A significant number of the problems encountered by blind and visually impaired students on fieldcourses centre on the venue at which they stay. Paying attention to the needs of such students when selecting accommodation can therefore pay off handsomely. Potential accommodation (hotels, etc.) should no longer be considered simply on price, food, rooms etc., but also on the safety issues related to blind and visually impaired students.
Here is a checklist of some of the practical issues that should be checked out at the fieldcourse accommodation:
The Open University is developing a Disability Access Specification for choosing its study centres, which may be of some use when applied to choosing a hotel or field study centre.
Staff involved in running fieldcourses need to devise their own emergency or evacuation procedures for blind and visually impaired students and/or adopt those already in place at their chosen accommodation. Health and Safety Officers at the university should be consulted, as these will have been involved in making risk assessments of the campus environment. For example, Personal Egress Plans (PEPs) similar to those provided for students with mobility impairments on campus could be adapted for the field course venue. Bear in mind that emergency procedures might not involve evacuation but instead the use of refuges within a building.
It is essential that everyone who needs to know about the formal arrangements is actually informed. This includes the blind and visually impaired students themselves, their student helpers, buddies and room mates, and academic staff leading the fieldcourse.
It should be noted that an increasing number of hotels are making themselves visitor friendly, and include a range of facilities for visually impaired guests. Similarly, official field study centres are often well versed in the needs of visually impaired students. Where a field course is being held at or near an urban centre, or in a known tourist area, it may be possible to request a list of accommodation venues that are suitable for visually impaired students from a local information centre.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 115 4