Pilot program eyes college success for students with vision loss

The College Quest graphic

The College Quest graphic

A new ADRS College Prep program specifically for students who are blind or have low vision will debut this June at Auburn University.

The two-week program – called College Quest – will host a dozen students from around Alabama, with at least one student from each of the seven workforce regions of the state, said Dana Barber, state coordinator for Blind Services.

“In talking to Blind Services staff, one of the recurring topics I often heard was how much we needed a College Prep program of our own,” said Barber. “[The Alabama School for the Blind] is a wonderful school, but the fact is the majority of Alabama’s students who are blind are mainstreamed in our more traditional public/private schools. College Quest was designed for them.”

In this file photo, Annie Park meets with VR Counselor Dena Dodd on the University of North Alabama campus in Florence. Orientation and mobility training helps her to properly navigate campus to get to class on time

In this file photo, Annie Park meets with VR Counselor Dena Dodd on the University of North Alabama campus in Florence. Orientation and mobility training helps her to properly navigate campus to get to class on time

Barber said the core of the program’s curriculum focuses on six disciplines: independent living, orientation and mobility, assistive technology, team building, student advisement, and vocational rehabilitation.

“Far too often, students who are blind or have vision loss aren’t keeping pace with their peers,” Barber said. “It’s not because they aren’t ready for college academically. It’s typically because they need to polish their independent living skills. That extra step is creating an unnecessary delay in their education, and I think College Quest’s six disciplines can eliminate that gap time so blind students can attend college with their peers.”

College Quest – with backing from ADRS, the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB), Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), the Alabama Department of Commerce, and Auburn University – is free to students.

ADRS, AIDB, and AIDT will provide instructors, and Auburn University is awarding two hours of college credit to students who pass the course.

In addition, Auburn will offer one scholarship to a College Quest student wishing to pursue a STEM-related degree at their school.

“For this to be our first year with College Quest, I’m really proud of the program we have built,” Barber said. “Coming up with a College Prep program was a core component of our strategic plan, and it is now a reality for us in 2018. I couldn’t be more excited for it.”

 

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