If you are a tutor who is concerned with the needs of blind or visually impaired students undertaking fieldwork, then the good news is that there is a range of information, advice and support ready to help you. Among the people and organisations available are:
The rest of this document suggests ways in which you can participate in an institutional network of contacts and supporters to provide the best learning opportunities for blind and visually disabled students doing fieldwork. In many cases, such a network will already be in place, in other cases you may need to oil the wheels a little.
Most higher education institutions employ specialist colleagues to provide disability services to students. A local Disability Officer, or an Equal Opportunities Officer, will be able to provide on-campus information and advice of a general nature, and may also have resources that can be channelled into more specialist study activities relating to fieldwork. A useful starting point is therefore to make contact with those involved, and explore with them how they can help plan and execute your fieldwork. In particular, they may be able to advise on, and maybe help undertake, the fieldwork audit.
But the institutional support network is not just about helping staff to help students, it is also there (primarily) to help the students themselves. Among the questions you should therefore ask are:
Examine your institution's Disability Statement. (All Higher Education Institutions have to meet the requirements of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act by producing such a statement, which outlines the support that disabled students can reasonably expect at your institution.) Working closely with central support staff, colleagues and your Head of the Department, produce a subject-specific version, specifically outlining ways in which the department intends to support blind and visually impaired students during their studies, and specifically while engaging in fieldwork. Against each special requirement (e.g. talking book software, tactile map production), identify which can be provided by the institutional unit, and which may need to be acquired by the department.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 115 4