Advice for Disabilities Services

Let Them Do the Hiring

Your blind or visually-impaired student probably knows best what they need from a reader. You will save yourself a hassle and prevent frustration by allowing your student/researcher to conduct the interview and hiring process themselves. Furthermore, I believe it is very important to give the student the right to fire readers who are not effectively performing their responsibilities. I and other blind students have had the experience of being assigned readers who are simply not suited for the job, or who do not take their work seriously. I have heard stories about students going to the disabilities office to complain and being effectively told, “This is what we’ve given you, take it or leave it.”

The purpose of readers is to give sight-impaired students the same access to academic materials as sighted students. If the reader is not able to accomplish this (by lack of effort/investment, unreliability of schedule, lack of English fluency, etc.), a disabled student should be able to talk to the disabilities office, without the fear of appearing demanding or ungrateful, about hiring a replacement.

Let Them Tell You Exactly What They Need

Disabilities offices have, despite good intentions, often purchased incorrect tools or arranged my work space poorly because they didn’t permit me to play a role in the decision process. I’ve found it more convenient for everyone when the disabilities office has me tell them what I need instead of consulting with a third party.

Hold Semesterly Support Coordination Meetings

During my first two years as a graduate student, the readers, instructors, and staff working with me would all meet together once a semester. We held these meetings at the end of the semester so that the instructors for the following semester could talk to instructors of the current semester. This allowed advice to be shared and progress to be built upon in a clean and orderly manner.

Meetings like these help educate an entire faculty on how to best educate visually-impaired students, rather than each professor and student having to figure it out case-by-case. I would highly recommend holding meetings like these to improve and standardize support.