At the end of year 11, I was very excited to start college and looked forward to a new start, where I could study subjects that I was interested in and knew I would enjoy. I chose Psychology, German and BTEC Business. I know these sound very academic and difficult, especially with CVIs however; I have stuck with all of them, right until the end - 14th of June 2019.
If you are studying in mainstream school or college, I don't think it matters if you have a visual impairment which is caused by problems with your eyes, or CVIs or both, you can still study the same subjects as everyone else. It might just take more time, preparation and hard work but you'll get there - because everyone does with the right support.
When I chose my college courses back in 2017, I wasn't thinking about how much I might struggle with these subjects due to my CVIs, I just chose them. This is because I knew I would enjoy them and they would be beneficial later in life. I don't focus on how my CVIs may affect my education because I don't think of it as a barrier. I just do things because I want to. I have been told, by someone at college that for many people with a disability, it can be the making of them because it gives them more determination and drive to do well or to just get things done.
Before, I started college I was given a Samsung tablet with special software on it which could help with my studies. This was called a Prodigy. It is designed as an app which has features such as a magnifier, folders to organise work, a camera and voice over speech. These features are designed to help students and adults with visual impairments to study or work like everyone else. I could take photos of my textbooks and get the tablet to read the information to me, or view in the font size I require. I could slow-down or speed up the speech which helped my ability to process the information. I started to do this at the start of the first year and it definitely helped, however it became time consuming to photograph every page of my text books as my courses became very fast paced. I was also given some training on how to use the technology because there were specific movements that needed to be done to perform some actions. This is because it works very differently to a normal tablet.
I decided to download PDF versions of my textbooks and enlarge the font by zooming in instead. I think this technology on the tablet allows the font to increase more than a normal tablet anyway, which is very beneficial because it could be enlarged to as big a size as I needed. This helped me keep up to date and sometimes ahead of my subjects, which I found to be very useful.
Additional support I received at college was teaching assistants in all my lessons plus 1-1 sessions every week. This was very similar to what I had at school and it was extremely helpful - even more than at school! The additional support area is a safe space to work and socialise. There were three sections; the supported study area, the 1-1 area and the well being zone. The whole room was a great place to go and spend time in and I especially liked the well being zone where I ate lunch and relaxed before and after lessons. I also went to the well being enrichment session every week from first year until mid second year and I really enjoyed learning about the different exercises, that I can then use for those situations where I might feel nervous or down in the future, for example, specific breathing exercises. The 1-1 sessions allowed me to talk about and work on college work as well as personal matters. I really appreciated the fact that I could talk about personal things with people who were not part of my family or close friends because I could understand how they viewed situations and also discuss their opinions, for which I felt immense gratitude.
Before Christmas of 2018, I sent off my UCAS application to study Psychology at university. It was a long process but I had prepared a lot over summer before second year and was able to finish quite quickly and then had the final stage of getting my references, which were very nicely written by my teachers. I applied to a range of universities including Brighton, Sussex and Bournemouth. I accepted an unconditional offer from Brighton which I am extremely pleased about. This university is very inclusive and I know that all my needs will be met.
For me, getting into university wasn't about grades but support I would be given throughout my degree. Even if I didn't get an unconditional offer, I would have taken a year out to re-sit exams until I got the right grades and was accepted. Brighton was the only place I wanted to go to and I was prepared to do anything to ensure I got a place. The type of offer was just a bonus.
Finally, if I didn't have access to the support I had at college, I don't think I would have necessarily achieved what I have academically, emotionally and socially. I developed so much over both years of college, especially the second year. I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't take up opportunities which staff guided me to take and I am extremely grateful to them for having taken the time to think about things and actively listen to me. This enabled me to respond positively to their advice. I think I would be a completely different person if I had been to a different college - there is something different about the atmosphere and how we were treated at my college, which made it all so special.
In my opinion, study what you want to, regardless of your disability. At the right college your additional needs will ensure that you meet the right people who will support you 100% in all situations and will make you stand out positively from the crowd in some way.
The CVI Society is entirely run by people giving up their spare time to share information and support others.
If you can provide funds for the things we cannot get for free then you can help us to help others.