What a Difference the Right Support Can Make!

“Always take the opportunity to accept support.”

Aliza Rehman is 18 and studying a foundation degree at Brunel University London. She shares her journey through college and gives her advice to other blind and partially sighted students.  This includes the importance of getting the right support in place.

 

Choosing a college

Aliza studied a BTEC in Health and Social Care at a sixth-form college attached to the secondary school she attended.

She said: “I choose to stay at the same school as I knew the teachers and my way around. I thought that it would be really difficult to transition on to another college.”

 

Choosing a BTEC

She chose a BTEC because there was more course work opposed to exams, which plays to her strengths.

She explains: “I liked that I could hand the work in and then get instant feedback that I could learn from for future assignments.

“I am not good at sitting in a room and working under pressure. Exams make me feel like my thoughts and ideas are swimming in a pool of adrenaline inside my brain.

“Also being somebody who uses health and care services, I could draw on my own experiences. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do a work placement, because of the pandemic. I would have liked to.”

As well as her BTEC Aliza also achieved a silver award in art. She had originally started an A-Level but realised that it wasn’t the right route for her. She was the first person with a visual impairment to go down a different route.

 

The importance of support

For Aliza, her experience of studying at both secondary school and college was a positive one.

Aliza puts this down to supportive teachers, input from a Qualified Teacher for Children and Young People with a Vision Impairment(QTVI) and the fact she had an Education and Health Care (EHCP) in place.

“I was in touch with my QTVI regularly and she would come in every one or two weeks. She would do her best to support me and support the teachers.

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like not to have an EHCP! The kind of things that were included were mobility training, visits from a QTVI, using assistive technology, for all materials to be provided in braille and for there to be support from two teaching assistants.  The Teaching Assistants were taught to use the embossing machine.”

There were some hiccups along the way. Sometimes there were delays in materials being provided in time, but overall, the support was good. This helped Aliza to engage in her education.

Sometimes you just need to give something a try.

As well as the academic support, Aliza explained the mobility support and training she received has really helped her with her confidence and learning.

“I have had mobility training since year two, such as learning to trail the wall with the back of my hand and body protection.

I was slowly introduced to the white cane. I did have some peripheral sight, but in year 12 I lost a lot of this. I needed to use the white cane more.  was really reluctant at first but a lot of the support I received was around accepting that I needed to use one. I knew the skills were necessary – I just needed some support to get there.

 

Building confidence in using technology

Aliza is a competent braille reader. During primary school she used a Perkins braille machine. As she transitioned to secondary school she used a braille note.  However, it broke in year 10 and she lost all her notes. She was given a note touch the next year but didn’t have the confidence to use it properly. She was forced to use it for her GCSE mock exams, which didn’t help. However, she revisited the note touch in sixth form, with support from her QTVI, and now is proficient in this.

Aliza is now learning how to use Voiceover on an Apple Macbook.  She explained: “I had already bought an apple Mac desktop from a charity called Family Fund.  I knew I needed training. I contacted a YouTuber I follow. They put me in touch with this amazing person, who doesn’t charge me that much and is brilliant.

“It’s taken me a while to get the confidence to use technology. People kept telling me about iPhone and voice over, but I didn’t think I needed it, but now I use it a lot!”

 

Advice for others

Aliza has this advice for other students:

“For most people ‘nothing is impossible’, there is always a way around things.

“Always take the opportunity to accept support. I wish I had used organisations more. I now volunteer as a mentor with Look UK. And I use my experiences to help others – to build up their confidence and bring positivity in their life somehow.”

It’s amazing what you can do with the right support!

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