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Trying to navigate through college life on your own can be a daunting task for any person, but trying to do so without sight is an even tougher challenge. KSMU’s Justin Lux has the story.
This week at Drury University, eight visually-impaired students from Missouri and Arkansas were given the opportunity to explore the campus and the city of Springfield. They are here to become more familiar with the technology available to them, in addition to learning what the college experience is all about.
Freddy Marcos is a 19-year-old who is completely blind. He hopes to major in music and says that he while is excited about experiencing college on his own, he does have some fears.
“Getting to talk to some others that I’ve never actually talked with in my life. Being around alone, without anybody here helping me. Basically just being more independent, having to make my own decisions. Having to confront things I haven’t confronted in college before,” he says.
While visiting this week, the students will become familiar with items that will assist them in their day-to-day lives and possibly ease some of the anxiety they feel over living a more independent lifestyle.
Dave Wilkinson from NanoPac, Inc., a company which supplies products for individuals with disabilities, demonstrated how a student could find his or her way to a Subway late at night. He pushed some buttons on a black, rectangular GPS device.
“I can pull up their phone number and I can call them to make sure they’re still open before I venture out of my room in my residence hall, and turn on my GPS and have it take me to Subway. And when I’m ready to go to Subway, ‘Subway, restaurant, at Benton Avenue, 536 feet, right, west.’ So the GPS lets a blind person have much more of a significant idea of what is around us. We don’t see all of the street signs and all of the material that you’re bombarded with as a sighted person,” Wilkinson says.
Dr. Chris Craig, director of the Drury School of Education and Child Development says the hope is that these students realize that college is a possibility for them.
To further this idea, Dr. Craig received a grant from the Greene County Developmental Disabilities Board to start the Drury University Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired. The center will identify blind children from birth to three years old who could benefit from support services.
Whether it is the students who visit the campus each year or those who benefit from the center, Craig says he has one particular intention for all.
“My goal for these kids would be for them to come back or come to Drury or other universities and have a skill set to succeed,” says Craig.
Dr. Craig, who is also blind, reports that there is 80 percent unemployment among legally blind people.
For the students, the visit to Drury is free. Rehab Services for the Blind and a grant from the Musgrave Foundation provided funding for the students’ room and board this week.
For KSMU News, I’m Justin Lux.