Returning to School After Significant Vision Loss

Returning to School After Significant Vision Loss

I had not stepped foot into a college classroom for around six years. I had been a full-time student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Finishing my degree was important to me. I had taken time away from the classroom to stay home with my children. Just shy of my Associates degree, I had begun to explore the idea of returning to school.

So many thoughts scrambled through my mind. Things had changed so drastically since my days padding around the campus with my backpack and books.

I now was married and had four children. Anyone who has tried to intermingle a family and education knows it isn’t easy. To add to the mix, I also had a guide dog. Like I said, things had changed.

When I made the decision to enroll in an anthropology course, I came across my first hurdle. Signing up for class was done via the internet instead of the antiquated call-in service I was expecting. I had trouble navigating the site used to schedule the evening class.

Once I was able to get through the re-enrollment process and class scheduling, the reality began to hit me. I was going to school!!! I was so excited to finally be returning to my educational career. I actually was the type of person who enjoyed learning and going to class. Don’t get me wrong, I had an occasional professor or class that didn’t interest me, but overall, school was something I enjoyed and was good at. I was in Honor Society in high school, and continued my good grades through college. Could I continue performing well in school with my new responsibilities and added limitations?

I was determined to make this class work for me. My anthropology course was held on Monday nights. I used Wednesdays as my homework night. My children were involved in church activities and this opened up some valuable time for me. The peace and quiet was conductive to excellent study time.

Advertisements on the television repeatedly tried to draw customers to the nearest department stores for the latest goods for returning to school. As I strolled the aisles of Wal-Mart choosing school supplies for my daughters, I had the urge to pick up an extra folder or pad of paper for myself. My little girl showed me this fabulous mechanical pencil. It was sturdy yet cushioned for comfort. The item practically jumped into my shopping cart. I was quickly jolted into reality when I remembered that all I needed was a set of 3 by 5 cards and a set of ear buds for my laptop.

I did not take my oversized backpack to class filled with the typical paper, pencils, and the like. My gear included a laptop, headphones, and a bottle of water for both me and my guide dog, Elton. Like the eager student, I also showed up with a tape recorder and extra batteries on the first night of class.

I had spoken with the disabilities Resource department at Miami where they helped me to obtain accessible copies of the appropriate texts used in the class. I received two books in the mail on cassette tape a few weeks before class began. My final book was sent to me electronically. I was even required to purchase that particular book in paperback in order to receive the information I needed. Everybody wants their share of royalties, I suppose, but I did chuckle about whether I could sell the book back as new since I had never read it.

The first night of class, I walked into the room and found a seat. As I began taking my computer out of my bag, a man spoke to me. He muttered something about my guide dog. I quickly responded with my usual answers, then went back to preparing for class. Moments later, the professor began taking attendance. That voice was all to familiar. I had just spoke to him about Elton and did not even realize it.

As he called my name, I obediently raised my hand and said “Present.” Before continuing on with the classroom attendance, he declared that regardless of my attentiveness in class, Elton would undoubtedly receive an A at the end of the course.

I knew at that point that returning to school was a good idea, that is, if I could get Elton to tell me the answers.

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