University Graduates with Vision Impairments: The Contribution of ALEH during their Studies,and a Follow-up of their Integration into the Job Market

One of the problems facing people with vision impairments (complete or partial blindness) is finding suitable employment. It is well known that in the general population, higher education is related to a higher chance of being employed. Among visually impaired people, acquiring higher education presents many challenges. One of the important service providers helping visually impaired students is ALEH (Society of Blind and Dyslexic Students in Israel).

The aim of the study was to examine the contribution of ALEH to visually impaired students and whether they have special difficulties during their studies. Additionally, it examined whether visually impaired people who graduate from universities or colleges find employment after their studies, whether they participate in leisure activities, and whether they are willing to do volunteer work. It included a survey of 168 vision-impaired people who graduated from a university or a college between 1992 and 2001.

Unique to this study was the involvement of visually impaired people in all stages of the research. The planning of the study and the development of the questionnaire were conducted jointly with ALEH. The field work was conducted by students with visual impairments. Accordingly, the questionnaire was adapted to their special needs; the adaptations included reducing the use of open questions, increasing font size and translating the questionnaire to braille. The findings show that:

  • ALEH is an important factor in the provision of assistance to students with vision impairments. A high proportion of the graduates studied at the Hebrew University, which is where the main office of ALEH and the Learning Center for the Blind are located. About one-third of the graduates said they chose their educational institution due to a desire to receive the services of ALEH. Seventy-six percent of the respondents received assistance from ALEH; most of these respondents (87%) said the organization had met their needs to a moderate or great extent.
  • The main difficulties encountered by the graduates during their studies were the procurement of study materials that suited their disability (52%) and obtaining information and use of the library (52%).
  • The proportion of graduates who were employed (68%) was substantially higher than that of the general population of vision-impaired people in Israel (about 40%). Nevertheless, there was a gap between the proportion of the graduates who were employed and the proportion of all college or university graduates in Israel who were employed (83%). Slightly more than one-half (55%) of the graduates who were employed were working full-time, compared to a much higher rate among all Israelis aged 25-54 with academic degrees (87%). In addition, a relationshiop was found between the extent of visual impairment and the rate of employment, which was lower among graduates with complete blindness (58%) than among graduates with partial blindness (74%).
  • There is a potential for utilizing the graduates for volunteer work in the community in general, and among the visually impaired in particular. Many of the graduates do volunteer work, and high proportions showed a willingness to volunteer for different activities for the visually impaired.

The study was conducted jointly with JDC-Israel and ALEH, and funded with their assistance. The findings have been presented to the study’s steering committee and to a forum of university student service coordinators, and will be utilized in constructing intervention programs and developing services for the population of university graduates with vision impairments. The report is available in audio format, enlarged letters or Braille (abstract and summary) from ALEH.