Future Reflections October 1981, Vol. 1 No. 1
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By Reverand Howard E. May
Financing our legally blind children through college has become increasingly
difficult, unless you are loaded with money and can pay the
costs yourself. The Rehabilitation Service Administration has produced new guidelines for eligibility and the amounts a Rehabilitation agency can provide the blind college student. These are vague and confusing to the Rehabilitation agency, as well as to the student and his family. Students must often work out a financial aid program with the Financial Aid Officer of the college to which he wants to go; this program includes the financial status of the family and of the student. This helps establish the needs of the student. The Financial Aid Officer then determines how much financial aid the student is eligible for. The Rehabilitation agency may pay the difference, including
providing for extra costs specifically related to blindness, such as costs of readers, special equipment, etc. Rehabilitation agencies from state to state have always varied in amounts they would give a student. Some states have been fairly liberal in supporting students and the numbers of students they would fund; others have been very restrictive. Now the process is so lengthy and complicated that students should start at least a year before the time of entering college. This should be worked out with their Rehabilitation counselor and the college of their choice. This proceedure is similar to the one sighted students must follow in seeking financial aid; both must run a gauntlet of financial reporting, vagueness and confusion if they want financial aid. The NFB publication Postsecondary Education and Career Development-A Resource Guide for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Physically Handicapped is an excellent resource for information about funding and other problems blind students face in preparing for, and getting through college. An order form and further description of the book is available in the brochure enclosed with this newsletter.
Scholarships should always be considered as a source of supplemental
funding for college expenses. The National Federation of the Blind offers
three scholarships each year. Some of the NFB State affiliates also provide
scholarship help. The Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship is for $1,200 and
is limited to students in fields of architecture, law, medicine, engineering
and the natural sciences. There are two scholarships, each for $2,500, given
to women in college. These are known as the Hermoine Grant Calhoun Scholarships.
These scholarships are highly competitive because we have many fine blind students seeking them. In the past ten years, they have gone to graduate students who have established a good academic record, no longer receive funding from a rehabilitation agency, and have been active in the NFB. Applicants must have a favorable recommendation from a state or chapter president of the NFB. Winners are announced at the NFB national convention in July, and must be present to receive the award.
Information and applications for the NFB scholarships may be secured from Reverand Howard E. May, Chairman, NFB Scholarship Committee, RFD 2, West Willington, Connecticut 06279. The deadline for scholarship application is May 1, 1982.
As high school students begin to think of career planning and college or technical school, they should give some attention to the kinds of positions now open on the job market. The NFB State Coordinator of Job Opportunities for the Blind can probably lend you a cassette describing job opportunities now open. There are some fields that few, if any, blind persons are employed in, but this is because blind persons did not consider them open to the blind and therefore did not get the proper education and training for them. This is another unfortunate example of how misconceptions about blindness can effect our children's lives in a negative way. Fields once considered far
too difficult for the blind, such as computer programming, engineering, chemistry, biology, and such skilled trades as machinist, auto mechanic and electrician are becoming more common as vocational choices among blind persons.
Information about your state's JOB coordinator may be obtained from your NFB state president (check with your local NFB chapter through the telephone listings) or you may write to: Job Opportunities for the Blind, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.
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