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Blind Friendly Scholarships And Colleges

Going to college can be challenging but having a physical disability and going to college can be an entirely different experience all together. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to witness a number of college campuses across the nation equip themselves to be “disability friendly” over the years in hopes of increasing the accessibility of their programs to ALL students. The following is a scholarship program for the legally blind and the results of a recent study utilized to rank college websites and their ability to meet the needs of blind students. Hope you find this information helpful.

Scholarship Opportunity For The Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is starting to accept applications for the 2011 scholarship season. The value of this scholarship could be from $3,000 to $12,000. In addition to the scholarship, each recipient will receive assistance to attend the annual NFB convention held in July.

Here are the Eligibility Requirements:

  1. must be legally blind (PDF document) in both eyes (the government defines blindness as having a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less after using corrective lenses or having a visual field with 20 degees of vision or less, counting both eyes together.), and
  2. must be residing in the United States, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, and
  3. must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, postsecondary course of study in a degree program at a United States institution in the 2011 scholastic year, except that one scholarship may be given to a person employed full-time while attending school part-time, and
  4. must participate in the entire NFB national convention and in all scheduled scholarship program activities.

Applicants have until March 31st to submit all necessary applications and documentation. The following links provide narratives from past scholarship winners that could be helpful in securing your spot as a scholarship recipient this year:

If you would like more information about this scholarship opportunity, you can contact Chairperson Patti Chang via email at scholarships@nfb.org or call (410) 659-9314 ext. 2415. You can also find answers to frequently asked questions here.

Blind Friendly Colleges (from a website perspective)

The federal government has already mandated (ADA 1990) that every college in the nation receiving Title IV funding (Federal Financial Aid) make deliberate attempts at being as accommodating as possible when it comes to legally blind students. Most colleges have met or exceeded expectations in this area but my guess is that there is still probably room for improvement on some campuses.

Jon Gunderson is employed as a coordinator of assisted communication and technology at the University of Illinois and he recently completed a research project to identify the best and worst college websites for blind students. His study examined over 183 institutions (and their accompanying websites) and utilized the following criteria to provide an overall ranking score.

1. The Web site must have text where a browser’s text reader will pick it up. The same must be true for all Web pages on the site.
2. All additional headings on a page must contain text, and font sizes need to be ordered largest to smallest, consecutively.
3. All elements of online applications need to be properly labeled so that text readers will find them. Such elements include: password boxes, radio buttons, file buttons, check boxes, “select” buttons, “submit” buttons, and “reset” buttons.
4. If you use a table to display information, include proper tags in the cells: “th” tags to indicate categories and “td” tags to indicate data.
5. If there is a picture included anywhere on the Web site, there should be text, coded for text readers, describing the picture.
6. Tables should be used only for organizing data in rows and columns. If you are designing a Web site, use a cascading style sheet instead of a table.

Based upon this research, the following is a ranking of the top ten schools and their “Blind Friendly Score”. My hunch would be that the schools at the top of this website ranking would also be a great match for a legally blind student. However, an excellent online environment doesn’t necessarily dictate a blind friendly campus environment – so take these ranking with a grain of salt.

School – Rank – BF Score

Missouri State U. 1- 91.8
California State U. at Northridge 2- 87.2
Calif. Polytechnic State U. at San Luis Obispo 3- 82.6
U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 4- 82.2
Indiana U. at Bloomington 5- 81.2
California State U.-Channel Islands 6- 80.7
Oregon Institute of Technology 7- 79.3
Nevada State College 8- 78.1
U. of Evansville 9- 77.6
California State U. at Chico 10- 77.3
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4 Responses to “Blind Friendly Scholarships And Colleges”

  1. Lorraine says:

    Thank you very much for highlighting our national scholarship program for blind college students. I work with the National Federation of the Blind scholarship chairperson. Our 30 awards total $122,000 and each winner also gets additional prizes. This is the largest scholarship program for blind students in the United States or Puerto Rico. There is one detail to tweek in your article–the federal definition of legal blindness has two parts. First is the part you quoted, “20/200 in the better eye after using the best possible correction.” The federal definition continues, saying: or having a visual field with 20 degees of vision or less, counting both eyes together. (If a student has one eye blind but the other is above these two measurements, then the student is not legally blind.)

  2. Doug Schantz says:

    Lorraine,

    Thank you for the clarification and the additional information regarding the scholarship performance (30 awards totaling $122,000) That is quite impressive.

    I appended your additional information in the article above.

    Thank you for visiting CheapScholar.org!

    Doug

  3. Kim Massman says:

    I am looking for scholarships that my daughter who is a high school senior and lost her eye in a 2011 car accident and can not find any I have been told there are some but I cant find them

  4. Christian Heild says:

    Christian was born blind from birth despite his blindness music is his passion. Christian is more musically Incline than Academic. He graduated in June 2015 with good grade. He has no BGCSE, SAT, ACT. however, he is determine to further his education in music by getting into a college that can help him learn music by notes. He plays by hearing and listening. Christian goal is to achieve a music degree and then he wants to focus on reading and writing music in braille. He is from the Bahamas where they do not have a music teacher and he want to be the first to accomplish this goal in becoming the first qualify music teacher certified in braille music.

    Can you assist him in getting into a college or programm that will assist him in furthering his education.

    Thanks will appreciate any assistance

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