Students with vision impairment who attend mainstream secondary schools in Australia may not experience education as an inclusive and positive experience. This study of one senior secondary student with vision impairment provides a rare opportunity to give voice and provide understandings of the experience from the perspective of the student. The research question that drove this study was: What is the experience of mainstream schooling for a student with a vision impairment? The participant in this Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis study was Edward (pseudonym), a student in his final year of secondary schooling. Edward encountered significant barriers to inclusion, specifically teaching, technology, administrative inflexibility, and restricted social engagement. The participant has become resilient with a strong sense of self and has developed a range of personal strategies to address his challenges. It is evident that Edward was rarely asked about his needs and perceptions, rather decisions were made for and about him by those without a vision impairment. Educators require a clearer understanding of vision impairment and the impact that their often unintentionally exclusionary teaching practices may have on the educational experiences of their students.


Disability, Vision Impairment, Inclusive Education, Barriers, Secondary Schooling, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Student Voice

Author Bio(s)

Jill Opie is an experienced secondary school teacher of Mathematics/Science undertaking doctoral research studies. Her interest in students with disabilities stemmed from a desire for all students in her classroom to reach their potential. After further studies in Education (Special) she has held several positions of responsibility in mainstream schools in this area. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jill.opie@monash.edu.

Dr Jane Southcott is an Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, at Monash University. Jane researches community engagement with the arts, inclusive practices and cultural identity focusing on positive ageing. Jane supervises many postgraduate research students. She is President of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Research in Music Education and on the editorial boards of international refereed journals. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jane.southcott@monash.edu.

Professor Joanne Deppeler is Associate Dean of Research Degrees in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. As a qualified educational psychologist and teacher, she has spent most of her career in educational contexts, with a particular focus on students experiencing learning challenges. Joanne is committed to advancing theory, research and practice in the field of inclusive education. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: joanne.deppeler@monash.edu.

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