Imke and Science Labs: A Case Study in Accommodations for Blindness

Background

My name is Imke and I am blind. As a first-year graduate student in atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, I was required to enroll in a quarter-long credit/no credit synoptic meteorology lab. Most of the lab time was spent plotting meteorological data on weather maps, and drawing contours in the process of learning about the development and structure of mid-latitude weather systems.

Access Issues

I needed to find a way to participate in the class and learn the necessary material without having to draw and contour weather maps.

Solution

I was unsure of the best way for me to participate in the class so I approached the instructor of the course, who happened to be my Ph.D. adviser, and asked if he had any suggestions. It appeared that he had already thought about this issue. He immediately proposed that instead of attending the weekly classes, I visit his office once a week at a time convenient to both of us, so that he could explain the relevant concepts to me. I also received the instructor's class notes in an accessible format from the university's disabled student services office. This arrangement worked well. I was able to gain an understanding of mid-latitude weather systems without participating in the map drawing activities that were central to the course.

Conclusion

This situation illustrates that it is not always necessary for a student who is blind to directly access the visual material of a course. In cases where it is impractical for the student to participate in a visually oriented activity, it is often possible for the student to learn the accompanying concepts in another way.