The transition experience of young people with visual impairments into higher education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


1. Scope
The longitudinal study of transitions experiences of visually impaired young people is a UK-based five year project which has been following the post-14 transition experience of 80 visually impaired young people since summer 2010, tracking them as they have left compulsory education (aged 16), and pursued various pathways, such as university and employment.
This research has incorporated case study work with six of the participants who have continued on to university. As well as engaging in a more focused investigation of participants accounts of their first year at university, sixteen ‘associates’ were recruited (key people who had had an impact on the participants experience as they had made their transition into university) and semi-structured interviews conducted. Participants were also shadowed by a researcher through a typical day at university, and observations recorded.
One of the key findings has been the importance of early preparation, with a number of the participants and associates describing how vital it was to start negotiations between the student, disability support officer, and course leader several months prior to the course starting. This is to establish how the young person would access the course, and what adjustments it would be necessary for lecturers to make. Disability support officers emphasised that these negotiations proved more fruitful if the young people had good self-advocacy skills, were able to clearly explain how their visual impairment affected them and how they would prefer to work. It was also identified that it is important for the young people to be well organised, particularly in terms of taking responsibility for the coordination of their own support (e.g. requesting copies of accessible text from the library). Good mobility skills, independent living skills, as well as the confidence to ask for assistance when needed, have all been recognised as key factors in adjusting to general university life.

2. Objective and Motivation
The overall objective of the study is to identify enablers and barriers which can impact on the success of transition into employment, for a young person with a visual impairment. The employment is very low in Britain compared to the general working age population –an estimated one third of people registered as blind or partially sighted are employed. Positively there is evidence that education contributes to greater employability, with the difference in employment rate between higher and lowers qualified workers being greater than that observed in the general population. For over half of the participants within our sample, their recent transition pathways have included moving on to university. As research evidence has demonstrated a benefit of achieving a degree-level education for visually impaired young people entering the labour market, a thorough investigation of their early experiences is a key component of our work. There has been some anecdotal evidence that young people with visual impairments often experience difficulties at university, both in terms of accessing the course, and in participating in university life, which may cause them to leave their course prematurely, or not achieving to their full potential.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld congress on special needs education
EditorsCharles A Shoniregun, Galyna A Akmayeva, Richard Cooper
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2014
EventWorld Congress on Special Needs Education - Temple University, Philadelphia, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Aug 201414 Aug 2014


ConferenceWorld Congress on Special Needs Education
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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