Just like everyone else

A number of months ago now I visited Sheffield University to talk about the support available for when I hopefully attend. This involved a quick meeting with the psychology department. I asked a number of questions with the key question being:

Have you taught any blind pupils in class?

“I wouldn’t know as they simply blend in with all the other pupils”

I questioned this and the basic outline was due to the levels of support on offer and all materials being accessible in multiple formats, the lecturers never knew the blind from the non-blind.

During my short time at college this is something I have strived for, however the past few weeks have been incredibly trying. The handouts are never sent to me in advance. This causes me a great deal of isolation and exclusion within lessons.

While other pupils are given paper handouts to work on tasks, I sit there with nothing to do. Instead of digital copies in advanced I am presented with apologies and paper handouts. This of course puts me at a huge disadvantage over the other pupils, as I have to digitize the handouts then do the lessons tasks at home as well as assignments.

Digitizing the documents is a mission, as I cannot read the paper; my wife must first vet all the handouts I receive over a week. Averaging 25 handouts a week results in a lot of proof reading for my wife and a hell of a time drain on digitizing.

In the past week I have made it clear to a number of lecturers how important digital handouts are. They don’t make it easier for me to read, they allow me to read. I am hopeful over the coming weeks the situation will improve.

Not all is bad however; one lecturer in particular seems to revel in the digitization of course materials. Even highlighting issues I had with diagrams in class were rectified within hours rather than weeks. For that lecturer I am thankful, just a shame I wont be studying biology at university.

Running to a Stop

For the first time in a number of months I haven’t run. So get ready for the excuses.

My college work has gradually been piling up and thanks to a few time management issues; which aren’t my entire fault! I now have 5 assignments and one week to complete them. Obviously this time restraint makes it even more difficult when reading is a real strain, the level of mental concentration needed for me to read cannot be maintained over long periods of time.

The work will get done, one way or another.

The next excuse? Slightly sore knees. As the weekend miles have increased I have been suffering from a little pain in my knees. I am confident this is just a strength issue and with the help of some glucosamine, plies and a little ibuprofen I will be back running in no time.

Determined to put both these things behind me I headed out for a swift 3 miles yesterday. Half a mile in I convinced myself the knee pain was not worth it. The real problem was simply my head was not in the game. I was worrying to much about whether I should include diagram a or diagram b in my kidney assignment.

I have managed to eek out a little work today, so hopefully tomorrow I will rack up a quick 4 miler. Along with 2 assignments, the weekly food shop and oh yeah looking after a baby.


The past few weeks have presented numerous challenges. The combination of parenthood, college and running has made excellent time management essential.

Grayson is growing at a furious rate and is changing by the day. Sian is having great fun dressing him in cute little outfits and subjecting him to photo shoots. I am sure they are all available over at her site.

College has been draining these past few weeks, with numerous assignments and the dreaded personal statement to complete. The assignments have been flowing out without a hitch; the personal statement however is a different story. Attempting to mention being blind and making it sound anything but negative is a real challenge. I have gone through many iterations and I am yet to arrive at something that strikes a careful balance.

Running however is a true escapism right now. The miles are steadily building with me racking up a few half marathons in the past couple of weeks. Within a month I will hopefully be running marathon distance on the weekends.

With these recent challenges beginning to become manageable I hope to be updating the blog on a regular basis. I promised myself when I started blogging a few months ago I would make sure it was a regular occurrence; so I am determined to get back into the swing of things.

The First Day

Up early and ready brek charged Sian and I headed into college. With it being the first day we decided to set off super early just incase traffic was heavy. We arrived way to early so waited in the car park to allow my nerves to increase.

Upon entering the college we quickly found my guide for the day Jackie. She escorted me upstairs and due to other commitments had to leave me. Sat waiting for the tutor I noticed everyone else seemed to know each other. How could this be? surely we are all starting today?

The tutor took me into class and began a talk on todays itinerary. It involved heading down to the library, ARGH! my guide had already left! I quickly made friends with the girl to my right and decided to stick with her.

As I left the classroom Jackie appeared, a quick conversation followed explaining to a few other students about my lack of vision. We quickly set down to our research task: Is the world heading towards environmental catastrophe?

I quickly reeled off a few causes of climate change to our group; agriculture, globalised economies, over population and CO2 production. We researched the separate sections then presented to the rest of the class.

Turned out we may have jumped a few steps, the lecturer was more interested in the research method. So will save that information for next time!

The day ran far smoother than I had anticipated, the mobility issues were easily overcome and I quickly struck up conversation will fellow students.

Triple Header

Undoubtably the next week is going to be monumental. My wife is now beyond her due date so the arrival of our son is highly likely. We are both becoming anxious now and just want him to be here already!

Tomorrow is also my first day of college. The long road to my degree begins. I am a little nervous about mobility issues but not so much the lessons. I am frantically converting books to ePub as I write this in preparation for the morning. I just hope it all works! I will detail my first day in a blog post tomorrow.

This week will also be my first double digit long run. Saturday holds the possibility of a 10 mile run. This may be jeopardised by labour or a little baby. Hopefully I will find a sneaky couple of hours to complete the run!

Looking forward to a truly life changing week.

Good News

After my previous post on the lack of disabled funding I sent an email complain to my local college.

I received a repsonse instantly, “Could you please come into the college so we could discuss this?” So on monday I had a meeting with Mary from the disability department. We discussed what had happened on my previous visit, turns out the finance department were mistaken.

There was indeed funding for accessibility, we discussed my needs and I highlighted I simply needed an iPad. The college had their own idea of some custom Dolphin devices, 2 devices one of which cost £1600. I explained this solution was incredibly expensive and the iPad would achieve everything I needed, at a smaller price point.

After around 30 minutes of negotiation I was left with the answer, “I will speak to my manager”. This morning I received an email giving the OK for an iPad. YAY!!!

The cherry on top? I bought an OpticBook 3600 on eBay for £38! The scanner arrived today, a quick test and it works like a charm.

So the previous cost has been reduced to a acceptable £38. This is far lower than even my dream scenario.

Now time to get back to compiling these post process tools.

college bound?

After my interview last week for college I was told to nip in to talk with Learner Services to discuss financial support for disabled students.

Arriving at college I headed to Learner Services, unsurprisingly they were unable to help and send me over to finance. This did not go as planned….

After a 5 minute conversation which included going round in numerous circles the verdict was simply.

“We do not guarantee any financial support to disabled students.”

But I need access to the books to complete my course, surely you will help fund that?

“We cannot guarantee that.”

The cherry on the cake? the course will have been running for over a month before they even make a decision. So I would have to start the course sans books and I MAY get them at some point.

A little angry and disappointed I headed home. I quickly got on task and began looking for a book scanning service. I shot off a few emails and waited for a response. After 20 minutes I got bored of that and decided to start ringing around.

First port of call Action For Blind/RNIB. They were incredibly helpful and gave me the contact information for Leeds University Transcriptions services. After explaining my needs we got down to the nitty gritty of cost, £7.42 pp. Which for the roughly thousand pages I need require comes in at a whopping £7420.

More than a little out of my price range, shocked at the price I returned to online research. After a few calls I managed to find a private sector service that would do it for 30p a page +VAT.

A little math shows it would cost:

Books: £70
Scanning: £352.50
iPad: £429
Total: £851.50

This is before any other supplementary scanning costs for other documentation. I simply cannot afford to pay that much for 2 books.

The solution? Well thanks to my previous role I am reasonably tech savvy. So onto the shopping list goes a book scanner and a whole host of post processing tools. The money saved will be negligible but will allow me to run a service at cost for other users that need books scanning at a reasonable price.