University helps vision-impaired students

Twelve vision-impaired students at Shanghai Normal University now have their own study room complete with a refreshable braille display and a braille embosser.
Chen Huizhi / SHINE

The study room for vision-impaired students at the Fengxian campus of Shanghai Normal University

Twelve vision-impaired students at Shanghai Normal University now have their own study room complete with a refreshable braille display and a braille embosser.

It is located on the third floor of the computer education center at the Fengxian campus.

Pan Chunhui, a third-year social work student with impaired eyesight, came up with the idea.

“I conducted a survey among all visually impaired students here," he said. "Inaccessibility to textbooks and other reading material is a major problem. They can’t read anything that’s not translated into braille, and not everyone can afford a refreshable braille display."

When a user inputs a digital file into a computer, the braille display, a tiny keyboard like machine, can turn the words into braille and by feeling the dots, the visually impaired can read them.

Pan said the machine helps him learn English more efficiently.

“If we don’t use the machine, we will have to listen to everything, but my English listening comprehension is not very good, so with it I can make up for that,” he said.

“The embosser we have here enables us now to print what we need, such as a presentation script,” Pan added. “Otherwise I would have to hand write it down.”

Chen Huizhi / SHINE

Pan Chunhui, a vision-impaired student, uses the refreshable braille display.

The university, the only one in the city that enrolls vision-impaired students on a regular basis, said it is also working on making the campus more accessible.

All classrooms in the Fengxian campus will have room numbers in braille dots soon. Special tiles have also been laid from the entrance to the study room to guide students, and floor buttons inside the elevator are marked with braille dots.

Shanghai Normal University has enrolled 61 visually impaired students since 2002. 

The students studied or are studying subjects including social work, English, psychology, law, administrative management and labor and social security.

The students live and study alongside with other students. While their study programs are tailor-made, it doesn’t lower their standard.

Pan said vision-impaired students also crave more integration into campus life.

“Being visually impaired shuts the door of many social events to us, but we’re breaking the barrier by organizing events such as running in pairs,” he said.

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