Blind and low vision

This resource offers study tips, advice and techniques if you are blind or if you are studying with low vision.

Strategies for successful study

Tertiary study is challenging and it is important to undertake a realistic study load. Students who need ongoing support should consider discussing their needs with Student Equity and Disability Support, as we may be able to provide services to assist with your studies. You can maximise your chances of success by using the various services available to you and developing a range of study strategies.

Students may find it useful to explain their vision condition to others and the possible impact on study. For example:

  • methods of accessing information
  • use of adaptive technology and other equipment
  • additional time required to complete tasks (e.g. accessing and presenting information in alternative formats)
  • ability to sustain concentration
  • confidence and participation
  • need for breaks to reduce eye strain and fatigue
  • affected mobility
  • advanced auditory, memory and listening skills.

Preparing for study

  • Talk to other students who have completed or are studying tertiary courses.
  • Consider how to manage challenges and address assumptions about what can and cannot be achieved.
  • Contact a Student Equity Adviser before the course begins to discuss special arrangements including alternative format requirements.
  • Get course outlines and booklists before semester begins and start any reading.
  • Explore the available adaptive technology in the library or through Student Equity and Disability Support. Investigate funding for equipment.
  • Establish meeting arrangements with any support staff.
  • Tour the campus to become familiar with access routes.
  • Find some of the quieter places to study in the library and avoid noise overload on a busy campus.
  • Develop realistic timetables for study and assessment tasks (including start and due dates) and allow extra time for alternative formatting needs.
  • Organise efficient filing and storage systems for subjects.
  • Plan for study using SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time frame.

Study techniques and tips

  • Lectures and tutorials

    • Attend all lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions. Find out what was covered in any sessions missed.
    • Meet lecturers and tutors before the first session and explain needs.
    • Arrange alternative formats for reading materials and handouts early.
    • Check the layout of each venue early.
    • Establish seating preferences, such as sitting close to the front for visibility and hearing, required lighting, access to power etc.
    • Ask for any written information on the board to be read out.
    • Ask for an explanation of content for any visual presentations such as film.
    • Ask tutors and students to mention names before speaking to assist with identification and input.
    • Be fully prepared for tutorial presentations: determine presentation style, including materials for other students, practise and time delivery, prepare questions to stimulate discussion.

  • Reading

    • Contact a Student Equity Adviser to find out about readers or accessible/alternative formats for reading materials.
    • Read selectively. Ask lecturers to indicate important texts.
    • Determine the purpose of reading before beginning.
    • Record main points and bibliographic details at the same time.
    • Share reading lists with others to cut down on reading.
    • Listen to entire audio recordings on fast speed before replaying relevant sections.
    • Maintain concentration by listening in an upright position.

  • Exams and assessment

    • Make arrangements for any alternative assessments through a Student Equity Adviser at least five weeks before exams.
    • For oral exams, identify the examiners and the format of questions and answers (for example, if the exam is uninterrupted monologue or questions throughout), clarify time keeping and notification, ask questions to be repeated if not understood. Refer to Managing Oral Exams.
    • Explore memory enhancement techniques such as Mind Tools.
    • Revise regularly and study difficult subjects when most alert.
    • Try working and brainstorming with other students.
    • Follow up lost marks or lower-than-expected results with lecturers to improve future performance.

  • Dealing with stress

    • Pace activities and expect some tasks to take longer.
    • Take time out if necessary consider part-time or distance education or deferral.
    • Don’t quit or give up if feeling overwhelmed: talk to a staff member first.
    • Avoid isolation and cultivate friendships: join interest clubs, study groups and online discussion groups.
    • Balance study with social, recreational and sporting activities.

  • Preparing assignments

    • Speak to the lecturer or a Student Equity Adviser about submitting assignments in alternative formats.
    • Stop 1 can provide information and instruction about writing/recording techniques and critically read/listen to assignments prior to submission.
    • Clarify the required academic style. Ask lecturers or Stop 1 for copies of model assignments.
    • Start early and allow for more intensive use of readers and material formatting.
    • Break large tasks into smaller mini jobs with deadlines for ease of management and completion.
    • For audio presentations: seek advice about style, referencing and footnotes.
    • If lecturers' comments on essays are unclear, ask for further feedback in preferred format.

Information and resources

The University of Melbourne offers student support services as well as opportunities for extra-curricular and social activities. It is the student’s responsibility to make enquiries and follow up any issues.

  • Study adjustments

    You should initiate enquiries about study adjustments with a Student Equity Adviser before you commence studying. Possible adjustments include:

    • alternative formats for written materials
    • alternative exam arrangements
    • access to power points in theatres and classrooms
    • assignment extensions
    • lighting alterations and glare minimisation
    • alternative course tasks or assessments
    • library assistance
    • accessible/adaptive technology and computer hardware and software.

  • Discussing your condition

    Some strategies can be implemented without discussing your condition. However, to provide ongoing support and specific study adjustments, the University needs relevant information regarding your requirements. You can contact a Student Equity Adviser to discuss appropriate adjustments while maintaining confidentiality.

  • Student rights

    Students with a disability have rights under the Disability Discrimination Act. If you feel your needs are not being met, you should discuss this with your lecturers or a Student Equity Adviser. If you are dissatisfied, complaints can be lodged through the University’s Complaints and Grievances procedure. If you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.

  • Resources

    Online resources are very useful and easy to access. Stop 1 and library staff can suggest and help source study-related information and references.You may also refer lecturers and tutors to a Student Equity Adviser for further information and advice.

    For a list of peak bodies and support groups, please visit preparing for study and community organisations.

Adapted from the original publication (the University of Melbourne and Australian Catholic University collaboration) funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs under the Victorian Co-operative Projects for Higher Education Students with a Disability Committee, 1997. 
Written by Reem Al-Mahmoud, Patricia McLean, Elizabeth Powell, Janette Ryan. 
Revised version funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations under the National Disability Coordination Officer Program, 2009.