Interested in studying at the University of Cambridge ? Check out Aure's and Jasmin's story below to find out about their individual journeys at Cambridge.Find out more about 'Studying at Cambridge as a Blind/Partially Sighted Student'
Studying at Oxford as a Blind/Partially Sighted Student
Tiri Hughes and Kelsey Trevett both study at Oxford University. We caught up with them to find out more about their experiences of studying at Oxford as blind/partially sighted students.
Oxford is not a one-campus university – there are a large number of buildings with the majority concentrated in the centre of the city. Students and staff are encouraged to walk or cycle between sites or use public transport with discounted bus travel available.
“Everything is integrated at Oxford – there are examples of college accommodation underneath or above shops as well as libraries within the town, which feels really lovely. I found navigating Oxford really easy because no two streets look the same, the buildings are so unique in shape, colour and architecture that it’s easy for me to use landmarks with my residual vision. I think there are plenty of tactile markers too, as Oxford is covered in cobblestones and uneven paving, which is great for navigation but not so good for tripping over!”, Tiri.
Getting in contact early and asking lots of questions is always recommended so that arrangements for support can be in place for when you arrive. Both students found this to be reassuring, with early relationships with support staff proving helpful. However, it is difficult to know what the right support will be until you have experience, so it is important to keep communicating, to help support arrangements react and evolve.
“I attended induction meetings on-site, to look around the medical school and college where I would be staying and meet the disability contacts. We discussed my needs on-site for example extra light, reserved seats in lectures, how I would like work sent to me or tasks adapted…sometimes it is hard to work out what you are going to need until you have seen the environment”, Tiri.
Students are housed in colleges, within a mixed-subject cohort. When applying, you can select a specific college to apply to, so it is worth doing research on the college most suited to you. Selection criteria recommended by our students includes location and proximity not only to where you will be studying but also where you will shop and socialise; age and layout of the buildings, including number of ground level rooms and type of staircases; room size; and accessibility of the site.
Kelsey recommends selecting a few to consider and then visiting them on open days to help select the one you feel most happy in:
“There is a lot to be said for going to the colleges before you select which to apply for, as you can really get a sense of the place, the staff and the students that you meet there – you get a feeling for it that you can’t get just from reading about it in the prospectus.”
As many of Oxford’s university buildings are very old and often protected, adaptions and accessibility of the sites can be inconsistent.
“Though colleges should make changes, there are some changes that just can’t happen that quickly, like putting a lift in a grade 1 listed building, so [accessibility] is something that is worth checking”, Tiri.
Degree courses at Oxford are known to be quite unique in structure and content, which has significant appeal for many students. Each course has different requirements and so different challenges for accessibility.
“The course [Politics, Ethics & Philosophy] is not something I have studied before, it’s actually a combination of three extracurricular interests of mine”, Kelsey.
“Medical degrees in particular are not built for vision impaired people and there are lots of other hurdles. Proving I can do everything independently, albeit with equipment, is really important in proving that I am capable of being a doctor in the future”, Tiri.
Each college and faculty have disability support, in addition to the central university’s Disability Advisory Service. There are committees and campaigns with student representatives, to voice the opinions of various subgroups including students with disabilities and to stimulate improvements.
“Oxford seem really active in regards to disability – the community there are very welcoming and engaged”, Kelsey.
Societies and campaigns are a great way for students to make friends outside of study groups and feel part of the university community. Oxford certainly have many to offer, with a broad range of activities.
“In addition to campaigning for changes that will benefit disabled students, the Disabilities Campaign has a social side, with braille board game nights and non-alcoholic, lights-on socials in accessible locations that remove a lot of the accessibility barriers”, Tiri.
The University of Oxford is highly regarded across the world. Its long history and famous alumni establishes its status and deep-rooted tradition. But there are many reasons why students choose to study here.
“There is prestige, and the courses give you a chance to explore the field and provide really great backing for future study or specialism. Also, I really love reading one of the core textbooks that everyone across the country uses, and finding out it was written by my lecturer, or that they have shared a lab with someone who has won a Nobel prize. There are buildings named after world-renowned researchers because that is where they worked or studied. From an academic perspective it is just completely awe-inspiring”, Tiri.
Final words of advice
“Start the UCAS application and your personal statement as early as possible! There is loads of information and advice online, people talking about what to include and what worked for them, but a lot of it becomes contradictory. In the end, you should write it how you want to write it, it is yours”, Kelsey.
“The Disability Advisory Service are brilliant, so remember they are there, and that they are ready to help you before you start. They are great for solving problems or helping to prevent them from happening”, Tiri.
VICTA’s Science Fair speaks to Tiri Hughes
As part of VICTA’s online Science Fair, promoting inclusivity in the sciences, VICTA chatted to Tiri. Tiri speaks about how important it is, as a student with a vision impairment, to be your own self-advocate, describing her own educational path into medicine and how accessible she is finding her university studies.
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