by Amanda Lacy, edited by Hannah Cooper
Before attending the University of Texas (UT), I took classes on 2 varying campuses at Austin Community College, as did several other blind students. The paths felt safe. The layouts did not require us to share space with cars, bicycles, or other dangerous machines. There were only a few buildings to walk to, with sidewalks in between. Since I could not drive, I had to spend time on-campus between classes, or after class waiting for my ride. I was fortunate to have several spaces to wait, including a grassy hill with trees where I could walk around in the shade or sun. I also had a sheltered outdoor deck with an awning over part of it, or a safe indoor space, depending on the campus and the weather conditions. I noticed that vibrations on the deck enabled me to feel when someone was approaching me, which set my nerves at ease. I could also hang out in one of the computer labs that had my favorite screen reader, NV Access, set up on the computer, go to the cafeteria, or wait by the gym. The buildings had simple layouts. They had hallways that formed a square with stairs near the corners and a different texture to the floor, depending on whether it was a North/South or East/West hallway. Classes were generally small, with no huge lecture halls or open crowded spaces. This fostered an environment where people were able to get to know me, since there were safe places to go, and people were not packed so tightly together as to prevent me from distinguishing individual voices. The University of Texas was nothing like this. Navigating the campus, with its ever-changing construction zones and chaotic movement of vehicles, bicycles, and students who might snap my cane in half as they zipped by, was a regular and frequent source of fear, with no calm place for me to rest when I arrived where I was going. At UT, I was lucky if I could catch my breath for a few minutes in a family restroom, which was locked halfway through the semester so that it could be of use to nobody.
Moreover, Texas A&M University is like a big inner city. There are very few places on the A&M campus where a student can find peace and quiet to collect their thoughts, eat, or enjoy nature. On campus, most outdoor spaces are paved, and most buildings emit loud drones from the mechanical equipment on the roof. Blind people generally rely on environmental sound cues and paths with distinct edges to navigate city-like environments, so the vast areas of pavement throughout campus make navigation significantly trickier.
Regarding environmental sounds and clarity, one study revealed that the visually impaired (1) feel comfort, safety, and clarity in parks, residential communities, and shopping streets; (2) have negative perceptions of vegetable markets, bus stops, hospitals, and urban departments; (3) feel anxious when traffic sounds, horn sounds, manhole cover sounds, and construction sounds occur; and (4) prefer spaces away from traffic, with fewer and slower vehicles, with a suitable space scale, and moderate crowd density. These results provide a reference for the future design of activity venues. 
Additionally, the findings of another study revealed that the visually impaired find navigating inside buildings and public spaces full of unfamiliar features, open spaces, and crowds too difficult to attempt the first time, reducing confidence in independent navigation. Navigation inside buildings by the visually impaired is a challenge, as it takes a long time to become familiar with spaces, which leads to the need for sighted people’s assistance; there is also a problem regarding distance estimation and instruction to the destination. In the outdoors, people who are visually impaired can sense and use environmental cues using the white cane, while inside public spaces, many of the environmental cues cannot be used due to various difficulties. 
Paving over the grass means that the sidewalk has no edge that can be ‘shorelined’ with a cane. It is a large, flat empty space like a desert where explorers get lost, often with no way to be sure one is walking in a straight line, or into the street. Additionally, hearing may be impaired by the droning noises on the top of most buildings alongside careening echoes.
The visually impaired are not alone in being stressed out by this kind of environment. While people inside are insulated from the infrasound-emitting devices, anyone attempting to find quiet in the outdoor common spaces will be fighting the noise from above as well as the busy-ness of students all around them. During the passing periods between classes, campus erupts into a swarm of students moving as fast as possible to get to the bus to get to their class, and any thought you might have is disrupted. If you cannot bring a car onto campus either because you cannot drive, or because parking garage rates are $9/day (currently), you can only bring what you can carry on your back, or roll around in a suitcase. This is a challenge for people who are slight of build, or who have disabilities. I only ever have one hand free, so my carrying capacity is limited by my cane. There is only so much you can carry before you have diminishing returns and new problems, like back strain.
Conclusively, navigating college campuses can be a challenging and stressful experience for visually impaired students due to the chaotic movement of vehicles, bicycles, and crowds, as well as the lack of safe and peaceful spaces to rest and collect their thoughts. Additionally, the design of the campus, including the layout and the presence of environmental cues, can significantly impact the experience of students with visual disabilities.
 Jeamwatthanachai, W., Wald, M., & Willis, G. (n.d.). Indoor navigation by blind people: Behaviors and challenges in unfamiliar spaces and buildings. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0264619619833723
 Zhang, S., Zhang, K., Zhang, M., & Liu, X. (2021, December 13). Evaluation of the visually impaired experience of the sound environment in urban spaces. Frontiers. Retrieved January 3, 2023, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.731693/full