AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


My Little Story: A Journey of Sight Loss and Education


My name is Claire shorten, I am 28 and I live in South Dublin.Claire Shorten - Profile Picture

When I was 20 years old I was attending Maynooth University in September 2010, studying a BA degree in Geography and Economics, hoping to eventually become a teacher. Unfortunately, my attendance at Maynooth University was abruptly cut short after a visit to Specsavers for an extremely slight loss of vision resulted in being sent to St. Vincent’s Hospital for an MRI Scan. The scan highlighted a large tumour in the left-hand side of my brain. I was stunned when the doctor told me. The tumour was benign but was pushing against my optic nerve which was causing the slight decrease in my vision.

The next day I went for brain surgery which successfully removed the majority of the tumour but unfortunately for reasons unknown to the medical staff my eyesight faded over the following three weeks. My hopes of my eyesight returning to 100% at that stage was lost. After over 20 years of full eyesight I was then and now classed as legally blind.

The first year was by all means the hardest. My life had drastically changed from attending Maynooth University, driving my blue Nissan Micra and enjoying the independence one with eyesight has. Yet, with the support of great family and friends I remained my positive, bubbly and upbeat self.

As the saying goes there are people stuck in worse life situations than me.

I immediately began learning my mobility around my area with the white cane by the aid of my community worker, Eileen Lynch, an absolutely lovely woman.

By September 2012, I was accepted in to the NCBI Training Centre which honestly felt like a home away from home. It was here I learnt to regain my ‘life skills’ including, braille, crafts, computer skills, cookery and even pottery. My mobility using the white cane continued until I was fully independent and able to get around by myself. Besides learning here how to live and get around as a blind person I also grew great bonds with the staff and fellow trainees. Some who I know will be friends forever.

After gaining confidence during my time in NCBI I was inspired to return to Maynooth University to study geography and history in the hopes of one day becoming a secondary school teacher. Maynooth University promotes a friendly, equal and supportive community. The access office is excellent, caring and are determined to create any support, for instance a personal assistance or technology like screen readers and 3D printers; allowances including extra support and extra time for exams, assignments and more. Their care and respect for anyone with any kind of disability creates an open and equal community for those who want to study, learn and achieve.

I graduated with my BA double honours degree in geography and history and am now currently in my second and final year of the Professional Masters of Education.

After losing my eyesight, I thought that the hope of becoming a teacher was gone but I knew, especially after entering NCBI that I might have a disability but still have the ability to teach. I have been in a school placement since my first year entering the PME, and practising as a teacher has confirmed that I can do it just as well, if not better than anyone else!

As Lenard Cohen once said ‘there are cracks in everything so light has to get in somewhere’. I lost my vision of light but through support from NCBI, family and Maynooth University, the need for seeing light is unneeded as I feel a light shining on me every single day.

A person who is blind does not have a disability but in contrast has the ability to teach, help and inspire other persons with vision loss to see this fearful obstacle not as an unreachable towering mountain but instead just a little bump here and there along the way.


Claire will be speaking as part of our upcoming Better Options Fair in RCSI on Monday 19th November. For more information on this event please visit our Better Options webpage. 

Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

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