
Accommodations are there for a reason. By accommodating a student, you are not giving them “an edge” or “special treatment”; you are providing the student with an equitable education and giving them what they need to succeed at an equal level.
Teachers can help students with sight loss succeed by listening and being open to change. Understand that blindness is a spectrum and is not always stagnant. It can change, and so might someone’s accommodations.
Try experimenting with the student to find what works the best for them.
Students with sight loss should not be treated differently or segregated from their sighted peers.
We hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions about our blog or about sight loss when it comes to school, reach out. Send an email to email@example.com.