Advice for Advisors
My advisor at the University of Florida found that despite his best-laid plans, my transition into the graduate program did not go as smoothly as he had hoped. Obtaining readers, getting my hardware and software needs addressed, and identifying my point support person all proved to take a bit longer than my advisor expected. His advice for other advisors taking on visually-impaired graduate students is to have them arrive in advance, ideally at the start of the summer before the fall semester to provide plenty of time to get everything set up.
Some advisors were reluctant to take me on because of my blindness, worrying it would set me behind other students. My advisor at the University of Florida said the following to dissuade this fear: “As a graduate student, Mona was largely no different than any of the graduate students I have had. She made mistakes, which we corrected; she has had numerous successes and she will have more; she has had trials and tribulations…but we have overcome these.” Don’t be afraid to take on visually-impaired students. Like any other student, they have great potential to learn, develop, and contribute to the scientific world.
Even as it is important to be supportive and accommodating for a disabled student, it is perhaps even more important to hold them to as high of standards as you would hold anyone else. Don’t expect anything less of them or their academic work.
From my experience, I can attest that it is very disappointing and frustrating to realize you are being held to lower standards than your peers. Advisors, you will find that disabled students are often willing to put in an extreme amount of effort to compensate for their disabilities. Hold them to equal standards, and they will find a way to meet them.