Seeing Differently -Learning with a Visual Impairment

Dianne Theakstone and her dog Merlin

Hi, I’m Dr. Dianne-Dominique Theakstone, and I’m registered blind. Between 2004-2020, I’ve completed three Master’s degrees and a PhD at the University of Stirling. Alongside this, I worked as a contracted lecturer, placement supervisor on the Housing Studies course and Teaching Assistant on various modules. At present, I’ve embarked upon a Master’s in social work with Strathclyde University with the aim of going into practice.

The main support I received from the University as a disabled student involved specialist equipment and a Personal Assistant. I work electronically with speech software, called Jaws, on a laptop. My lecturers had to provide reading lists in advance so that I could enlist the assistance of the Accessibility team based in the library to track down sources and, if necessary, convert into my preferred reading formats, such as word and DAISY. As a rule of thumb, I work 3 weeks ahead of my classmates in order to obtain accessible formats of lecture slides and identify assignment key reading.

As you may be aware, the Stirling campus can be a maze of corridors at times. I required orientation training from a Guide Dog instructor to know the rooms I needed throughout a specific course/teaching module. People remembering not to distract my guide dog while working helped keep me safe and orientated. Crossings can be a challenge around the campus. Sensor buttons assist opening the many sets of double doors encountered on level two and my current guide dog, Merlin, was taught to touch these with his nose. He loved showing off in front of an audience! The sensor buttons are at different heights and switch sides which made locating the buttons without Merlin’s help quite challenging. Also, I discovered that the upper levels have no sensor buttons, so the doors are not as accessible to open for disabled people in general.

Overall, I would recommend the University of Stirling to a visually impaired potential student. The staff are extremely helpful, especially those involved with disabled student support, and the accessibility team in the library are outstanding!

At the University of Stirling, we offer an extensive range of support services to help you fulfil your potential and make the most of your time studying with us. Whether you feel like you’re thriving or in need of a helping hand, our dedicated student support team is here to listen, offer guidance and point you in the right direction at every turn.

To make an appointment with an Accessibility and Inclusion adviser and discuss your needs, you can contact us at the Student Services Hub.

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