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Visual Impairment & STEM

Lead Institution: University of Bath
Collaborating with: University of Southampton, Plymouth University, Royal Agricultural College, Loughborough University, London School of Economics

Project Summary

A participatory project to develop good practice in assisting visually impaired STEM students, with particular emphasis on inclusive laboratory provision and positive pre-entry outreach

VI taster day

VI taster day

Emancipatory research principles governed this project which identified, built upon and extended existing good practice in assisting students with visual impairments (VI) to access STEM subjects in HE and to succeed specifically in the context of laboratory work. A critical focus of the project was to support the continued professional development (CPD) of academic staff so that they could become better able to design inclusive STEM curricula and utilise inclusive pedagogies.

By valuing the student voice and by providing enhanced CPD opportunities for STEM staff working with students with VI, the project aligned with the National HE STEM Programme's aim to "support and enable the higher educational sector to better meet the higher level STEM skills needs of the UK for the 21st Century." 

Aims & Objectives

The project had 4 aims to:

  1. Establish a baseline by investigating the degree to which VI students are currently studying STEM-based undergraduate courses
  2. Encourage and enable more students with VI to consider STEM subjects through providing information and pre-entry taster opportunities
  3. Identify, build upon, share and embed existing good practice in relation to lab work for students with VI within STEM departments
  4. Enable equality of access and encourage more students with VI to become involved with STEM subjects

To meet these aims, the project:

  • Undertook a range of secondary research re: the incidence of students with VI studying STEM subjects at university
  • Collated a range of relevant weblinks and articles around access to STEM for those with a visual impairment
  • Hosted a pre-entry taster event for students with VI at the University of Bath entitled Inspiring Students with a Visual Impairment. A case study was written to capture the process of pulling together the event so that other institutions can copy the model
  • Developed a framework and key recommendations to support the transition of VI students to higher education through a Disability Practitioner Event, Are we doing it right?
  • Developed 'Accessiblog', a blog providing hints, tips and links to assistive technologies used across universities and colleges to support teaching and learning in STEM subjects
  • Produced an online resource - STEM Learning & Teaching Reconfigured - as a 'one-stop-shop' for those staff involved in admissions, central services, teaching, assessments and placements, containing a range of advice and tools to instigate the better support of students with VI studying STEM subjects

Staff involved

EA Draffan
Project lead, University of Southampton

Judith Waterfield
Project lead, Plymouth University

Iryna Withington
University of Bath

John Conway
Royal Agricultural College

Sharron Sturgess
Loughborough University

Simon Hayhoe
London School of Economics