Blind World Magazine

Boman overcomes obstacles with masters degree.

January 24, 2006.
PonokaNews - Alberta, Canada.

“I’ll get my degree regardless of whether I go or not, but I think I’ll go and walk across the stage.”

That is exactly the extra mile mentality that can eventually earn you a masters degree just as Ponoka resident Sue Boman has done.

Going the extra mile is probably old hat for Boman who is legally blind.

“Losing eyesight doesn’t diminish your other faculties,” says Boman, “blind or partially sighted people have varying abilities and interests just as sighted people.”

One of the interests for Boman was continuing her learning. Receiving a masters degree through distance learning is normally considered to be a remarkable accomplishment. Boman has now set the bar for what is considered remarkable one notch higher. The author and former Ponoka elementary school teacher has not only recently finished her Integrated Studies degree online at Athabasca University, but had to overcome her own vision loss to achieve to reach her goals.

“Learning how to do this, was just as much of an accomplishment as actually learning the material from the course. To complete the distance course I relied on technology.”

Imagine trying to go through post secondary level courses without being able see anything in print. It is impossible to read your textbooks or simply being able to use a mouse.

“No there is no using the mouse. I needed specific learning to cope with it, the computer program operates solely by keyboard strokes.”

That also means no skimming over material the night before exams, no highlighting key points in the textbook for reference, and no looking back to review what has already been read if you don’t understand.

Boman had some help from a volunteer reader with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind out of Red Deer. Elva Smith recorded the reading material to CD, and then ships them to Boman. This assistance along with specialized audible screen reading computer programs helped Sue through her courses. The program reads aloud to her whatever e-mail or text appears on her computer screen.

These are just a few examples of the hurdles Sue has had to clear to finish her degree. Although finishing wasn’t always foremost in her mind.

“The technical challenges were nearly overwhelming at the beginning, says Boman. “When I first started the course I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it a secret in case it didn’t work out.”

Boman says she felt like a bit of a trailblazer when first starting the program.

“I felt isolated when I first began the program. I didn’t know any other visually impaired students.”

Things ended up working out better than she expected after receiving her first marks.

“I passed my first course with flying colours, I got an A+, which was when I ventured to tell my family and loyal friends. I know I couldn’t have done it without the great people who were behind me.”

Boman also met several other students in similar situations while researching for her thesis on post secondary education for visually impaired students at the U of A.

“I was actually one of six online students who were visually impaired. It gave me the feeling that other people like me were out there.”

Boman says she believes the research from her thesis could be vital for helping create change.

“I consider my research to be fairly important as there is not much else out there. I feel as though I have made a contribution.”

Boman obviously has strong feelings about her accomplishments, but she speaks most sincerely when talking about the frustrating part of her vision loss.

“I miss seeing the faces of my close friends and family. I find it most difficult that I can’t see peoples faces when I am talking to them.”

Boman is no stranger to great accomplishments, in 2004 she received a White Cane leadership award from the CNIB named after former president Euclid Herie for her motivational speaking.

Boman has spoken to support groups locally and across the country about partial vision loss and blindness issues. Boman says perception from the sighted community can be a difficult thing to understand.

“I think most sighted people think of blind of as somebody with a guide dog and a white cane. In many instances life for people who have partial sight loss can be a lot more difficult for the sighted to understand.”

Boman says a small percentage of clients within the CNIB are actually completely without sight.

“The timing of this interview is really good,” says Boman. “ February is low vision month here in Alberta.”

Boman is very concerned about the seniors in Ponoka going through vision loss alone.

“The older generation Seniors who deal with low vision or vision loss are really by themselves. We need to reach out. I think most are trying to make themselves understood to others around them.”

Boman facilitates a support group locally for people who are blind or have partial vision. The group normally meets 1:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday every month at the Anglican Church Hall. But a special meeting for low vision month is being held at the Rimoka Lodge Feb. 8 at the usual time.

© Copyright 2005 Ponoka News

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