Despite losing her sight halfway through her Griffith University degree, giving up was never an option for Samantha Alexander who graduated with a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the mid-year graduations today.
The indigenous Sydneysider, who studied her degree online, said the biggest hurdle was learning how to use voice-over speech software.
“When I started university I could still read text books, so not being able to read print was very confronting,” she said.
With the help of Griffith’s Disability Support Services, Sam taught herself how to use voice-recognition and speech software.
“From reading textbooks myself to having to listen to a monotonous voice read the text to me and remember that information was a huge learning curve.
“It’s an entirely different style of learning.”
Sam has an incurable degenerative eye condition called Cone-rod Dystrophy which affects her peripheral and central vision.
She is legally blind and had to give up her driver’s licence three years ago but has maintained her independence, completing an indigenous cadetship with NSW Corrective Services in 2014.
“I needed to be able to travel into the city alone which meant I had to begin orientation and mobility training and learn how to use the cane,’’ Sam recalled.
“I dreaded using the cane and I still detest holding it, but I wasn’t letting a stick hold me back.”
To the amazement of her orientation and mobility instructor, Sam taught herself the route (memorising stops and platforms) from the lower Blue Mountains to Central Station, Sydney, a program that normally would not be taught until someone had eight to 10 years of cane training.
Such persistence and determination also paid off in her studies, with Sam maintaining a high distinction average.
“I’m a perfectionist, so I’d have to get at least a distinction or high distinction or I wouldn’t be happy,’’ she said.
Now she has completed her undergraduate degree, Sam wants to continue learning and has been accepted into a Master of Forensic Mental Health at Griffith University.
“I want to be part of an organisation that can make a change and close the gap between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal people,’’ she said.
“My ultimate goal is to eventually assist Aboriginal offenders with their rehabilitation and make a difference.”