Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) has awarded a medal of excellence to a student with vision loss for their academic achievement in the higher school certificate (HSC).
The recipient of the award, 19 year old Paul, graduated from The King’s School with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 98.65.
Born with a genetic condition that resulted in farsighted vision, Paul was also involved in an accident that rendered his right eye sightless at the age of three.
“I like to describe my vision impairment as a television screen,” said Paul. “Instead of part of the screen going black or static, as some may imagine, it is simply chopped off.”
Paul’s remaining sight in his left eye has a visual acuity of 6/38, which means he has to be as close as 6 metres to see an object with the same clarity as a person with perfect vision can see at 38 metres away.
Paul received extensive support throughout high school from RIDBC, working in collaboration with the school by bringing in specialist teachers in vision impairment, orthoptists and access technology consultants to coordinate with in-class assistance and strategies around accessing the curriculum.
Paul made considerable use of electronics, such as the built-in zoom function on his laptop, or the camera on his iPad to access his resources for year 12.
“RIDBC was instrumental in my studies,” said Paul. “RIDBC staff kept in contact with my teachers, informing them of how they could best support me, and advising me on how to refine my methods of accessing class and examination materials.”
RIDBC School Support Teacher, Daniel Noort, worked with Paul in the lead up to the HSC.
“I focused on working with our alternative format publications team to ensure that sure that all Paul’s school work and exams were provided large print,” said Daniel.
“I also worked with Paul to help him develop study techniques that supported visual stamina – such as using screen reading programs. Throughout high school, RIDBC has been supporting Paul to ensure that he has the technology skills needed to overcome the limitations of print.
“Paul’s RIDBC orthoptist also worked with the Department of Education to ensure he could complete his HSC exams on computer, as this is the most efficient way for him to write.
“I have never encountered a student more deserving of success,” said Daniel. “His ability to succeed while remaining down to earth, epitomises a young man whose future knows no limit.”
Already fluent in English and Korean, Paul is now studying at the University of New South Wales, being enrolled in a dual degree of advanced science (honours)/arts, and planning to major in physics and German studies.
“The HSC, even without a vision impairment, is the most difficult part of high school,” said Paul. “There will be the pressure to do well, and a perfectly anxious mix of repetition and uncertainty. Because of this, I believe that it is imperative a student chooses subjects they enjoy, regardless of how it is scaled.”
RIDBC is a charity and Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education and cochlear implant services for people with vision or hearing loss, supporting thousands of adults, children and their families, each year.
RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in people’s lives.