Case Study – Psychology and Visual Difficulties

Case A


The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, (information extracted and accessed October 2006).


Richard is a current second year psychology student who is partially sighted and colour blind. His first choice of degree would have been biology. However, as he was unable to see colour, the course would have proved difficult and so he chose psychology as a second-best option.

Richard has managed to put into place strategies to overcome some of the difficulties his impairment can create when studying psychology and accessing the appropriate materials. Nevertheless, since these strategies include printing out lecture notes and slides in advance, it is essential for him to access materials in good time. When notes and slides are made available early enough through WebCT (a virtual learning environment) he doesn’t incur any difficulties when following the actual lectures, as this gives him enough time to enlarge and subsequently print them off. As he has problems with colour contrast, at times he also has to adapt slides that contain too much colour, for example by converting them into black and white.

However, academic staff have not necessarily been as accommodating as they could be. For example, Richard recalls once being made to feel very embarrassed when he approached a psychology lecturer with concerns about slide size, asking if it was possible to enlarge them. The response given to Richard was “Well, I can see it from back here”.

The university Richard attends has a mandatory requirement that first year psychology students gain research participation credits by participating in a certain number of experiments conducted by staff or other students within the university. However, he found it very difficult to get these research credits, as he was limited in terms of the experiments he could participate in, and hence at times felt excluded.

Richard feels that it would be beneficial for him to have someone in the psychology department with whom he could discuss any problems relating to the course and its contents, but ideally someone not directly related to the teaching of the course. He felt this would help alleviate some of the problems that disabled students encounter, because at times it is very difficult to tell an individual lecturer that there is something wrong. In addition, he suggests that lectures could be taped, access being made available to any student with an impairment who might benefit from the presentation of materials in an alternative format.

Case B


The following case study was taken from: RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams Website, (information extracted and accessed October 2006).


Psychology Graduate

• I have studied at the higher education level several times, as I have a degree in psychology, an MSc and I am currently studying for a postgraduate degree.

• I became significantly blind at the age of six and learnt to read Braille at the age of seven. At school I started to use tactile graphics when I was about nine years old. This was a special school for people with disabilities; however I received no training in tactile graphic reading skills and due to this I often still have difficulty understanding tactile graphics.

• Whilst at university I found the provision of tactile graphic was often quite sporadic, as some modules were provided for more than others, which mainly depended on how quickly lecturers responded to requests for their graphical materials. Because of this my tactile graphics were rarely available in time for lectures on the topic of the diagram.

• When providing tactile graphics for blind and partially sighted students it is very important to be selective in order to get the balance right between providing too many and too few diagrams. Rather than lecturers with little experience of tactile graphics being responsible for this, I believe that the student and other people that are knowledgeable about tactile graphics should make these decisions. For most of the modules that I studied at the undergraduate level I think about half a dozen diagrams was adequate, although I did required more diagrams for more complex modules. I have found that with tactile graphics, my understanding of the subject area is improved especially if a text description is also provided. I find I can usually relate the tactile graphics to reality quite easily but three-dimensional concepts can be very difficult

• Overall tactile graphics are very useful in higher education, especially when a text description was also provided. However I felt that I was provided with too few diagrams during my psychology course, although the quality of those I had was generally good.


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