Study with vision impairment

The University of South Australia (UniSA) has many successful students who are blind or vision impaired. For many students negotiating an Access Plan with the Access and Inclusion Service is an important contribution to their success. Students are encouraged to contact an Access and Inclusion Adviser to discuss services and negotiate an Access Plan.


A range of equipment is available on campus or on a loan basis. You should discuss your equipment requirements with an Access and Inclusion Adviser at the Student Engagement Unit on your campus. Equipment available at UniSA includes:

  • Recorder for lectures and tutorials
  • Laptop computer to facilitate notetaking and text enlargement in lectures
  • Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) available in each metropolitan library to provide on-screen enlargement of print material
  • Magnilink enlargement equipment.
  • Pearl reader to convert hard copy printed material to electronic and accessed via a screen reader
  • Adaptive Technology Suite (ATS). There is an Adaptive Technology Suite (ATS) on each metropolitan campus in the library. Each ATS has:
    • Dragon speech recognition software which enables you to write essays and emails and explore the web by voice command
    • 20 inch LCD monitor to provide a large, no-flicker image
    • ZoomText software which provides text magnification and screen reading so that you can listen to the material which appears on the screen
    • An A4 scanner which allows hard copy material to be scanned into digital format, so that it can be used with specialised software and enlarged or read from the screen
    • An A3/A4 printer which readily prints enlarged text. To access equipment in the ATS contact Disability Services.

Access to print materials

The University aims to support access to all print materials required by students with print disabilities in their studies. Print materials which are produced by the University or provided by the University's library can be requested for loan in an alternative format. Other print material such as books and magazines students purchase to use in their study can also be requested in alternative format. Students will need to be able to provide the Access and Inclusion Service appropriate evidence regarding the nature of their print disability before materials can be reproduced. The University relies on an exemption in Copyright legislation to produce material in alternative format for students who have print disabilities. Once agreement for the provision of services is reached the service can arrange access to materials in the following formats where required either by sourcing existing copies in alternative format or arranging production of the material.

  • Large print
  • Electronic
  • Braille
  • Audio Requesting print materials

Requests for provision of material in alternative formats should be directed to the Access and Inclusion Service. It is important that students who require print materials in alternative format identify the print materials and the format they require at least three weeks before the commencement of the study period for which the materials are required. This is because it can take at least three weeks to source or produce the material in the appropriate format. Students who require their course materials in alternative format are expected to undertake additional planning prior to the commencement of their course of study so that the materials required can be identified in advance. This may require discussion with Course Coordinators before the study period commences to identify core and extended readings for the study period. The Access and Inclusion Service can assist students in determining their appropriate alternative format and equipment needs.

The Access and Inclusion Service will process alternative format print requests as quickly as possible, but it is important to note that requests made during the study period may not be completed within timelines that fit within course deadlines.

Web accessibility

The University aims at ensuring that its website is consistent with web accessibility guidelines. If you have difficulty accessing online materials contact and provide the following information:

  • details about when, where and how to contact you
  • the URL of the page you are accessing
  • details about the operating system and browser version on the computer
  • details about other software you are using
  • the nature of the problem you are experiencing. The University's Access and Inclusion Service will then make arrangements for you to access the information.


It will be useful for you to orientate yourself to your campus, rooms and seating arrangements before your first study period begins. Campus maps can be downloaded from the web. You can make an appointment to see an Access and Inclusion Adviser on your campus to discuss mobility issues.

Placements, field trips, and practical classes

Placements, field trips and practical classes need to be discussed with your Program Director prior to your studies. If you have applied for a Program which includes practical classes, placements or field trips (e.g. Teaching, Nursing, Social Work, Park Management) contact an Access and Inclusion Adviser on your campus as soon as possible so that they can meet with you and your Program Director to work out useful processes.

Once you have enrolled

  • Find out about practical activities by checking the Course Information Booklet (CIB) or talking with your Course Coordinator
  • Discuss any difficulties that you might have with your Course Coordinator and agree on ways of overcoming these. You may need to discuss ways of informing people on the site you are visiting of issues related to your visual impairment
  • Ask for alternative formats for any visual material if you need too
  • Identify any aspects of the assessment tasks with which you may have difficulty and work out possible modifications with your Course Coordinator
  • Check out if there are likely to be any safety issues in the placement or trip and plan with staff how to deal with potential hazards or emergency situations.


The University can make alternative exam arrangements for students who are blind or have a vision impairment. You can contact an Access and Inclusion Adviser at the beginning of your program so that processes can be put into place. Alternative exam arrangements may include:

  • Braille exam papers
  • A reader
  • An oral exam
  • Exam papers in large print
  • A personal computer with software including voice synthesizer, screen reading and large text
  • Rest breaks

Talking with academic staff

It is important to meet with your lecturers to discuss your individual needs. The ADCET - Disclosure website has information about whether, when and how to discuss your disability with staff. An Access and Inclusion Adviser can develop an Access Plan for you, which will provide information to assist you with your discussion and negotiation with academic staff.

Plan your meeting with academic staff by:

  • Thinking about what you want to achieve
  • Taking your Access Plan with you
  • Think about what you need them to understand before you meet. It is a good idea to make a time to meet with the lecturer away from the classroom.

Issues commonly discussed in a meeting with staff include:

  • Recording lectures: Most lecturers agree to students tape-recording lectures, but students need to seek permission first
  • Due dates for assessment tasks: You may need to negotiate alternative due dates for some tasks
  • Access to teaching material before the beginning of study period
  • You may request early access to readers and overheads/PowerPoints so that you or an Access and Inclusion Adviser can transfer it to alternative text
  • Group dynamics in tutorials: You may need to ask teaching staff to assist you to maximise your ability to participate and communicate effectively in the class. This can include informing the group member of your needs and ensuring good communication (e.g. speak clearly, explain actions)

Check out the Negotiating Extension web page for more tips on talking with academic staff about study adjustments.

Study Strategies

Working out strategies which work for you is an important part of being a successful student. Some useful study strategies include:

  • Making arrangements early with the Access and Inclusion Service for any services you need such as changing print material into alternative formats
  • Planning your study load carefully at the beginning of a study period
  • Studying with a visual impairment may mean you have to do extra work on assignments and extra reading to cover the material in a course
  • Prioritising your reading
  • Meeting key teaching staff in each course
  • Familiarising yourself with important university dates.
  • You may need to change your study load during a study period and it is important to be aware of dates for changing enrolment without penalty. Familiarise yourself with the library and the Adaptive Technology Suite if required.

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