Because note taking is such a fundamental study skill, training sessions should be arranged for blind and visually impaired students on taking accurate notes, both in pre-fieldwork activities and in the field itself. These sessions could be arranged jointly between subject staff and staff in the campus disability support unit. The former would be particularly knowledgeable of the constraints of note taking in the field, while the latter would be familiar with a range of support technology.
Blind and visually impaired students will be expected to undertake a considerable amount of note taking, whether related to fieldwork or to general study. It is therefore important at an early stage in their course that they not only practice extensive and varied forms of note taking, but that they also become comfortable with using whatever technology they feel is necessary, and in a variety of study environments. It might be useful for fieldcourse tutors to arrange some kind of simulated field environment (e.g. a busy shopping street, a tract of farmland, a stream, or a hill slope) in which the blind or visually impaired student can practice note taking before the field course gets under way. (For related information, see the Buddies, Assistive Technology, and Handouts documents.)
In many field situations, the most effective recording device for the visually impaired or blind student is likely to be some kind of tape recorder — e.g. a Dictaphone. Alternatively, a buddy or field helper could be arranged to record notes for them. This raises the significant question as to whose facts and ideas are being transcribed. Wherever possible, it is perhaps best for the blind or visually impaired student to dictate to a sighted helper. Alternatively, the sighted helper might describe something they are observing in the field, then let the visually impaired student record the finding in their own words, assisted by interrogating the sighted helper. (See the accompanying documents: In the Field, Individuals and Groups and Buddies.)
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 115 4