Contributed by Amelia Palmer
Independence Science Engineering Intern
My testimony is the position of one blind student. I recognize that what has worked for me may not work for all BLV students. However, I am sharing my positive experiences as a way to tell BLV students that they can also have positive experiences if they work hard and communicate with peers and teachers.
As a blind electrical engineering major, I have had my fair share of laboratory experiences. While my story is still in the making, I wanted to share some of the factors that enabled me to have positive experiences in the lab.
As a student I have a right to laboratory experiences. The lab is where I can apply the knowledge that I learn in lecture. I believe that there is no substitute for the hands-on experience that a laboratory provides.
I find success in reading my lab manual in advance and attempting to memorize and understand the procedure. After this, I determine what tasks will be difficult or inaccessible with my current tools, and I brainstorm alternative ways of completing the identified tasks as independently as possible. I then coordinate with laboratory staff before the lab to make sure techniques can be accommodated during the lab. The more prepared we all are, the smoother the lab will likely run.
Good orientation and mobility (O & M) skills are crucial in the lab. Before I use a new lab space, I coordinate a tour with lab staff and learn the physical layout of the room as well as how supplies and equipment are organized. If things are inaccessible, now is when I address them.
Knowing where things are is vital to my independence in the lab. I like to label resistors, capacitors, and wires.
I make sure the electronics and instruments I need to use in the lab are accessible. Independence Science sells the Talking LabQuest and JAWS Logger Pro Scripts which are accessible and frequently used in my lab. If there are other obstacles I face, Independence Science is willing to increase accessibility through their consultation services.
As a blind individual, I find it helpful to touch things. Some of the sensors and equipment I work with do not like the oils on my fingers. I find a pair of properly fitting rubber gloves to be very helpful in solving problems.
I feel most empowered when I am the most participatory in the lab. This means setting an experiment up, collecting and analyzing data, and collaborating with my peers.