High School Transition

Student Success Stories

Photo of Holly Bartlett

"There is a lot
to be said about
going where
nobody else
has been before."

Holly Bartlett

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 coast.

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.