Bursary puts Connor on track to creating a more accessible world

26 May 2020

Connor McLeod is passionate about accessibility.

18 year-old Connor is in the first semester of his first year of a Bachelor of Science and Information Technologies at the University of Technology in Sydney.

Connor rose to prominence when his petition became the driving force behind the introduction of tactile features on Australian banknotes in 2016.

Connor lives with low vision due to an inherited eye condition called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. This condition impairs the development of the retina, the part of a person’s eye that responds to light.

“I have light perception, usually just enough to help with mobility. I can only see larger, more contrasted shapes and it is in no way helpful in terms of education,” Connor said.

Vision Australia CEO Ron Hooton with a younger Connor McLeod
Caption: A younger Connor McLeod with Vision Australia CEO Ron Hooton.

To support his studies, Connor applied for a Vision Australia Further Education Bursary, through which he received a BrailleSense Polaris 32-Cell Braille Notetaker.

“I needed the device that I applied for to help me with Uni and it’s quite expensive,” he said. 

“I’m using it to take notes and read notes while I’m watching lectures. I’ll probably also use it to take notes in Q&A sessions and tutorials in conjunction with my laptop,” he said.

“If you’ve got a screen reader chattering in your ear while a lecturer is chattering in your other ear you tend to miss things.”

Connor’s degree will open up a number of career opportunities for him, in particular he’s interested in developing accessible computer applications.  

“Whatever I make has to be accessible. I can test it myself. I would want to make sure it is usable for other people who have faced accessibility difficulties in the past.

“The BrailleSense is really going to make it easier for me to gain the knowledge that I’ll need to progress in that field.”

The bursary has put Connor on the path to achieving his goals and he had some advice for other students who are blind or have low vision.

“Advocate for yourself. Make sure you know what you need and then make sure others know what you need, in that order.”

The Vision Australia Further Education Bursary program has supported more than 400 students who are blind or have low vision to follow their dreams. By supplying them with the necessary assistive technology, Vision Australia has made it possible for students like Connor to succeed in their chosen area of study and go on to achieve their long-term career goals. Learn more about the Vision Australia Further Education Bursary today.