Providing Learning Support for Blind or Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Field Activities

There are four broad types of activity that occur on fieldcourses that are significant for blind and visually impaired students:

Social dynamics

Some general issues relating to how students work together in the field also need to be considered in relation to all of the activities listed above. For example:

Should visually impaired students work alone?
Blind or visually impaired students are every much as sociable as sighted students. During work in the field, and follow-up activities in the evening, as well as during recreational breaks, try and encourage situations where the visually impaired student is able to capitalise on their gregariousness, etc. The last thing you should try and do is to cocoon them. Consider how you might organise each day's activities in the field so that it includes both Individual and Group Work, and do your best to include the visually impaired students as equal members of each work group.
Should visually impaired students work with their buddies?
The accompanying document (Buddies) explores the important role of the student buddy or study companion for the visually impaired student. However, it may be necessary to moderate the time that these pairs spend together in the field, so that the visually impaired student benefits from the social and team-based experiences that are such an integral part of most fieldwork. (By contrast, where a visually impaired student is engaging in lone field research, say while preparing a dissertation or project paper, the role of the buddy would be paramount.)

'Look-see' visits

When (literally) pointing out landscape features, tutors should use a more fully descriptive approach. For example, instead of saying "over there...", a better phrases might be: "across to your left, in the middle distance beyond a low field wall..." Invite regular questions from the blind or visually impaired student — your answers might be more than occasionally helpful for sighted students.

Guest lectures

It will be necessary to brief guest speakers on the need to consider an appropriate speed of delivery to permit the visually impaired student to take notes. This applies equally to lecturers visiting the field study venue or talks being presented at external organisations.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock