Graduating in Chemistry as a Blind Person

Graduating in Chemistry as a Blind Person

Author: ChemistryViews

Bernhard Tschulnigg studied chemistry at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree, despite being blind from birth. He tells Walter Schneider, GÖCH office, Vienna, Austria, that, at the age of nine, he got his first chemistry set and began experimenting alongside his sighted friends. At school, he had a very dedicated chemistry teacher, who fueled his passion for the subject, leading him to pursue chemistry despite the numerous challenges he faced. This decision caused quite a stir at the university; however, Austrian law permits physically disabled individuals to study any subject they choose.

In principle, the problems are similar today, he says. Technological advancements have improved the situation to some extent, as universities now have representatives dedicated to assisting students with disabilities and managing their daily academic routines. However, the extent of support received ultimately depends on the individual professors encountered. Many professors have limited experience with inclusive education, resulting in a lack of expertise in accommodating the needs of disabled students.

Unfortunately, the university was ill-prepared to accommodate Bernhard Tschulnigg’s needs, requiring him to take charge of organizing everything himself. Despite these obstacles, he achieved excellent exam results, particularly in organic chemistry under the guidance of Professor Kräutler. Thanks to his support, Bernhard Tschulnigg was able to participate in a lab course on preparative organic chemistry. His fellow students assisted him by modifying the written materials, such as molecular structures, into formats that a blind person could comprehend. During this time, he extensively used molecule kits for experimentation, enabling him to visualize the structures he was working with.


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