Hi, let me introduce myself. My name is Stefie; like you, I’m a student at the university of Augsburg and I’m rather short-sighted. Please, let me assure you that I’m not one of those disabled super heroes who are often shown on TV or mentioned in newspapers. What I mean is that I’m short-sighted, but none of my other senses have developed in an extraordinary way. I’m a completely average student struggling, more or less, with the same issues as you.
Hail to the public transport service
I have to consider things that have possibly never occurred to you. Take, for example, the criteria for choosing the university you wanted to go to. In my case, I not only had to take into account the subject I wanted to study, or if I liked the city the university is situated in, but also if the university is one where everything is on the same site or if it’s easily accessible with the public transport system, or not. I’m not able to drive a car or cycle so I completely rely on the more or less (in some cases rather less) efficient public transport system, my own two feet or the help of my family for getting from point A to point B.
A mole in sheep’s clothing
What’s more, I have to tell people who I’m in a professional or close relationship with about my disability. So if you met me, you wouldn’t know that my short-sightedness is so strong. See, I’m a mole in perfect disguise; I wear glasses, but so do hundreds of other students. The difference is that many can perceive the world like completely healthy persons if they’re wearing their glasses, but for me this doesn’t work. Mine can only help me to perceive the contrast between different things more easily. And, so I’m talking about this to avoid misunderstandings like “I waved at you but you completely ignored me…”.
Of course, communication is very important for me because even when people know about my poor eyesight, I can’t expect them to think about it all the time. Take the lecturers at university, for example; the majority of them are very nice and I’ve met no one who refused to help me or to make the slides for the presentation bigger so that I could follow the course. In order to be able to help me, they have to know that I have this kind of problem; and I have to remind them from time to time because they’ve not only got me sitting in front of them but sometimes over a hundred of students to think about.
‘Inclusion’ – what a wonderful word
In general, I like studying here but there are some things that still need to be improved. For example, there’s no general information anywhere on university website for people with disabilities. Well, there is someone you can consult for questions about studying with a handicap. But, it’s very difficult to approach this person and when you finally do, don’t expect too much. He probably doesn’t know more than you do.
Author & Pictures: Stefanie Sohnle