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

Preparations

Staff and student buddies

Although there is a danger in treating the blind or visually impaired student as a 'helpless' individual, who needs continual 'watching over', there is an equal danger of leaving such students to fend for themselves during various phases of fieldwork. In the daily environment of the college campus, the blind or visually impaired student will have developed routines for getting around, and will quickly develop a familiarity with the layout and location of the various facilities they need to use. However, on a fieldcourse, where there is little time to develop such habitual familiarity, it may be sensible to consider an alternative approach: the buddy. (See the related discussion in the Individual and Group Work document.)

Benefits of buddies

If the visually impaired student has not encountered the idea before, it would be worthwhile discussing with them the benefits of being assigned a particular member of staff, or one or two students, who can act as continual reference points or assistants during field study. Although buddies can be valuable on campus, they are even more important on field courses where the venue and study locations will probably be unfamiliar. A student companion will not only speed the learning process, but will also reduce the risk of accidents.

Buddies can fulfil several specific roles on fieldcourses:

Selecting buddies

Buddies should be chosen at an early stage, and preferably well before the fieldtrip itself, so that a relationship based on trust can have time to develop. You should recognise that an on-campus buddy may not be studying the same subject as the visually impaired field student, or may not be in the same student cohort undertaking the fieldwork. If a different buddy needs to be chosen for fieldwork, then ensure they are fully trained — e.g. through the university Disability Support Unit. Check with both parties whether they wish to have rooms near each other at the study centre, or share the same room if double-up accommodation is being used. (See the Accommodation document for related discussion.)

See also the companion documents on Lectures and Laboratories and General Resources and Assistance.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock