[Blindmath] engineering for blind students

Vincent Martin vmartin at mindspring.com
Sat Jul 10 13:30:58 CDT 2010

Kartik Sawhney:
I have studied engineering while considered to be sighted, low-vision,
legally blind, and now totally blind.  Here in the US, it truly depends upon
which university you attend and what level of assistance the school
provides.  The larger and more prestigious the university normally means
they have a better disability service center that deals with a variety and
myriad of disability related issues.  Coupling this with the relevant laws
that require that schools make their curriculum accessible can make getting
an engineering degree totally feasible while being totally blind.  Sometimes
a smaller school may not be prepared to provide what you need because of
lack of experience and the cost of providing the accessibility necessary.
Now, this does not guarantee you that the school will be any good at
providing service or if they have ever dealt with a person that is blind
that is pursuing a science or engineering based discipline.  Being the first
in some cases, can be a blessing or the worst nightmare imagineable.     

Most professors have never dealt with a person that can not see what they
are doing on the boards and truly have difficulty in adapting their teaching
style to accommodate a blind student.  This is where the disability services
coordinator usually comes in  in assisting them.  There are the times where
the professor department are truly fascinated or don't really see a
difference in you as a student and go out of their way to make sure that
they give you what you need in the format that you need.  

I currently attend Georgia Tech as a graduate student in the School of
Psychology.  My Master's concentration is in Human Computer Interaction
which meshes Computer Science with Engineering Psychology and my Ph. D.
portion will probably be in the form of Cognitive Psychology with an
emphasis in Perception and Spatial Analysis.  My advisor specializes in
auditory displays of information so it is a natural fit for me to be
studying under him and in this department.  Yesterday, he e-mailed me that
we have added a post doc that is going to be the co-coordinator on my
accdessible statistics project the next couple of years.  With his and other
sighted assistance, the goal is to make sure that access to Statistics
becomes as accessible as possible for low-vision and blind students and

Georgia Tech had its first low-vision/legally blind student in 1969 and has
graduated a number of totally blind people the past forty years.  My other
alma mater, southern Poly now has had only one legally blind and totally
blind student the past forty years and I was both!  The schools are only
twenty miles from each other, but can be many more miles apart in
accessibility and idealogy.  One school is approximately 5,000 students in
size and is a leader in applications based technology and the other is
20,000 and is world reknown in all forms of research.  

I am on the graduate advisory board of Southern Poly and am helping to make
the curriculum totally accessible to all disabilities.  The second totally
blind student will be enrolling in the Fall and will pursue Computer Science
as his major.  This means that the mathematics department, Physics and
Chemistry department, and the department of Computer Science will really
have its hands full getting ready.  The incoming Freshman truly does not
know exactly what he needs, while I lost my vision in college and returned
later as an experienced rehabilitation engeer.  With my assistance, we
intend to make his experience as rewarding and accessible as every one

So, it can be done and you can truly function in this discipline totally
blind.  It requires a lot of hard work and discipline on the parts of you
and the institution that you are attending.  I am sure that if you do pursue
this as an avenue, that the people on this list can provide as much advice
and assistance as you can find anywhere in the world.   


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