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Let’s Talk About Visual Disabilities

In this instalment of 'Let's Talk About Disability', we are talking about visual disabilities.

Blind people and people with serious visual conditions might experience sight loss in a very individual way, but they all face challenging barriers in their day to day life. Raising awareness of these barriers is an important first step towards challenging ourselves, our processes and policies to collectively contribute towards the development of an accessible and inclusive environment for all.

Not familiar with this instalment's theme? Find out more by clicking below:

How many people in the UK have visual disabilites?

In the UK, more than 2 million people are living with sight loss. Of these, around 340,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted.

Everyday 250 people begin to lose their sight.


Stories from our community

Learn more by reading the personal story of a student below.

"Since coming to university, I have often been confronted with how much my experience as a student with a visual impairment differs from that of my fully sighted peers. I am an English Literature student who owns no books, and who doesn't feel the same innate sense of home from bookshops who can't (or won't) accommodate readers like me. A large amount of people in my field have placed physical books on a pedestal of superiority above e-books, the formats of which are compatible with text-to-speech software, and are easier to adapt to large print, thus making them far more accessible. The 'printed books vs e-books' debate is inherently ableist, though inadvertently in most cases: to argue that the feel of a physical book makes them the only acceptable way to access a text minimises not only the percentage of the readership with disabilities, but also the ability of a writer to produce a book whose worth transcends its format. As members of a university, we rely on books and texts of all varieties, and as such we need to leave behind the idea that there is one superior way to access the knowledge they provide.

As has been the case for my whole life, my disability affects me in ways that are not always visible; the anxiety caused by not being able to properly see the world around me is something I have been trying to combat for many years. I worry about missing visual cues in conversation, causing people to get the wrong impression of me. I worry about my phone, my usual saviour in bus or train stations (as I can't read the boards), dying, leaving me stranded somewhere - I also worry about being that reliant on technology. I worry that people think I use my disability as an excuse both in university and general life; the 20 years I have spent developing coping mechanisms often makes me appear more on top of things than I am. In general, I worry a lot. The growing awareness of how disability effects people in invisible ways does provide some comfort. But, like many differently abled people, I struggle to overcome my worries about asking people to accommodate my needs for fear of appearing overdramatic or self-absorbed. As I have got older and surrounded myself with supportive people, I have found it easier to assert myself, and I hope this will become more natural as I continue to combat my own worries. However, if the fully sighted population decided to reflect on their awareness of the people around them as much as those who can't see them, the worrying might decrease for everyone."

Anonymous student


Estates

We have various physical features of campus that allow blind and visually impaired people to safely navigate campus, e.g. tactile warning surfaces, signage and surface contrast considerations, and toilet facilities for assistance/Guide dogs. We have worked closely with organisations such as local charity The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, including most recently on some of the exciting new Future Mobility initiatives coming to campus. Find out more about Choose Your Way Warwick here.

Digital accessibility

Accessibility of not only the physical environment but also resources, materials, communications and web content is vital for blind staff and students, and for any disabilities related to other serious visual conditions. A fundamental principle of inclusive practice is ensuring that content is developed, presented and delivered in an accessible format from the very beginning. Find out more about Digital Accessibility at Warwick here.

Assistive software

The Library and IT Services offer assistive software and technologies for use at both home and on campus.

  • Assistive software and productivity tools can improve your e-reading accessibility.
  • Try watching the Library e-book video playlist to find out how you can adjust and improve an e-book's appearance.
  • Students can register with RNIB Bookshare, an online educational Library with over 600,000 titles in accessible formats which can be used alongside assistive software. Eligibility isn’t limited to people with a visual impairment; Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and physical disabilities are included too.

The Library also offers a range of services and support, including bookable accessible and sensory study rooms, where students can adjust their sensory environment to their own individual preferences.

PEEPs

If you feel that you need a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) for safe evacuation of a building in an emergency the Independent Assessment Tool will help the University identify the appropriate emergency response requirements and the assistance you may require.

Accessibility updates

Keep up to date with important updates that may affect accessibility at the University of Warwick.

Sunflower lanyard

Wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower lanyard is a discreet way to choose to make the invisible visible. It discreetly indicates to people that the wearer may need additional support, help or a little more time.

Staff Network

Join the Disabled Staff Network. The network is open to all staff members with an interest in making the University a more accessible place for all and creating a more inclusive environment.

Wellbeing

Find wellbeing support for staff and students:

Students' Union

Find out more about the work of the Students' Union Disabled Students’ Officer and Warwick Enable - the disability liberation and campaigning society on campus for disabled students, their friends, allies and carers or enablers, and anyone who is passionate about disability and inclusivity.

Adjustments

Get adjustments to support you in your work or studies.

  • Adjustments for staff: MAP is a tool to help you to have meaningful and confidential conversations with your line manager or other University representative.
  • Adjustments for students: Disability Services can support you to access a range of adjustments, exam arrangements, advice, and one to one study skills support.

BDF resources

As members of the Business Disability Forum, the University has access to a range of Member Resources including toolkits, factsheets, case studies, videos, and webinars to help you understand more about how to be disability inclusive. Just sign up with your University email address to get a free account.

Membership also grants us unlimited access to BDF's confidential Advice Service, a team of expert advisers who are enthusiastic about improving disabled people’s experiences of employment and users of services.