Access in Education by Keisha Anderson, 2017 Scholarship Winner

In collaboration with the Alliance for Quality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), every year we award the T-Base Communications $2,000 scholarship to a student in Canada who is blind or has low vision in support of accessible education. Keisha Anderson is our 2017 recipient. She will attend Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, as a first-year student in the Bachelor of Arts program. She will major in English and minor in Biology. Please read on for Keisha's inspirational essay on the topic of access in education.

Access in Education

In my opinion, education is one of the most important aspects of a person's life. I strive to do well in my classes to ensure a good education, because I have high expectations of myself for the future. I also strive to do this with as much independence as possible.

The first step to a good education is access. Without proper access, a person cannot complete assignments independently, and thus, reach their highest potential. As a visually impaired braille-user, I access course material differently than my classmates. Where most students use a pencil and paper, or a regular laptop, I use a Braillesense, or a laptop equipped with Jaws, or a Perkins Brailler for math-related assignments.

Accessing course material is not always a quick process. Often I need to plan ahead to ensure that I can have the work ready for the class lesson. Assignments with visual components are the ones that require the most adaptation. I take extra time during lunch hours, or before or after class some days, to ask my teachers about visual representations that they reference while teaching the content. Together, we devise a way for me to learn what these look like, using either embossed tactile graphics, or other tactile materials.

At the beginning of the semester, I ask teachers if they can email me coursework. Many of the teachers have digital copies of files, and are able to send them to me, which is the quickest way for me to access them. I am then able to complete them and send them back. If the digital copies they have do not work for some reason or paper copies are the only option, I have been using a Pearl camera and a program called Open Book to scan the documents onto my laptop, to be edited and later submitted.

Online websites and tools can sometimes be non-compatible with my technology, therefore causing a setback.  In these situations, I must come up with a solution that will satisfy the requirements of the classwork, while also allowing me to do the work in a way that I can access it. Sometimes it is simply a case of taking more time to work through the website, and sometimes it requires me to come up with an idea that fulfills the assignment requirements, using a different resource.

As I further my education, I know that access will continue to be a major consideration and obstacle. However, in order to achieve my highest level of success, I strive to remain solution driven as I problem solve to maintain access to information and knowledge for lifelong learning and growth.

Lucy Morrissey - Apr 17, 2017

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