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New guidance launched for HE providers to support students with vision impairment

Thomas Pocklington Trust (@TPTgeneral), @GuideDogs 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.

These 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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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