Giving voice to blind and visually impaired students transition experiences, addressing gaps in policy provision

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Giving voice to blind and visually impaired students transition experiences, addressing gaps in policy provision

ISBN 1-899951-39-3 978-1-899951-39-0


Forward Page 3

Acknowledgements Page 5
Executive Summary Page 6
Introduction – Research Rational Page 8
Introducing the Students Page 26
Key Findings Page 39
Research Recommendations Page 83
References Page 92


AHEAD is pleased to publish this research report which was conducted by the Inclusive Education and Society Research Group (School of Education, Trinity College) and the Higher Education Authority on the experiences of students with visual impairments or blindness who are moving from secondary education to higher education. In 2008, AHEAD published a report entitled Seeing AHEAD: A Study of Factors Affecting Blind and Vision Impaired Students going on to Higher Education. It posed the question: are blind and Vision impaired children in mainstream secondary education in Ireland getting the opportunity to engage with an education that meets their needs and enables them to achieve the same educational outcomes as any other student. The AHEAD report revealed that these students were four times less likely to transfer to higher education than their peers. It indicated that there were considerable challenges for the educational system that included a lack of information and data, an inaccessible curriculum, an under use of technology and a complicated system of application for supports.

The concept of under representation in education is complex and to address it the National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education has identified the need for greater consideration of the measurement of under representation1 in relation to specific and identifiable categories of potential students of Higher Education. One of the identifiable categories is students with a vision impairment.2
The main aim of this research therefore is to delve deeper into the actual experiences of students and to interrogate the complexity of the challenges faced by these students. Given the lack of research into the education experiences of blind and vision impaired young people, a qualitative approach was considered the best method to bring their voice to the discussion, to hear what they have to say, to “see the world from the point of view of the people studied” (Hammersley 1992:65).
Listening to the student voice to inform continuous improvements is a critical action in assuring the quality of provision of student supports and resources. The QQI Quality Assurance Guidelines for higher education and training state:
Providers should listen to students concerning their perceptions about the sufficiency and quality of learning resources and student supports” 3

This research gives voice to the student experience in making the transition from second level to higher education and provides us with a unique insight into the negative attitudes, structural barriers and learning problems they encounter on a daily basis in participating in what should be an ordinary education. It will also highlight strategies and approaches that have worked effectively for these students to enable them to realise their constitutional rights. The research will address four research questions:

  • What are the transition experiences of blind/vision impaired young people?

  • What are the experiences of professionals who are supporting these young people?

  • Are young people experiencing any access challenges that impede making an effective transition?

  • What suggestions/recommendations could be made to improve transition?

Ann Heelan

Executive Director


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