I have had to do a lot of writing prompts during my first semester that ask the same question: "what are the similarities and differences between high school and college?". Obviously there are many things that have change; being in a whole new state is just the start for me. However, I have found that there are some things that have not changed since I made the transition from student at a public high school to student at a four year university.
Some of the similarities have been very beneficial or comforting. For example, the types of people I am friends with. I have always been the type of person to have a small group of close friends rather than a large group of people who I barely know. There is also the clubs that I am involved in. Since middle school I was involved in some form of creative writing, and in college I am involved in the Odyssey community which is similar to a creative writing club. Also, even though I am not in an official choir, I am still able to sing for the church.
On the other hand, some of the similarities aren't so positive. As a blind student, I have always had to face challenges when it came to acquiring materials in the public school system. Though I had some of the best Braille Technicians and instructors, I was not so lucky when it came to teachers. That is not to say that most of the teachers were not good at their jobs or didn't care about their students; they simply were not trained to accommodate students with impairments, visual or otherwise. Because of this, I not only had to worry about getting my assignments turned in, but also getting the assignments in an accessible format to begin with. Bold of me to assume that this would change when I entered college.
Thus far, I have not had too many problems with inaccessible materials. I suspect that this is more due to the fact that most of the classes I am currently taken and have taken in the past, were primarily text based. This means that even though there is a lot of reading, it is not as visually challenging for me to complete them. For most of the courses I do not ask for modified assignments or extended time on them even though I am entitled to those things should I chose to use them. Normally I will use the magnification function on my laptop to enlarge the documents so that I am able to read them. Other blind/visually impaired students may also use screen readers such as JAWS or other similar software to have the documents read to them. This can be difficult as some of the documents that teachers may send are not formatted in a way that makes it easy for these students make them compatible with the screen readers. That, among other reasons is why I have always chosen to do things more visually.
with my choice to take a more visual approach to both high school and college, I believe that I may have made it harder on both myself and the teachers. It is confusing to have a student who seems to do things almost normally and doesn't ask for accommodations most of the time, then Emails about extended time on a test or asks if the professor might change some of the questions as they are too visual or consist of diagrams that I am unable to see. That is why I am not surprised that it is challenging when I do ask for some of those things. Especially when the classes are mostly virtual so there is less interaction between teacher and student which means that the teacher doesn't have the chance to experience a class with a visually impaired student. This means that when I do use accommodations, my professors are more surprised and skeptical until I explain myself.
To students who might be experiencing problems like this, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is okay to be persistent. I know it seems like you are constantly repeating yourself, but that is okay. These teachers don't just have one student, they have many so they aren't always thinking of what will be accessible and what won't be. Second, use your resources. Every school is required to have a Disabilities Office where they will help you get letters of accommodation as well as many other things that you might need. They can also help with professors that aren't cooperating with you on what is stated in your aforementioned letter. Remember that there are people who can and will help you if needed.
T any professors who read this, look out for your students. When it is obvious that a student is struggling because of accessibility issues, reach out and speak with them. Most of them will want to do well in your class and having open communication will make the course go smoothly for both of you.
College isn't easy in any capacity, impaired or not. It seems very daunting sometimes and like no one cares about your education except you, but that isn't true. There are people that want you to succeed and programs that can help if you feel as though you aren't being treated fairly. Don't give up because it seems hard, that is the time to keep pushing harder.