Visually impaired university students facing problems of acceptance and support, says survey
Visually impaired students face additional obstacles in some universities because of an unwillingness to accept them in class or provide suitable teaching materials, a survey has found.
The Hong Kong Blind Union, a self-help group for the visually impaired, also said in its survey that an inflexible examination system was hampering visually impaired students' chances in society.
One student, speaking as the survey was released yesterday, said she had been barred from taking a language course because the lecturer "couldn't handle a blind student in class".
"They wouldn't even give me sample class materials when I asked for them to see if I could handle the class," the second-year student at a private tertiary institution said.
"It felt bad and I felt it was unfair," she said, refusing to be identified for fear of being recognised by her university.
Based on government figures, the union estimates that about 100 visually impaired students study at tertiary institutions in each academic year, with 40 to 60 of them in degree or associate degree programmes.
Almost half of the 38 students interviewed for the study said universities did not provide them with "barrier-free" materials that could be read by a Braille device or a synthesised-voice notetaker.
The study also found some universities lack the computers and other equipment that blind students rely on.
"We call for the government to provide financial assistance to universities with blind students to get the equipment they need," union vice-president Wong Chun-hang said.
Another visually impaired student, who has just completed a master's degree, said that she had major issues with reading material.
Without suitable soft copies of documents - in text not picture format - books had to be scanned by hand then edited to correct mistakes made by text-reading software before the book could be changed into Braille or sound, she said. The process could take weeks.
"My subject requires intense reading, so I would spend a lot of time scanning books," she said.
"Sometimes books would be scanned and I'd realise that it wasn't relevant. Or I would ask publishers for a soft copy but by the time I received it, it would be too late."