Overcoming challenges to gain a degree


Monday 26 Sep 2016

Charles Sturt University (CSU) student Ms Shelley Thompson, who is legally blind, is showing that having a disability doesn't mean higher education is out of reach.

Photo of Ms Shelley ThompsonThe 23 year-old was recently awarded a Bachelor of Theology and is now undertaking Honours research through CSU's School of Theology.

She aims to become a counsellor providing pastoral guidance in aged care, something that sprang from her volunteer work at a retirement village.

"While there, I became increasingly aware of the loneliness experienced by elderly people and their need for someone to talk to, who will listen to the concerns they often don't get to express," said Ms Thompson.

"To counsel these people and fulfil that need will be a very rewarding experience once I have the qualifications to do it."

Ms Thompson lost her sight when she was a baby as a result of a medical condition called Hydrocephalus, which is when excessive cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the brain.

She admits university study has been challenging but said she has been well supported along the way.

"Studying at university level has allowed me to develop and build on a number of skills, including, but not limited to, time management and organisation," said Ms Thompson.

"I would say, without a doubt, my biggest challenge has been the amount and volume of reading involved in university courses.

"However this difficulty has been overcome thanks to the tireless work of those in the Charles Sturt University's Disability Service, who spent a great deal of their time converting my textbooks and readings into electronic files that can be accessed by screen reading software such as JAWS.

"My lecturers too were very helpful and supportive, some emailing me the Power Points they were going to use for their lectures in advance.

"The library staff were also exceedingly helpful to me, working with me for many hours, helping me to find books I needed and research topics, scanning articles for me and always being friendly and supportive."

Her message to others contemplating study is simple.

"My key advice is don't be afraid to accept an offer of help or ask for it when you need it. Disabilities are not weaknesses, just challenges which need overcoming," she said.


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Media contact: Ms Emily Malone and Ms Fiona Halloran, (02) 6933 2207

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