Last year, I wrote a policy idea that won the "10 Ideas" yearly policywriting contest that is hosted by the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run think tank. My policy idea, entitled "Seeing The Future," talked about a proposed state resource that would contain information for students with vision impairments preparing to transition to college. At the time, many states did not include resources for students with low vision in their transition education resources, and I wanted to help fill in a much-needed gap. Today, I will be sharing the proposed guidelines for US states to develop their own "Seeing The Future" websites and resources. I will be linking to posts I have written on my website throughout this page.
The original idea for "Seeing The Future" was born when I was researching information about attending different public universities in Virginia. I did not have access to a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) during my senior year of high school, so anything I learned about vision impairment in college came from doing my own online research. I also couldn't find a lot of resources for accommodations in the classroom and couldn't figure out what to expect as a future college student with low vision.
After I graduated from high school, a representative from the Virginia Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI) called my house and asked if I was interested in being enrolled in the vocational rehabilitation program that could help support me in college. I had no idea what that meant, and neither did my mom- no one had told us that this program existed. After my case was accepted for the vocational rehabilitation program, I discovered that there were lots of free state resources for people with vision impairments that I hadn't known to ask for. It was a whole new world!
Purpose of "Seeing The Future"
The purpose of the "Seeing The Future" initiative is to help students identified with low vision, blindness, or other vision impairment to learn about resources that are available to them as they work to pursue higher education. Ideally, "Seeing The Future" will be developed with guidance from the state's Department of Education and Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired, or equivalent department(s) and hosted as a state website or as part of an existing website. Information will be broken up into four different sections as follows.
Section 1- Seeing The Potential
The first section of the website will be dedicated to resources that can help students prepare to attend a two-year or four-year college. While every student's academic needs are different, the following topics will be covered in this section:
- SAT and ACT testing accommodations for people with vision impairments
- Examples of questions to ask when choosing a college
- How to access the Common Application
- A printable document where students can write out what accommodations they receive in the classroom
- Information about the state department for vision impairment
- If applicable, information on state pre-college programs for vision impairment
- Scholarship information, if available
- SAT Accommodations for Low Vision
- ACT Accommodations For Low Vision
- Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing a College
- Seven Benefits of Having a Case With State Departments for Vision Impairment
Section 2- Seeing The Beginning
The second section of the website will feature resources that are designed for a student who has already accepted what college they are going to and what they will need to do to prepare to go to college. This covers resources they will use up until the first day of college. Topics in this section include:
- How to set up a Disability Services file
- Guidance for getting accommodations for placement tests
- How to request O&M instruction on campus
- Information about state vocational rehabilitation services
- Information about the state Protection and Advocacy organization
- How to request accessible copies of textbooks through individual colleges
- How To Create A Disability Services File
- Vocational Rehabilitation for Students With Vision Impairments
- All About The Disability Law Center of Virginia
Section 3- Seeing The Experience
Once a student is in college, they will continue to need support for transition, especially during their first year. Topics in this section include:
- Information on career services and employment resources for students with vision impairments
- Tips for communicating with faculty and staff about vision impairment
- Links to information about state department for vision impairment events
- Tips for internship placement
Section 4- Seeing The Results
Hooray for graduation! Once a student has completed their program, here are some topics that can help them transition to the workplace:
- Information about vocational rehabilitation
- How to request accommodations in the workplace
- List of common workplace accommodations and adaptations for vision impairment
- State jobs database
- Links to state disability employment website
Seeing The Future of "Seeing The Future"
In the future, I would love to see some form of "Seeing The Future" for every state in the United States. One of the ways I would love to make that a reality would be to attach "Seeing The Future" to the Cogswell-Macy Act, a proposed piece of legislation that would help with educational improvements for people with vision and hearing impairments. With an unemployment rate of over 50% in the vision impaired community, I believe that having access to educational opportunities that are inclusive of people with vision impairment will help to decrease the unemployment rate, since people with some form of higher education are more likely to get a job.
I don't expect "Seeing The Future" to look the same or be organized in the same way in different states. However, my goal is that the most important information about preparing for transition with vision impairment is shared with the people who need it most, and that people with vision loss are able to pursue higher education and gain employment.
If you wish to contact me for more information, please use my contact form here.