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My Post-Secondary Experiences

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article appears without any byline at the author's request.

The transition from high school to CEGEP was an interesting and eye-opening experience. I am legally-blind with some usable vision. I have an eye condition called ocularcutanious albinism. This is caused by a lack of pigment in the skin, hair, and retina. I attended a 'regular' elementary and high school. I was always followed by itinerant teachers to assure that my materials were in formats usable for me. I had a contact person in the school to address any problems that arose with any of my teachers regarding adaptations. When I graduated from high school, I was informed that all this would be different in post-secondary educational facilities. I new about this and was prepared for the new stresses that would be up to me to resolve. Unfortunately no one warned me about how difficult it would be. I received a major shock.

Most of my teachers had never had a vision-impaired or blind student in their class. I accepted this and proceeded to assist them in understanding the adaptations that I would require and the specific limitations that would prevent me from doing something. Most of my teachers were accepting but were constantly forgetting what they had to do for me. Sometimes they would give me the wrong things or even completely forget that I was in their class. I would put up my hand and tell them that I could not read the paper, and they would ask why. This got on my nerves. I had spoken to them many times about my vision, one on one. Was this that hard to remember or understand?

I had one teacher who completely refused to assist me. I requested him to read the board out loud and he refused. I was insulted. Every request that I presented to him, he refused to do. He did not want to help me. I was told later that he felt that I should not have been in that course because I was blind.

I have had much better experiences this year so far. My teachers have been very accepting, and although they are not always sure of what to do or how to assist me, they will ask or learn how. I tell them what I need them to do. Sometimes they will even come up with their own ideas. I have never been refused an extension or assistance. I feel like I belong there.

Even my classmates except me. They even guide me around and help me to read things in class. I wish that it was always that easy. You just have to explain to them what you need and if they will not help you, find someone who will.

One of the largest differences that I noticed, which no one had mentioned to me earlier, is the fact that your fellow students are very understanding. They are there to learn also. If you need help they are very willing to give you some of their time. They are also older and more able to understand your disability and help you with it. You are an interesting person that everyone wants to know.They think that it is amazing that you can succeed in the same work as them. You are not an outcast because you are different. Everyone is different.

As long as your teachers and classmates are willing to help and work with you, everything will be fine. You will enjoy the course, and others will learn how to deal with and assist individuals with a disability. This experience enables them to be more open-minded and interested in others. And this is what we are trying to achieve. I would like to wish good luck to all those who are on their way or are just entering post-secondary education. This experience will be what you make it. Enjoy and learn.