News Archive

Transition Planning Workshop

High school graduation is a significant event in the lives of most young adults.  It marks the end of an entire school-based career, and the beginning of “what comes next”.  For some high school students this major life event is exciting!  Something that they have been working towards their entire lives.  For others, this time of life can be unsettling, as the transition into work and/or post-secondary may come with many unknowns, and a potential for a new set of challenges.  Preparing for this major life transition can be a great way for students to ease any anxieties or fears that they might have, and transition planning can be a great way to do this.

On February 1, 2013, The Vision Resource Centre - North held a transition planning workshop for junior high and high school students who are blind or visually impaired.  Planning for Transition is one Alberta Education’s Essential Components of Educational Programming for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.

The transition planning process will be unique to each individual, depending on their needs, their strengths and their aspirations.  For some students there will be a focus on scholarships and post-secondary options.  For others, there will be a direct transition into the workforce.  Both of these options will require strong Career and Life Management Skills, one of the areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (Appendix A of the Essential Components).  

“These skills provide students with information about the world of work, career options, and an overview of the skills necessary to be successfully employed. For students who are blind or visually impaired, there are many additional program components which need to be addressed (e.g., accommodations required to complete specific jobs, access to appropriate assistive technology, self-advocacy skills, and those to deal effectively with negative attitudes toward individuals with disabilities). Frequently, students who are blind or visually impaired are unaware of the array of career options because they do not see the variety of workers in their environment or because adults around them are uninformed. Employment statistics from both Canada and the United States show that individuals who are blind or visually impaired are both underemployed and have unacceptably high rates of unemployment. Without specific and timely intervention to address career development issues, students who are blind or visually impaired encounter significant barriers to successful employment.” (Essential Components, Appendix A)

This full-day workshop involved presentations by Diane Bergeron and Janice Gurlitz of the CNIB as well as Kathy Macdonald and Annie Pipke of On Site Placement Services Association (OSP).  

In speaking with the students who were present, it was clear that the information they were receiving was quite valuable; all of them highlighting the importance of being a strong self-advocate.  When asked about what it means to be a strong self-advocate, Anthony, a Grade 10 student, said “You have to step up.  You have to be able to tell teachers/instructors what you need.  Your experience is your responsibility.”  

A few of the students also talked about the importance of good Orientation and Mobility skills.  Kelsey, a Grade 10 student who travelled from out of town to be at the workshop, came a day early to explore the University of Alberta campus with her mom and Niels Nicholajsen, a vision consultant and O & M instructor.  She was slightly astonished at how large the campus was, and found Diane Bergeron’s presentation on guide dogs to be particularly enlightening.  “I didn’t know that I was eligible for a guide dog, I had never thought about that before. I liked hearing about Diane’s success and independence.”  (Diane is a guide dog user herself and very familiar with post-secondary education -- to read more about Diane, please visit this article which features Diane as one of the participants in our panel discussion).
Thaddeus, a Grade 11 student, reflected on the fact that he still wasn’t exactly sure on what he would like to do.  He is considering law school as a possibility, but he’s not certain that it would be a good fit.   He seems to be taking it all in stride however, as he light-heartedly added, “I’m not going into the sciences, that’s all I know!”  

Over the next few years, all three of these students will have some big decisions to make, and their lives will likely change quite dramatically.  To carry them through this transition however, each one of them will have some strong personal attributes to draw upon.  For Anthony, he reflected that it was his determination, his advocacy skills, and his ability to set goals that would best serve him into the future.  For Kelsey, she will rely on her level-headedness, the small amount of vision that she does have, and her good communication skills, adding “I’m not afraid to ask for help!”  Thaddeus’ adaptability, self-reliance, and independence are what he believes will contribute to his future success.  

We wish these students, and all of our Alberta students, much success on the road to transition!

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