Providing Learning Support for Blind or Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities
There are four broad types of activity that occur on fieldcourses that are significant for blind and visually impaired students:
- 'Everyday' activities — those activities relating to the daily round that would be undertaken whether the student was on a fieldcourse or not (e.g. eating, socialising). Little more will be said of these in this guide, though it is important to understand that even apparently simple tasks, such as getting dressed, eating meals, and using toilet facilities, may take longer than anticipated, and may therefore need to be factored into the daily schedule during a fieldcourse.
- Study centre activities — evening activities should adopt the same conventions and approaches adopted for activities undertaken on campus during the preparatory and follow up phases of the fieldwork. (See the companion documents on Lectures and Laboratories, and on Using Popular Computer Applications.)
- Travel and movement while undertaking fieldwork — see the document on Getting Around.
- The field study activities themselves — see the Data Collection and Recording document.
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.)
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.
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.
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 115 4