Insights from training a blind student in biological sciences

  • Rethabile Tekane 1.Department of Chemistry, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; *Currently: ENGAGE Programme: Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3355-9957
  • Marietjie Potgieter Department of Chemistry, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8617-7178
Keywords: blind students in science, accessibility of science, curricular adaptation, tertiary science education, STEM

Abstract

Higher education institutions have a constitutional obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities. Although the teaching and learning of students with blindness and low vision in STEM disciplines are well documented abroad, to date, there are no published studies in South Africa on successful teaching and learning strategies for students with blindness and low vision in STEM fields, specifically in science disciplines. Therefore, in this paper, we report on how teaching, learning, and assessment were adapted to make science disciplines accessible to John, a blind student enrolled in a biological sciences degree at a research-intensive university in South Africa. Several factors contributed towards the successful completion of John’s bachelor’s degree. These factors include the availability of tutors who committed a large amount of time to help John understand content presented in lectures, tutorials, and practical sessions; a well-resourced and effective Disability Unit; lecturers who ensured that John was well accommodated in lectures, tutorials, and practical sessions; and, finally, John’s commitment and dedication towards learning.

Significance:

  • This is the first study to report on successful teaching and learning strategies for a blind student in the natural sciences in the South African context.
  • The study provides a guide that scholars, educators, university managers and policymakers can use to ensure that mathematics and science subjects are accessible to blind students and that teaching strategies allow them to perform to their potential.
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Published
2021-05-28
Section
Research Article