RNC Sociology students welcome mainstream peers to discuss what discrimination really looks (and feels) like

RNC student Michal is at the foreground of the photo, guiding someone wearing a blind fold. Behind him there is a line of people with an RNC student on one side and a visitor with a blind fold on the other side. The main RNC student hub building is in the background.

As the annual work experience week takes place at RNC (Royal National College for the Blind), we look back at a visit we had earlier this term from A Level Sociology students studying at Avonbourne Sixth Form College in Bournemouth. The visit was linked to an ongoing RNC and Erasmus project which looks at the topic of discrimination in employment.


RNC Sociology teacher Ali Straker began the day by welcoming our visitors and giving them the options of what they wanted for lunch, handing them all braille menus. Ali explains “There’s a misconception that people think fairness is about treating people the same and that you should give everyone the same things so I wanted a simple demonstration to show that’s simply not true. I gave all of our sighted visitors braille menus, which of course they couldn’t read; this gave them an idea of what our students feel like when they’ve been excluded.” This set the tone for the day, where the aim was for the visiting Avonbourne students to improve their awareness of visual impairment. Throughout the visit they were paired up with different RNC students and had tasks such as describing different forms of assistive technology, putting on a blind fold and being guided, learning how to write their names in braille and learning how to play VI sport. RNC student Ibz Iqbal, 19 from Birmingham, says “We all got on really well and I think that it was good for them to see us getting around independently and doing things for ourselves – it’s good for people to visit here and go away knowing that being blind isn’t like having a disease!”


For the main task, students were put into mixed groups to talk about the protected characteristics, under the Equalities Act, and focussing on how direct and indirect discrimination might occur. Ali Straker explains “Part of the A Level course is the sociology of education so there is an obvious link between access and attitudes towards disability in the workplace.” RNC student Alicia Jackson, 19 from Cumbria, knows a thing or two about educational discrimination as her she had to fight for over two years to enable her to get local authority funding for her place at RNC. Mum, Linda Jackson, says “After our first visit to RNC Alicia told me it was the first time she ‘felt normal’ and I just knew that this was the place that she needed to be.”


RNC student Dave Parfett, 19 from Derbyshire, says “It was interesting talking about sociology and discrimination with a different group of people because there are completely new perspectives. We had a bit of a ‘speed dating’ session and I got all the common questions about “What can you see?” I never would have spoken about it before but since being here I’ve become more comfortable talking about my VI.” RNC student Muniba Shah, 22 from Hereford, says “I don’t think a lot of these Avonbourne students had ever seen anyone with VI before so they didn’t understand it and found it fascinating that we can find ways around doing things and make adaptions.” Alicia jokes “A lot of them had never met anyone VI before, I don’t know what they were expecting but I think they were shocked by how normal we actually are!”


Following their visit, the Avonbourne students spoke positively about what they had learned, some quotes included;

  • “This experience has changed my view on disability.”
  • “The students at RNC showed me that they’re just as capable as someone without visual impairment.”
  • “I felt really comfortable talking to them and asking them what happened to them for their visual impairment to occur; this was something I was a little bit apprehensive on asking before.”
  • “We have to be helpful rather than hindering and give people what they need, not what we think they need.”


After the visit, Ali Straker commented “Our students got so much out of the visit which was beneficial for their studies but it was also about helping them with their confidence in speaking openly about their VI and their access requirements, which will be especially useful when they leave RNC and enter the workplace. I was really proud of the way they represented themselves, and the College, in changing people’s perceptions about visual impairment.”

Visit the RNC Facebook page to view more photos from the Sociology visit


If you are aged 14+ and you’re interested in finding out more about your options for the future, come to the RNC Open Day on 23 March 2018.

If you have any questions, please call our student enquiries team on 01432 376 621 or email info@rnc.ac.uk

Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC


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