Starting from today 20 young people who are blind or visually impaired will attend a three-day residential summer camp hosted by the National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI) and Maynooth University Access Programme (MAP).
This is the first time that NCBI and MAP have joined forces to create a unique experience which will support young people experiencing sight loss to progress to, and through university. Open to aspiring students of any university, the initiative aims to enable young people to harness the power of assistive technology to support their dreams of going to college.
Participants will be introduced to and familiarised with assistive technology devices to help them flourish in school and at college while gaining an insight into the academic, social and sporting sides of university life.
Summer camp students will have the opportunity to use assistive technology in lecture halls to see what devices best meet their needs and will receive training on the latest technology and devices including for example, Read IT Scholar HD which is a lightweight, portable camera system that plugs into any PC or laptop. ReadIt software controls the Scholar HD camera and can take a picture of any document (close up or distant), convert it into large print and read it aloud.
MAP Student Ambassador, Niamh Donnelly*, a third-year law student with a visual impairment will also be on hand to talk about her experience of the university and to pass on useful tips on accessing and thriving in higher education.
Students will also have the opportunity take part in a range of sporting activities, will tour the grounds and the Library and get an understanding of how current Maynooth University students with sight loss use its world-class research facilities.
Dr Rose Ryan, Director of Access at Maynooth University, said that the summer camp was a response by the university and NCBI to the acute under-representation of blind and visually impaired students in higher education.
She said: “The summer camp brings together the collective expertise and experience of NCBI and MAP to focus on a group who just haven’t been progressing to higher education at the level you would expect.
“Over three days, second-level students who have applied to study in third-level institutions, will gain direct experience of assistive technology in a third-level setting. We’ve been privileged here in the university to work with some amazing students who have experienced sight-loss over the years and have seen first-hand how their incredible tenacity, enthusiasm and intellect has enriched the learning experience for everyone.”