I am a Visually Impaired University Student

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to The Invisible Vision Project’s Blog.

It is that time of the year again; September, it’s the back-to-school-season. So, I thought of sharing with you today about my experience and journey of what my life was and is like as a university student.

I am, as some of you may already know (or not) a third year undergraduate Gender Studies student at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. However, this is going to be my 7th year here at Queen’s, and the reason for that is because I have once graduated from Queen’s with a degree in History, and I returned to school to pursue more education. And, I am also a student who just happens to be Visually Impaired.

So, let us go back to September of 2010, it was my freshmen year at Queen’s. It also was the first time I moved away from home, away from family and friends, coming into a new city which I used to call it “The Lonely K-Town,” but now I can finally call it Home.

The first two years were the toughest, because I didn’t fully understand what life is and should be like as a university student; and more importantly, I’ve failed to use any resources and support that I or any other university student could and should make use of while we are part of the university community.

So, at the start of the first two years I didn’t receive any accommodation, not because I didn’t need it, but because I didn’t know that they were available, or even where to get them. As a result, I suffered greatly, both academically and socially, but mainly academically, because I couldn’t meet the satisfactory grade, or that I would be barely managed to make it. I was also kind of socially isolated half of the time since I couldn’t see well enough to attend any of the late-evening activities happening on campus. Another part of me, I didn’t feel comfortable reveal to people that I have serious problems with my eye sight; I was too afraid to be different. Now, it makes me wonder what does it mean to be the same?

Then, I started to make some changes to this miserable life that I had been having at the mid-point in my third year. I went to seek for support, for the very first time. I first reached out to counselling because I started to experience extreme anxiety, depression and other associated negative thoughts and behavior from stress and also from other personal issues. Then, I went to speak to a Disability Advisor, specifically about my Vision, this was when I first started receiving academic accommodations.

So, I kept these two lines of support for the next 2 to 3 years while I study at Queen’s and it did help a lot, especially for the academic part, I was finally getting better grades! But, I continued suffering from mental health issues, to the point even when my physical health was also affected. Then, this led to the end of spring of 2015, which was another phase of struggle. During that time, my mental health state was extremely unstable, but I was glad that it was towards the end of that school year, so my academic progress was not affected.

In the Summer of 2015, I learned two things: one is that I do suffer from mental illness(A blog on Mental Health will be revealed at a later date), and second, my vision has deteriorated. Then, immediately at the start of the 2015 academic year, I went and made some adjustments to my academic accommodations, adding more accommodation that could meet my needs. I also started learning about assistive technologies that are used for people with Vision Loss. Most importantly, I came to accept and understand my vision loss and also my mental illness. The acceptance process was not easy; after all, it’s way easier to escape, and not-accept a reality than it is to accept it.

Finally, it has been a year since that acceptance and the transition that I made to this new life that I am living. I must say that I am happier than ever, and I think that I have made the most accurate decision to make accept and understand who I really am, what I can really do. Also, I am extremely grateful for those who’ve stood by me, supported me along the way, so thank you. Being a university student is not easy, especially for those of us living with a disability, but it is never impossible. Anything is possible. Whenever there is a problem, there will always be a solution! Keep in mind: don’t be afraid to ask and seek support when you feel that you need it; failing to ask for help could cause you great trouble whereas asking for help doesn’t cause any harm at all.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and thank you for reading to the end.

By: The Invisible Vision Project

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