"There is a lot
to be said about
has been before."
Holly Bartlett is a fourth year honours psychology student at St. Francis
Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. For three years, Holly was
in the business program, after which she changed to psychology. She is
presently applying to grad school. She is visually impaired and has a guide
dog named Willow, who helps her live independently.
Holly likes to take on new challenges, and isn’t easily intimidated. One
of the reasons she decided to go to St. Francis Xavier was because most
students with visual impairments do not choose this campus. They usually
choose to attend St. Mary’s University, affiliated with the Atlantic Centre,
which specializes in accommodating students with disabilities on the East
Holly says that although Saint Francis Xavier had never had a student with
a visual impairment as severe as hers, the university staff was excellent in
accommodating her needs. “There is a lot to be said about going where
nobody else has been before,” she says. “Rules have not been formed yet
and the staff is much more flexible in accommodating one’s particular
needs when their experience is new.”
Holly’s advice for a secondary student who would like to pursue a postsecondary
education is to spend lots of time scouting out schools before
accepting an offer of admission. Holly was very thorough when transitioning
from secondary to post-secondary education. She says that
as a result, she felt as prepared as one can be for her first year of postsecondary
study. One of the keys for her was her involvement with a group
called the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA). This
is a governmental agency funded by the Atlantic Provinces to prepare
students with visual and hearing impairments to transition from secondary
to post-secondary education. APSEA holds a post-secondary week in the
spring for students in the Atlantic provinces. During this week, participants
discuss and role-play issues such as how to disclose to your professor that
you have a disability. Holly had a transition facilitator at APSEA who
provided information on all the campuses she was considering attending.
When Holly chose an institution to attend, APSEA sent a staff member
with Holly to her new campus to help her and Willow become acquainted
with the area. Holly also visited the university in August and introduced
herself to all her professors. She discussed her required accommodations,
such as more time on tests and extensions on assignments in order to have
time to electronically scan any research text.
Holly says she has learned many study skills over her time at university,
which have helped her become a more independent student. She makes
sure to start early on all big assignments. She finds it very difficult to
research in the library as none of the computers at St. Francis Xavier
are accessible to visually impaired persons. As a result, Holly must
make appointments with the librarian to find resources for her work.
Occasionally, research texts must be ordered from other libraries, which
can take two to three days. After the library has received the books, the
pages must be scanned into the computer so she can read the material. No
assignment can be completed at the last minute. Holly started developing
these habits in her first year, but as the years have gone by and her course
load has become heavier, she has perfected her strategy. This is especially
crucial for lectures such as mathematics, where it is critical to follow what
is written by the professor. In addition to starting early on assignments,
Holly advises that students read all lecture notes before the class begins.
Holly is not currently involved with a disabled students’ group. There is
no such group on her campus. However, from 1998-2000, she sat on the
NEADS Board of Directors as the Nova Scotia Representative.
Outside of classes, Holly loves to travel and has taken advantage of opportunities
to visit Mexico and Guatemala at spring break with her school. No
challenge is too great for Holly.