Packing for college

College life: Extra baggage & necessary supplies

A college student who is deafblind due to Usher Syndrome discusses how he chose his living arrangements and describes what he plans to take to college.

We all have some baggage that we bring with us, and for some it may be more than others.  Each of us has different circumstances, as well as individual needs and desires.

I began my post-secondary education at a local community college, where I completed my general elective courses.   I lived with my parents and traveled between home and school daily.  After two years and earning 42 credits, I decided to research other possible universities.  After I was accepted as a transfer student at the school of my choice, I started to discuss the best living arrangements with my parents and the university.

Deciding about housing arrangements

The question about living arrangements is important to consider because there are many options, opinions, and ways to analyze the costs.  The choices of living arrangements include on-campus suite-style housing, on-campus traditional or standard living, and off-campus apartments.

Each university has differing availability and guidelines, depending on student preferences and financial circumstances.   Different personal or professional attitudes may affect the decision process of the housing situation.  The student should be at the center of the decision process and must learn to communicate effectively and advocate for his or her specific housing needs.  This often requires proper documentation to demonstrate the need to meet reasonable accommodations.

The cost of housing can be sizable and sometimes surpasses the cost of tuition for some public or state institutions.  Determining the most appropriate housing depends on the student’s best interest at the present, as well as his or her future goals after completing school.  I am developing an awareness of all of the considerations of the group regarding possible housing arrangements.  The outcome will require some adjustment, but should be filled with excitement that comes with both the challenges and the successes of being more independent.

Checklist for college housing

Most students plan to bring bedding materials, laundry & cleaning supplies, proper clothing, a TV, mini-fridge, microwave, any personal items, and other standard items that the university recommends that they bring.  The items contained in this general list can apply to everyone and provide a good start to a more independent lifestyle.  Although the list claims to encompass all and is a decent beginning, I wonder how a person with a disability, particularly deafblindness, should begin to create their list.  What specific needs or considerations should be included that are not part of the general list?

Housing needs of a college student who is deafblind

My specific disability of deafblindness, my particular housing needs, and the accommodations I need affected the final decision.  As a person with Usher Syndrome, I have limited tunnel vision in certain lighting conditions, as well as a severe hearing loss.  I use hearing aids to function in daily life.  My legal blindness has led me to work with a certified guide dog to help in my travels, and this has been a great partnership.  During my education I prefer to live alone on campus, without roommates at this time, due to my needs.  I use a sonic boom clock to keep me on schedule and a specialized fire alarm system for my safety.  With my limited vision I require a constant stream of some source of light, throughout the day and night, which may be disruptive to roommates.  I own and operate many assistive technology devices, which help me to access my academic studies, and to perform other needed chores.  I enjoy creating friendships through activities, but would like a quiet room to rest and focus on my studies.  I have been approved for a single room (12 x 19 feet)  feet) in a traditional style.  I will live with few private luxuries, and have an optional communal kitchen, common restroom with bathing area, and a room to set up to according to my needs and preferences as a deafblind student.  I am beyond satisfied with this arrangement.

Individualized packing list for a student who is deafblind

In addition to the general list above, my individual list includes a sonic boom clock, dog crate/bedding, dog toys, printer/scanner, dog training/equipment (harness, leashes, collars, and treats), specialized fire alarm system, laptop (with assistive software), docking station, large monitor, low vision aids (handheld magnifiers, monocular, and transformer), braillenote display, and visual/tactile labels for household appliances (microwave, any kitchen needs, laundry/cleaning supplies, etc.) The items contained in the list may be of good use to some deafblind individuals, depending on specific needs and preferences.

The customized list may have some similarities or differences among people in the deafblind community, but that is not my purpose in sharing my experience.  The question to be answered is what are the needs of each individual during the transition process, and what will promote independence?  The specific accommodations needed by a student who is deafblind, as well as their preferences for a suitable living arrangement, are important considerations in making a smart decision, so that all parties will be satisfied.  The point in sharing my experience is to demonstrate to incoming freshman, as well as to transfer students, the need to plan and prepare for college life with some extra baggage as part of the necessary supplies.

By Hunter McGowan