Former Oxford student Christopher Moore has established a new bursary to improve the experience of visually impaired undergraduates.
The bursary includes three separate stages of funding: funding for travel to Oxford and accommodation before the student starts their degree, in order to familiarise them with their surroundings; funding for activity or equipment which is not covered through statutory funding but is likely to enhance their Oxford experience; and funding for internships which will cover travel, accommodation, daily stipends, and any costs specific to the needs of visually impaired students.
Moore, who attended University College between 1994 and 1997, is himself registered as blind. His personal experience as a visually impaired student propelled him to set up the scheme.
Moore told the university’s press team: “In setting up this bursary, I wanted to prevent anyone visually impaired with the academic ability to get into Oxford, being daunted from applying or accepting their place because of their disability. We need to challenge this belief that visual impairment prevents you from achieving potential: academically, socially, or that it should impact your career ambitions.
“When I was applying to Oxford, my biggest concern was getting the grades I needed. I was so convinced I wouldn’t, that I almost turned down my offer, until my headmaster reminded me that “you do not reject Oxford”.
“I feel I was lucky educationally, to have attended a mainstream secondary school and then to live in-college at Univ throughout my time as an undergraduate, which given its central location was very helpful in maximising my mobility around the city. And, I think there are things that non-visually impaired students take for granted that visually impaired students do not – lots of little things that can put them off accepting offers.
“A lot of visually impaired students could well be academically able enough to get into Oxford, however their school journey may limit opportunities for teenage social interaction, which would make them even more nervous about being away from home in a new environment. There are obstacles that either the University or the city might present, including adapting to such a unique style of learning as Oxford’s – even the tutorial system is quite an adjustment that relies on the recognition of facial expressions and body language. I want all visually-impaired applicants to have the same opportunities as I have, and not let anything hold them back.”
Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford, said: “At Oxford we are working hard to remove the barriers that disabled students face, but we know there is more to do. I’m therefore very excited by this new bursary, which is an important source of support in helping visually impaired students to achieve their potential. From the orientation visit through to the internship support, each phase of the bursary has been carefully considered to enable students to concentrate on important aspects of university life: the academic demands, social life and future career opportunities.”
You can visit the Disability Advisory Service pages on the Oxford University website at: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/welfare/disability to find out more about the support offered to visually impaired students at Oxford.
Image Credit: Eugene Birchall. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0.