Visually impaired Leeds student on course to boost disability representation in teaching

A visually impaired student at Leeds Trinity University has set her sights on a career in teaching and hopes to boost disability representation in the profession.

By Tom Coates
Friday, 13th May 2022, 11:45 am
Lily has a guide dog named Zen.
Lily has a guide dog named Zen.

Lily Walsh, 19, is completely blind in her right eye and visually impaired in her left eye as a result of a genetic condition called Peter’s Anomaly.

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Research commissioned by Guide Dogs, a charity that helps provide mobility for the blind and partially sighted, has shown that 71% of parents of visually impaired children feel there are not enough people with disabilities in the public eye.

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Lily and her guide dog Zen were paired up back in 2019.

The research surveyed 1,700 UK-based Britons with a child aged seven to 12, including parents of 220 children with a visual impairment.

Lily, who is from Liversedge, is now training to be a teacher at Leeds Trinity University despite admitting to realising there are not many teachers with disabilities like the one she has.

She said: “When I was younger I wanted to work with animals, as I grew up surrounded by them, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I started college.

“I realised that there aren’t many teachers with disabilities like my own. I think it’s important for young children to see people like them represented in what some people might call ‘challenging professional job roles’ such as teachers.

“I have had my sight condition all my life so I have learnt to do everything with a visual impairment. I’m very proud of everything I have accomplished."

The research also found that 43% of parents of visually impaired children do not feel the world is inclusive enough for those with visual disabilities, meanwhile 37% felt there is a distinct lack of opportunities for people with visual impairments.

29% said they were worried their children would not break into the career of their choice but Lily is on the path towards a career in education and has a work placement lined up for this month.

She said: "University life is challenging but rewarding. I can see the progress I have made, not just in my studies but also as a person, from September when I started, to now.

“My favourite thing about training to be a teacher is of course the children. I haven’t actually been in a classroom yet - my first placement starts in May. What I would also say is, finding out about the science behind teaching and learning is extremely interesting.”

Lily has a guide dog named Zen, a yellow golden retriever labrador cross, and the companion has been by her side since 2019 when they were first paired up.

More information on support for those who have experienced sight loss can be accessed here.