Returning to School with a Vision Impairment, One Student’s Story

By Rebecca Freimuth-Rivera - January 28th, 2016

This week we are are proud to present a post from Rebecca Freimuth-Rivera, a student blogger who wished to share her experience returning to school with a disability.  CSU Global strives to be an innovative and accommodating institution for students, and we’re always happy to hear great things from Rebecca and students like her. If you are unsure if CSU Global is a good fit for your goals or your specific situation, get in touch.  We’re here to help you.

visualimpairmentblog

The decision to return to school at age 39 was a biggie for me, considering my main job is being the primary caregiver to my elderly parents. The difficulty of the decision to return was magnified (you will discover the pun in that word choice shortly) due to the fact that I am visually impaired.

Legally blind.  Partially sighted. Cannot-clearly-see-two-inches-in-front-of me kind of blind.

However it is phrased, I am here to tell you that while attending an online university as a visually impaired student is challenging, it is totally doable, and Colorado State University-Global Campus is a most excellent choice for those choosing to go back to school, vision impaired or not.

I suffer from a condition known as Optic Neuropathy, which has left my optic nerve partially paralyzed, thus robbing me of my central vision.

There is no darkness, as most people associate with blindness; rather, imagine spending some time outdoors on a very bright, snowy winter’s day, sans sunglasses. You know how your eyes are a bit goofy upon returning indoors?  That description gives you an idea of how I see every single day.  I require uber magnification to clearly see or read anything.

“How is she able to write this?” you ask.  I use an Adaptive Technology known as Zoom Text.  This computer software allows me to magnify the computer screen as much as needed, adjust the text and background colors, toy around with brightness, and this baby will even read text, if I so choose.  I also use the Zoom Text Adaptive Keyboard, which contains special “function keys,” enabling me to control all of the features Zoom Text has to offer, in addition to having bold, black characters printed atop neon yellow keys.

I also use a 28-in monitor and have a CCTV within my arsenal of technological magnificence, which I can use to scan, save, and convert text-to-speech, if I command it to do so.

“I am grateful,” does not begin to express my feelings for Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) who, through local grants and state-funding, has purchased all of the aforementioned technological deliciousness, trained me how to use the stuff, and provides continuing training and support.

“That’s all great,” you say, “but what about life as a student?”

When I decided to jump of the proverbial cliff and return to school, online was the only way to go.

Due to the level of care I provide for my parents, it is difficult for me to be away from home base for more than a few hours.  I investigated several online institutions offering bachelor’s degree programs, spoke to countless admissions officers, and filled out more applications that I care to remember. Why did I choose Colorado State University-Global Campus?

CSU Global offered a degree in my chosen field of Communications, the price was right, their reputation for excellence was, well, most excellent.

Most importantly, the admissions counselor who made initial contact did not scoff or question me when I informed her of my  disability as so many other institutions had.

Finally! A university that would accept me for me, disability included.

After acceptance, I was immediately directed to CSU Global’s Disability Services Office (better known as “the ADA people,” in Rebecca-speak), who guided me through the process of applying for and gaining ADA Academic Accommodations status.

This status grants me two penalty-free days to submit certain assignments.  I notify each professor at the beginning of every term, and we work out a specific period for assignment submission.  Each professor at CSU Global has been understanding, supportive, and helpful beyond my expectations, which is half the battle a disabled student must face.

Upon purchasing any required texts, the Disabilities Services Office converts my textbooks into PDF format, allowing me to use my superhero-level-of-magnification on the computer to easily read what needs to be read. A most sincere round of applause must be awarded to the Disabilities Services Office, specifically, Ms. Caitlin Bleything, Student Success and Disability Services Advisor, for her ongoing assistance and support.

I will not sugarcoat matters for you, folks: attending college online as a visually impaired individual can be a challenge at times.  I must maintain a rather strict schedule in order to allow for the time I need to read assignments and compose papers. There are days when the evil bug known as “frustration” will strike, but I push forward, relishing the feeling of satisfaction from earning another A.

I am living proof that a disability should not prevent you from completing your education!  If you are committed to your goal, put in the necessary effort, ask for assistance when needed, and maintain open-communication with your professors, you will succeed!

See you at graduation!

(Well, I cannot really see you, but….)

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