Succeeding at the college level requires opportunity, hard work, and a few key resources at the right times. Sometimes these resources are technological, academic, or career-focused, other times they’re financial in nature. And when it comes to financial aid for college, the best sources are scholarships and grants. The following guide offers students with visual disabilities more than 20 unique resources and 20 scholarships and grants to help them with their college journey.
Scholarships for Students with Visual Disabilities
Tuition and fees can put pressure on just about any college student. Some students cover the costs by working full-part or part-time while in school, others take out loans, and even more do a combination of the two. One way to reduce the impact of tuition on your pocketbook is to earn a scholarship or grant. These forms of college money are the best because you don’t have to pay them back. Once you earn the money, it’s yours, as long as you continue to perform at or above the standard needed to keep it. Here’s a collection of some of the top scholarships in the U.S. for students with vision loss or impairment.
American Council of the Blind (ACB)/American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
$2,000 to $7,500 (varies by specific scholarship)
Open to applicants who are legally blind studying full-time and maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or better. Additional requirements may apply to specific scholarships. Available to freshman, undergraduate, and graduate students, as well as students attending technical college.
How to Apply
Follow the link on the scholarship webpage to obtain an ACB account. Applicants will receive an email with a site link to complete their application.
Blind Veterans Association
$1,000 and $2,000
Open to legally blinded military and veterans, and their children, grandchildren and spouses. Must be accepted for admission or enrolled in a full-time program at a college or university, or business, secretarial, or vocational training school.
How to Apply
Follow the instructions link on the scholarship webpage. Application requirements include submission of high school/college transcripts, three reference letters, and a 300-word essay on the applicant’s life and career goals.
The Chicago Lighthouse
$1,000 to $5,000
Open to students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. Applicant must be either an Illinois resident attending any school of higher education or a non-Illinois resident attending school in Illinois.
How to Apply
Follow the application link on the scholarship webpage. Application requirements include an eye report, proof of financial need, official transcripts, personal essay, and two letters of recommendation.
Council of Citizens with Low Vision International
Open to full-time college, trade school, and vocational school students (3.2 or higher GPA) with documented low visual acuity according to stated program guidelines.
How to Apply
Follow the link on the scholarship webpage to create your account and submit your application. Requirements include proof of acceptance into a college program, school transcripts, proof of low vision, and two professional/academic letters of recommendation.
The Juliette RP Vision Foundation
Open to visually impaired U.S. high school students admitted to college and current college students demonstrating “extraordinary promise to improve their lives and the lives around them.”
How to Apply
Follow the links on the scholarship page to download the printable application or fill out the online application.
Medical and Health Scholarships
Association of Accredited Public Health Programs
$500 (undergraduate); $1,000 (graduate)
Applicant must be enrolled in a public health degree program at an AAPHP member or affiliate institution. Excellent academic standing (GPA of 3.5 or better) is required. Awards are made to support student-led public health projects, such as a practicum or research project.
How to Apply
Contact the AAPHP for application requirements and instructions.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
$500 to $10,000
Eligibility requirements vary by specific scholarship. In general, applicants must be in the junior or senior year of a baccalaureate degree or coordinated program in dietetics, or the second year of a dietetic technician program, dietetic internship, or graduate program. Awards are made based on academic achievement, professional attributes, and financial need.
How to Apply
Application for all foundation scholarships is made online through the website’s application portal.
American Medical Women’s Association
9/30/20 (cycle one); 12/31/20 (cycle two) (annual)
Open to AMWA members who are currently in medical school and demonstrate the embodiment of the goals of the AMWA. Financial need is considered but not required.
How to Apply
Follow the application form link on the scholarship page. Application requirements include submission of financial information, completed essay responses, and one letter of recommendation.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)
1/31/20, 4/30/20, 7/31/20, and 10/31/20 (awarded four times each year)
Open to nursing students with a 3.2 or better GPA enrolled baccalaureate or higher degree program at an AACN member school affiliated with CastleBranch or who applied to nursing school through NursingCAS.
How to Apply
Complete and submit the application form on the scholarship website. Application requirements include a short essay (250 words maximum) explaining the applicant’s goals and aspirations as they relate to their education, career, and future plans.
Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team at Fennemore Craig, P.C.
Applicant must be enrolled in or applied to a physical therapy or occupational therapy academic program.
How to Apply
Follow the application instructions on the scholarship website. Application requirements include a recent resume or CV, school transcripts, and a 500- to 750-word essay on why the applicant wishes to pursue a career as a physical or occupational therapist.
5 Keys to Landing Your Scholarship
There are several types of scholarships: merit-based (awards made based on academic, athletic, or artistic achievement); need-based (awards made according to applicant’s financial need); and special interest-based (where eligibility is determined by certain stated criteria, such as minority-group status or membership in a particular association, organization, or occupation). Regardless of the specific program type, practically all scholarships are competitive, meaning that awards are made to those applicants who are able to stand out from – and above – the rest. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you do everything right when applying. Think of your application as an interview, and you only get one chance to make a good impression. With that in mind, here are five keys to follow when submitting scholarship applications:
- Key #1: Apply early.
Get started on the application process as soon as possible. You never know when you’re going to have a problem getting a required document (like a school transcript or letter of recommendation) in on time. And when it comes to scholarships, a missed deadline spells certain doom.
- Key #2: Apply often.
Apply to a lot of different scholarships. There are certainly a ton out there, national and local, big and small. Put some real time and effort into your scholarship search and don’t be shy about applying. Remember, you’re not limited in the number of scholarships you can win.
- Key #3: Make sure you really meet the eligibility requirements.
Applying often doesn’t mean applying mindlessly. Scholarship programs have specific eligibility requirements that must be met. No fudging allowed. So, be sure you meet all requirements completely. But when you do, apply away.
- Key #4: Go for the hard ones.
That is, don’t be afraid of those scholarships that require more work. The fact is that scholarships programs that require a greater effort (in the form of longer essays or completion of a video or special project, for example) typically have fewer applicants. And fewer applicants means a better chance of winning.
- Key #5: Proofread everything.
Aside from a missed deadline, nothing will sink your chances of winning a scholarship award faster than spelling errors and bad grammar. So, read everything over, and more than once. It’s also a very good idea to have a few relatives or friends read your proofread your stuff, too.
College Resources for Students with Visual Disabilities
As mentioned, there are dozens of scholarships and grants to help pay for college, and we’ve provided a sampling. But financial resources are only a part of what’s available. There are also academic resources, like internship and mentoring programs, as well as social and networking groups, and professional associations and organizations, all dedicated to helping visually-impaired students meet their education and career goals. Here’s a look as some of the best:
Academic & Career
An initiative of the nonprofit Benetech, Bookshare provides access to practically any book needed for school by students with disabilities, including blind and visually-impaired readers. Books are accessed in a number of formats, including Braille, audio, large font, and word-level highlighting. Bookshare membership is free to qualifying disabled U.S. students.
- Emerging Leaders Program for College Students with Disabilities
Sponsored by the National Business & Disability Council, this program places undergraduate and graduate college students with disabilities in internship programs throughout the U.S. with a wide range of major corporations and organizations. Placements include Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health care provider.
- Humana College Programs
Health insurer Humana, Inc., places great emphasis on its support of inclusion and diversity in its work force. Humana offers a variety of summer internship positions for college undergraduates and graduates primarily at its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Additionally, Humana offers full-time entry-level to analyst and consultant-level positions to both recent college graduates and graduate-level students.
- Learning Ally College Success
Learning Ally’s College Success program provides a range of support services to legally blind and visually impaired college students, including articles on accessibility technologies, effective learning, communicating with professors, and more. Members also have access to mentors and in-person and virtual community events. Membership is free.
- University of Illinois Library: Blind/Visual Impairment Resources
Created for visually impaired students at the University of Illinois, this site is an excellent source of useful information for college students with visual disabilities everywhere. Included are subsections on web, academic, and reference resources, and common assistive technologies.
Social & Networking
- Blind and Sighted People with iPhones
Blind and Sighted People with iPhones is a Facebook group specifically devoted to iPhone users, both with or without visual disabilities, where members and visitors can learn about and discuss the world of accessibility potential of their phones. Visitors interested in selling or giving away their iPhones are also welcome.
- Blind and Vision Impaired Social & Support Group
The Blind and Vision Impaired Social & Support Group is a Facebook group with over 6,000 members worldwide. The purpose of the group is to provide a forum where members with visual disabilities can support each other and “stop the isolation caused by blindness and low vision”.
- COSD Full Access Student Summits
Sponsored by Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, COSD Full Access Summits bring up to 60 current and/or recently graduated college students in a given regional or state area together with ten select employers for two half-day educational and networking events. The goal of these events is to have students become comfortable talking with prospective employees. Although not hiring events, these summits often lead to employment and internship opportunities.
- Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring (DREAM)
Sponsored by the NCCSD, DREAM is a national student-run organization connecting and supporting students to become effective leaders and advocates for change on their campuses. Through the DREAM website, students can access an array of resources and materials, as well as the College While Disabled blog.
- Lime Connect
Lime Connect is a global NPO whose goal is to “rebrand” disability through achievement by connecting university students and professionals with disabilities by providing a wide range of services. Programs offered include scholarships, internships, and fellowship programs, recruitment receptions, campus events, and other networking activities.
Advocacy & Diversity
- American Council of the Blind (ACB)
The ACB is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to advocate for the independence, security, equality, and quality of life of the blind and visually-impaired. Resources for college students include scholarships, peer support, job listings, and useful information and guides, like this Guide to a Successful College Experience.
- Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER)
The AER’s mission is to serve and empower professionals in the improvement of educational and rehabilitative outcomes for blind and visually impaired persons. Student AER memberships are available (for a fee) to those enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs. Benefits include access to online discussion groups and networking and scholarship opportunities.
- Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)
AHEAD advocates for “creating welcoming higher education experiences for disabled individuals” through its membership of disability resource professionals, student affairs personnel, and others. AHEAD hosts several special interests groups within its organization, including one for graduate and professional students and one for blind and low vision persons.
- National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD)
A federally-funded project of the U.S. Department of Education, The NCCSD provides assistance to disabled students (including those with visual disabilities) and their families through its Clearinghouse and Resource Library, the use of social media, and DREAM, its national student group.
- National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
The NFB is the oldest and largest organization of blind and visually-impaired Americans in the nation. The NFB advocates for the blind through a range of services, like its National Association of Blind Students division, and resources, like this Self-Advocacy in Higher Education Toolkit.
- American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Student Associate Program
Boasting a membership of over 48,000, the AHCE is an association of healthcare executives whose goal is to promote excellence and advancement in the healthcare management field. Its Student Associate program is open to healthcare management and health services administration students. The program sponsors a range of education and career support services, including scholarships, internships, publications, and networking events.
- American Public Health Association (APHA) Student Assembly
With over 7,000 members, the APHA Student Assembly is the largest student organization in the U.S. focused on the development of the next generation of public health professionals. The group provides a variety of services and activities that allow members to gain leadership experience, enhance their educations, and network with their peers.
- HOSA – Future Health Professionals
The HOSA is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the delivery of quality of healthcare and promoting career opportunities in the healthcare industry. HOSA provides a host of leadership development and motivational services geared toward healthcare students on in all fields and on all academic levels. Services include internships, scholarships, in-person events, and online webinars.
MedScape is a great medical news and information site for practicing medical professionals and health care students alike. Information can be accessed through the site’s extensive list of individual health care subfield pages. Visitors will also find links to MedScape’s general and CME & Education apps for Apple and Android devices.
- National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
The NSNA is a nonprofit organization with over 60,000 members whose mission is to mentor nursing students preparing for initial licensure as RNs, and to foster the development of students in all levels of nursing academic programs. The NSNA sponsors a range of events and member services and benefits including publications, conferences and conventions, career planning guidance, and more.