Finding your way around at university and getting out and about is a key part of any student’s experience. But it’s not just about getting to lectures, it’s also about knowing your way around the local area; shops, social spaces, entertainment spots and leisure venues.
For many blind and partially sighted students, this side of university life can be challenging.
If the university and/or accommodation is in a new city or even a new part of town, there will be lots of new routes to learn – to and from campus, the local supermarket and venues or event spaces hosting social activities.
Although some mobility training is available for blind and partially sighted students when they start university, this is limited to accessing academic activities. So, for anything else, it can be really helpful for fellow students to lend a hand (or elbow) and offer to be a sighted guide.
A sighted guide is someone who supports a blind or partially sighted person to navigate safely. This can include letting them know when there are obstacles or dangers in their path; providing information on the layout of the room, staircase or outside area; or reading signage and other written information such as labels. Guiding someone is really easy, it just takes some extra care and attention, but can unlock opportunities for students with vision impairment.
The most important thing to remember when guiding someone is to do it in the way that they are comfortable with. Remember, not everyone who is blind or partially sighted needs to be guided, so it is always best to ask the person first.
Ali spoke to us about his experiences settling in at university. He emphasises how important it is for students with sensory impairment to receive the right support to learn how to navigate a new area, ensuring students don’t miss out on social activities. Read Ali’s interesting story!
For friends and family of people living with sight loss, Guide Dogs offers a free, virtual sighted guiding training session. The two-hour Friends and Family training session allows participants to share experiences with others and learn the techniques of sighted guiding with expert support from Guide Dogs’ team. Participants can build their confidence in guiding, learn about different sight loss conditions, improve sighted guiding skills and benefit from peer support.
Guide Dogs also provides the My Sighted Guide service, pairing people who are blind or partially sighted with a trained volunteer guide to help them participate in social, leisure and fitness activities. The service increases independence, confidence and connection with the community. And for volunteers, it gives you the chance to learn a valuable skill to add to your CV and improve your own confidence and communication skills whilst supporting someone in your local community. Partnerships usually meet once a week.
Check out this video about Sania and her sighted guide Alex:
The nightlife, pub and clubbing culture associated with going to uni and Fresher’s Week in particular, might feel intimidating and inaccessible if you are blind or partially sighted.
There is something for everyone at university, but if going out to clubs and pubs is what you enjoy, we want to ensure that you feel able to do so safely and confidently.
In this video, Emily, a recent university graduate and member of our Education team, talks us through her top tips for how to prepare for a night out and what she did to ensure she felt confident and able to make the most of the nightlife on offer as a blind/partially sighted student.
Thomas Pocklington Trust Student Support Community
This online community is for blind and partially sighted students, family and friends, education providers and other staff in the sector. It forms a supportive environment where relevant news, advice, questions and pieces of work can be shared to enable students with visual impairments to get the most out of their time at university.