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Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Jose A. Z. Martinez
College Graduate, Texas State University at San Marcos

Abstract: A college graduate shares his tips on being a successful college student.

Keywords:  Family Wisdom, blind, college, self-determination


When you make the decision to attend college as a blind student, you may feel as if it is going to be over whelming. And not just because of the class work, but you may find yourself asking, “how am I going to do this?” This question is not uncommon for a decision of this magnitude. I attended Texas State University at San Marcos and graduated with a public relations major. Prior to going off to college, I had very few opportunities to prepare myself for what was coming. But I attended college prep classes and also talked to current blind college students. I took what I learned and applied it, learning other important information along the way.

In today’s world it is very difficult to function without knowledge of technology, and college is no different. So it is very important to focus on learning the screen reader and notetaker of your choice. It is always smart to have a reliable way of taking notes just in case your technology fails, such as Braille. So being efficient with the slate and stylus may be an option. Professors expect the work to be done on time, so being prepared is important.

Once you choose your preferred school, one of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with the campus, either by going to the campus before classes start and learning the layout on your own, or getting some O&M lessons facilitated through your DARS counselor. If you can do both, that would be very beneficial. This way you can learn the different buildings where your classes are going to be as well as important landmarks like the library and student center. There is nothing like knowing exactly where you are headed on the first day of school to help with the anxiety of a new campus environment. If you are at a University it may be difficult to learn the whole campus with a couple of O&M lessons, but you should learn enough information about the layout to help you build on what you know for future semesters.

Once you have a firm grasp on the layout of the campus and where your classes are going to be that semester, you should then approach your professors to talk about the course work and also to address any concerns that they may have about a blind student being in their class. Although technically the professor can not stop you from taking the class, it is a good idea to talk to them and see if there needs to be any adaptations in order for you to get the most out of the class. Also, remember the professors have control of your course grades, so it’s best to be on the same page with them at all times to avoid any misunderstandings.

Another important situation to be prepared for is searching for a reader to assist you in completing class assignments that you are not able to access. You can advertise for the reader position in the university’s newspaper, or you can work with the professor and advertise for the reader in that particular class. If you choose the second option, you may have better luck, because the individual would have the same reading assignments as you. There are other forms of advertising for the reader position that you can utilize aside from the ones mentioned above, such as bulletin boards, facebook, disability offices, and even word of mouth, just to name a few. As far as choosing the best candidate, that is a personal choice, but make sure you pick someone who will be professional, reliable, and will be of help. If you generate a lot of interest, be prepared to go through an interview process to weed out individuals that may not be what you are looking for. Having a reader may not always be necessary, but if you are planning to get one for a class, make sure to talk to your DARS counselor about the process and regulations that need to be followed for using reader services.

After your academic situation is in place, you should look for groups or student organizations to join. There are many different organizations, and always something for all tastes. You can find a list of current student organizations on the university’s home Web page. This would be a great opportunity to meet and get to know students with the same interests as your own. The social atmosphere of college life is a once in a lifetime experience and you should enjoy it.

Attending college is not for everyone, but if you feel college would benefit you in accomplishing your long-term goals, there is no reason why you should let blindness stop you from getting there!