Post-school transitions of blind and partially sighted young people

It is estimated that 40% of visually impaired people aged 18-29 are not in education, employment or training. This study aims to better understand and challenge this very low statistic, by following around 80 visually impaired young people for three years as they move through different education settings and seek to gain employment.

The study forms the second phase of a five-year longitudinal research project. The young people involved joined the project in 2009 when they were in Year 9 (aged 13-14) and Year 11 (aged 15-16). In the first phase of the study (lasting two years), they were interviewed several times about their circumstances, progress, plans and support received. The second phase will now follow both cohorts for a further three years.

Research questions:

  • What are visually impaired young people’s experiences of transition from school into further and higher education, training and employment? What choices do they make and what are the outcomes?
  • What levels of independence do they have as they move through different phases of their life? How helpful are their independence skills during these transitions?
  • What services are available to them to support their transition? How will changes in the area of transitions and special educational needs (SEN) policy be implemented by different services?
  • How will these policy changes affect visually impaired young people as they move from school to the next stage of their education, training or employment?

In a follow-on strand of the project, the researchers will explore the experiences of those young people who went into higher education.

Due to the longitudinal nature of this project, these research questions are likely to evolve over time, as the researchers learn more about the experiences of the participants.

Project details



Dr Graeme Douglas and Rachel Hewett, University of Birmingham; Sue Keil, RNIB

Grant amount and duration:


1 April 2012 – 31 March 2017



Publicly available reports:

Transition to adulthood: Final summary report for project 'Longitudinal study of transitions experiences of blind and partially sighted young people (PDF)

Vision, Accessing Information and Accessing Benefits - Technical report of findings to December 2013 (PDF)

Young people’s progress and views of independence aged 16-19 - Technical report of findings to December 2012 (PDF)

Other detailed reports are available to download from this project page.

Academic journal articles:

Hewett, R., Douglas, G., McLinden, M. & Keil, S. (2017) Developing an inclusive learning environment for students with visual impairment in higher education: progressive mutual accommodation and learner experiences in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 32:1, 89-109.

Hewett, R., Douglas, G., Keil, S. (2016) The importance of self-advocacy skills: ‘This is what I can do, and these are the adjustments I require’. Paper presented to WBU-ICEVI Joint Assembly, Orlando, August 2016.

Douglas, G., McLinden, M., Robertson, C., Travers, J., and Smith, E. (2016) Including pupils with special educational needs and disability in national assessment: Comparison of three country case studies through an inclusive assessment framework. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. 63, 1, pp. 98-121

McLinden, M., Douglas, G., Cobb, R., Hewett, R. & Ravenscroft, J. (2016) ‘Access to learning’ and ‘learning to access’: Analysing the distinctive role of specialist teachers of children and young people with vision impairments in facilitating curriculum access through an ecological systems theory. British Journal of Visual Impairment. 34, 2, pp 177-195

Hewett, R., and Douglas, G. (2015) Inclusive Design: Its impact on young people with vision impairment. Journal on Technology & Persons with Disabilities. Vol 3. pp 277-290

Douglas, G & Hewett R (2014). Views of independence and readiness for employment amongst young people with visual impairment in the UK - The Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling. Vol 20 (2), pp 81-99

Hewett H, Douglas G & Keil S (2014). Post-16 transition experience of visually impaired young people in England and Wales: Early findings from a longitudinal study - British Journal of Visual Impairment, Vol 32 (3), pp 211-222

Published resources:

“Starting University” – Guidance resources for young people with vision impairment making the transition into Higher Education.

Supporting the achievement of learners with vision impairment in Higher Education.

Learner outcomes framework for VI children and young people.