Students whose sight is restricted even with the help of medical treatment, glasses or contact lenses, may find they need extra resources and alternative strategies to help them study effectively. You may already be registered as sight impaired (partially sighted), or severely sight impaired (blind) and have a card or letter to confirm this.
Things to consider
You could need very little adaptation in the way you study, or you may need to use very different methods because you have no vision at all – or be anywhere between the two. To help identify the best type of support for you, please think about these questions.
- Are you able to use the vision you have to read and write at a reasonable speed, even if you need to use equipment such as magnifiers, specialist glasses, task lighting or electronic devices such as a video magnifier to do it?
- Can you see enough on screen to use a computer, even if you need a large screen, or need to make adjustments so that text appears larger, or displays in different colours?
If your answer to these two questions is yes, then you may prefer your learning materials in enlarged print or as PDF documents with computer screen magnification software.
If your answer is no, then you may prefer your learning materials in non-visual formats. These include audio recordings and software for screen-reading and to convert printed text to speech.
Our booklet Studying with Little or No Sight (PDF, 666.52 KB) gives you more information on what to expect from OU study.
Getting the right resources for you
Make sure your student profile explains what you as an individual find difficult and the areas where you require support. Have a preliminary discussion with your tutor and request things that might help you.
To check the accessible formats available on a module go to the module website from StudentHome and look under the Resources heading for a link to Downloads. (You could also look up your module in the online prospectus).
You can also take a look at adjustments available by study elements to see what we can offer you.
Visual computer access
You can alter how images and text appear on a computer screen, such as the size and colour of displayed text and the colour contrast between screen elements, or use a simple magnification program. There are also specialist software programs that can magnify elements displayed on screen, such as ZoomText.
If you're using your vision to look at the computer screen, try changing the appearance of on-screen text to make it more comfortable to read.
Non-visual computer access
Many computers include a built-in text-to-speech program, which can read aloud text displayed on screen using an artificial voice. There are also more advanced software applications known as screen-reading programs, such as JAWS.
Reading by listening
Using an audio-based alternative to print does change your approach to study. Listening to spoken information requires different skills and concentration. In some audio formats it can be quite difficult to find a particular section to look at again, which can be frustrating. However, the DAISY talking eBook format overcomes many of these problems. Word versions of module material are available to use with screen-readers.
DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System. It's a recognised worldwide standard digital reading format that combines audio, text and graphical information in one production, making it accessible to a wide range of people with print disabilities. DAISY can be played on a standalone DAISY player or by using a DAISY software player on a computer. The OU provides a DAISY version of many of its modules.
You can find the DAISY talking books for your module in the Resources section of your module website.
Braille does provide a closer simulation of reading than you get from listening to audio. However, it usually takes months to learn. Braille books are bulky, and you would still need to use a computer for your studies.
If you need braille, the OU will discuss your request with you. If you decide to learn braille do try to speak to a braille user or a rehabilitation worker for visually impaired people before you begin. Ask at your local authority social services office or local society for visually impaired people.
Those students who use braille know how valuable it can be for taking notes and planning assignments. Some students like to be able to print their notes or assignment draft in braille, but to do this you would need a braille embosser (printer). In subjects that require close attention to punctuation and spacing, or which use specialist characters such as in computer programming, the use of a refreshable braille display would be an advantage.
Individual arrangements can be made for you where there’s clear evidence that you would otherwise be disadvantaged. If you are likely to need extra time or use assistive technology in your exam, you must apply to do so at least two months before the exam. Take a look at Exam arrangements for disabled students for more information.
If you select a module with a residential school, you should consider the level of independence you feel comfortable with in an unfamiliar environment. You may like to consider having an assistant, who, typically, would support you in tasks such as these.
- Taking notes
- Accessing written materials
- Describing pictures, locations, situations
- Accomplishing practical tasks
- Finding your way around the campus or on field trips and meals.
Discuss disability support at residential school with an adviser as early in your module as possible to give us enough time to make arrangements.
If you can't go to residential school in person, an online alternative learning experience (ALE) may be available so you can fulfil the module requirements.
Professionally trained and registered guide dogs and medical assistance dogs can attend face-to-face venues with you in line with each venue’s policy. You will need to provide evidence, such as a certificate or identification card, to demonstrate that your dog is fully trained to the required standard of behaviour.