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Scholarship Recipient #2: Sammy Alexander

Scholarship Recipient #2: Sammy Alexander

Our second Scholarship recipient is Sammy Alexander who has Cone Rod Dystrophy. Sammy is from Western Sydney and is completing her Masters of Forensic Mental Health. She shares with us her goals and tips for other’s considering studying with a vision impairment.

Why did you choose to study your Masters degree?

I decided to apply for the restricted Masters course of ‘Forensic Mental Health’ upon graduating from my undergrad degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice as I thought it complimented my undergraduate course. There is a substantial link between mental health and crime and I wanted to advance my knowledge within this arena. Furthermore, being that the Aboriginal population is well over represented within the criminal justice system, I wanted to explore the link between crime, mental health and my mob so that I could better assist the Koori population.

What have been your biggest hurdles studying with a vision impairment?

My biggest barriers studying with a vision impairment would fall under two categories; accessing course materials and being able to receive the course content parallel to my sighted counterparts and ironing out the ignorance surrounding blindness. Not all of the content is accessible with a screen reader and in these situations, specific adjustments need to be made so that I can read the document. The Accessibility Team formats the files into a document that I can read with my speech software. Sometimes this can take some time so it’s always best to be a couple of steps ahead. It can become particularly distressing if the lecturers amend or add reading material at the last minute as this places strain on the disability team and myself. I have in the past had course convenors whom have had little to no insight surrounding blindness. Therefore, I have had to work alongside the Accessibility Team to educate them on my needs and requirements. Sometimes this involves lengthy emails with a relevant analogy to illustrate a specific point.

What do you hope to achieve once you finish your degree?

Upon completion of my degree, I will be able to have a diverse and comprehensive understanding between the link between crime and mental health. I am hoping to utilise my Criminology degree and (after this course) my specialisation as a Forensic Mental Health Practitioner to aid the Aboriginal community. Ultimately, I want to aid in the facilitation of closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. As a qualified Aboriginal scholar within these fields, I am hoping this will set a sound foundation for rapport building and trust amongst myself and the Koori community.

What advice would you give to other’s with a vision impairment who want to study?

Always try to be at least one step ahead. As someone with partial sight, unpredictable hurdles crop up all the time and therefore it is best to allow yourself additional time for these setbacks. If by chance things are going smoothly, it will only put you in a better place so it’s a win-win all round. Try to be organised and maintain a balanced lifestyle – you cannot study all day every day so ensure you take regular breaks and apply relevant ‘self-care’ strategies tailored to your needs. Communicate with the support services that are provided via the university. Get to know the staff and your lecturers as this will make your study much less time consuming when you need to contact them. Finally, always study something you are passionate about. There is little to no point enrolling into a course that you have no zest for knowledge. If you can turn your passion and area of interest into a career, you cannot fail. Study will become a hobby, rather than a chore. Consequently, success will be far more attainable.

Thank-you for sharing Sammy. If you are considering embarking on study or looking to change careers, get in touch with us!

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