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Reducing Barriers to Training of Blind Graduate Students in Psychology

by Heidi Joshi

To increase the number of psychologists with visual impairments, all levels of the pipeline, from graduate training through practica and internship, need to be accessible to this population. This study sought to determine the types of barriers students who are blind face in their psychology graduate programs. The areas explored in the study included accessing printed materials throughout participants' graduate process, administering and scoring test protocols, accessing sources for research, and obtaining campus-wide communications. Attitudinal barriers were also explored in this study, particularly from supervisors, instructors, and peers. There is very little research in this area and as a result, this study was designed to elucidate the experiences of participants with visual impairments in their graduate programs. One goal was to give training institutions a better understanding of the barriers faced by students who are blind. Nineteen participants were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire consisting of yes/no and open-ended questions. Descriptive statistics were utilized in order to obtain the major themes of the responses. The most universal barrier related to the plethora of printed material encountered in graduate training. Nearly all of the participants discussed difficulties in obtaining printed material in alternate formats. They especially found it difficult to get enough sources in a timely manner for their research. Participants discussed missing class changes or other important details due to this information being posted in print and not accessible to them. Attitudes were a second barrier frequently encountered. Participants stated that they had to contend with the prejudicial attitudes of supervisors, professors, and peers who were meant to assist them in their process. Participants also discussed their wish to have more disability related awareness and education activities implemented in the curriculum of their graduate institutions. This would assist these institutions in overcoming the attitudinal barriers experienced by their students who were blind. However, participants also discussed supportive factors such as partners and professors who would provide appropriate classroom accommodations. Despite the over thirty years since passage of the rehabilitation act, and the fourteen years since the implementation of the American with Disabilities Act. Results indicate that numerous barriers still exist for graduate psychology students who are blind. These barriers must be aggressively addressed for persons who are blind to be afforded equal access to training in psychology.

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