Tracy is a busy working mother who has had a visual impairment from birth. She left a Visual Impairment Unit in a mainstream secondary school with one CSE in English and a certificate in typewriting in 1969. She studied ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels at night school as a mature student and achieved NVQ Levels 2 and 3 while working.
Before starting her Foundation degree in Health & Social Care, Tracy was working as a Health Care Support Worker (band 2) in a general hospital. She is now an Assistant Practitioner (band 4) working on a rehabilitation ward and enjoying the additional responsibility. This is a new post, with the Foundation degree as a baseline qualification that provides the considerable additional theoretical knowledge required for the new post.
Initially Tracy lacked the confidence to apply for a Foundation degree. When she was told about the opportunity the belief her friends and colleagues had in her encouraged her to apply for one of the three places available in her workplace. The information and advice she received at this stage was from her Ward Manager and from her peers who had started the Foundation degree the year before. She feels that she was made fully aware of what to expect and the Ward Manager, who had known Tracy for a long time, assured her that she could cope. All costs were met by her employer, and Tracy was given day release to attend the university when required.
Rather than receiving information from her tutors about what they could do to help her, she took responsibility for putting them at ease about her condition and for telling them what would help. She believes this is an important way of breaking down any barriers. Tracy had some initial difficulty with her course work but took the initiative to talk to the tutors about strategies such as issuing standard A4 documents in 14 or 16 point print, not as unmanageable A3 documents. She prefers the use of red pen to mark assignments because it is easy to read. She also asked for handouts being given to all students to be read out to the class beforehand. The whole class found this helpful, as is often the case with adjustments made for a specific learner.
Having started the course, some of the tasks that Tracy had to undertake were challenging e.g. taking an ECG. At the time this made her confront some of her deep-rooted feelings about her impairment but with the help of a supportive mentor, she sailed through the rest of the course. Tutors and librarians provided additional help and advice, and she did not need careers advice since she had a clear planned progression route at work and support from the Ward Manager. She attended an open day at the university about a top-up courses to an honours degree but at present she is not planning on further study and, for the moment, is content and proud to have achieved the Foundation degree and her new status at work.
When she qualified, her line manager contacted the Access to Work Scheme and following an assessment, Tracy was provided with some Assistive Technology. She felt awkward about this and has made some further adjustments, but now recognises it makes her job easier. It does take her longer than her colleagues to write her notes – she stays on for an extra half an hour but she is happy to do this. She feels that learning to use new technology is particularly challenging to those who are no longer young!
Tracy feels that she had good information and advice from colleagues, peers, and university staff, but was pro-active and “did a lot of asking”. So what information and advice does she think is needed before starting a course at this level?
- Will I be able to get support that is right for me and tailored to my individual needs?
- Can I suggest strategies that will work for me?
- Will I be accepted for who I am?
- Will help be provided in a way that enables me to be as much like the rest of the group as possible and not to stand out?
- Can I have extra tuition if necessary?
All people with visual impairments have different requirements and learning styles. Tracy thinks that advisers and tutors would find it helpful to attend training workshops with actual learners there to talk to them and show them what works.
Please note: This case study was originally produced for the fdf, that organisation no longer exists.