top of page

Learning Journey...

Shari with short black hair, smiles to camera, standing in front of a sign that reads UNSW Sydney on a yellow background, alongside  the university crest.

As I continue learning about
Orientation & Mobility, and Audio Description, this is where I'll share my discoveries and reflections.

I invite you to write to me if anything I share inspires you to contribute,
to correct me (oops!), or to continue the conversation.  

Who am I...

My previous qualifications, work history and how I got here.

My first love was Theatre. I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2000. The degree gave graduates some proficiency at most things related to theatre; such as voice lessons, physical training, script analysis, acting, directing, playwriting, stage management,  and lots more.  In 2012 I completed another Bachelor of Arts, this time an extended Major in Literary Studies from the University of Queensland (UQ). 

In this same year I'd just started a new job as a producer at Queensland Theatre, having spent the last 11 years at La Boite Theatre Company. It was at Queensland Theatre when an email from Vision Australia popped into my inbox. They were looking to recruit more Audio Description (AD) volunteers in Brisbane. I had never heard of Audio Description, so when I learned more I knew immediately it was something I'd enjoy and to which I could contribute my strong communication skills and share my passion for the arts. I auditioned for the AD team, completed the initial training and have been AD-ing live events in Brisbane ever since. Musicals, plays, ballet, opera, kids shows - all of it. It's a great challenge, very fun and rewarding.

Fast forward to September 2022, and another email pops into my inbox from Vision Australia. They're offering volunteers a short introductory course with an O&M Specialist. I had never heard of an O&M Specialist, but I was eager to learn more skills that would service the Blind and Low Vision community and complement the work I did as an audio describer. After one session of O&M training I was hooked. I felt strongly that this was a way to put my energy and expertise towards a vocation that would provide immediate and irrefutable benefits to society.

My ambition is to spread awareness and appreciation for the Blind and low vision community (and by extension all folx who identify as Disabled). This includes improving access to cultural and social events through educating producers, organisers and venues about their responsibility to ensure inclusion, and finding ways to demystify and destigmatise the experience of Blindness/low vision for the general public through advocacy and leading change by modelling best practice in my own behaviour and work, and keeping a growth mindset; acknowledging that as a sighted person, I will always learn best from listening to the experiences of people with Blindness/low vision.

Shari backstage, audio describing. She is smiling, wearing headset, and next to her a sound console, microphone and monitor displaying the Tivoli stage with a huge mirror ball in the center of the screen.

What is O&M
and Why? 

My O&M Specialist philosophy.

​My understanding is that an O&M Specialist is a person who, in partnership with a person who is Blind or vision impaired, obtains the skills, strategies and information required to ensure that person develops, maintains or regains their agency and independence in society. 


So far, my training and experience working with Disabled people and in the disability service sector has shown me the empowering position of the Social Model of Disability whereby existing societal, environmental and attitudinal barriers are what actually prevents Disabled people from full and equal participation in the community. From this position the onus falls on institutions, laws and individuals to remove these barriers to create greater social equality. 

To this end, an O&M Specialist may assist their clients in any or more of following ways:

  • Developing literacy skills

  • Investigating alternative forms of access to print information

  • Developing problem-solving skills

  • Skills to navigating safely through known and new environments

  • Understanding Human Rights and Disability Law to ensure clients are not subject to discrimination

  • Investigating new assistive technologies 

  • Workshopping mobility and orientation techniques with the client and their family or close social circle to achieve shared goals

  • Exploring and developing social and self advocacy skills when seeking assistance from strangers

  • Demonstrating Disability Pride, advocacy and allyship in the face of ableist attitudes and systems and working to  remove these.

  • Maintaining a Duty of Care to their client, while having a respect for their privacy and autonomy. 

  • Keeping thorough records of the clients development, progress, challenges and goals, and the corresponding O&M recommendations, and documentation of the training deployed and skills acquired.

I expect the function of an O&M Specialist shifts and evolves as the needs and ambitions of their clients change over time.

Creating Accessible Documents.

Assessment Task, February 2023. 

This is the very first assessment task I had to complete for the O&M Course I have started at UNSW.  Can you believe I've been creating documents for 30 years but this was the first time I'd ever been shown how to make them accessible to people who use screen readers? Now I'm in a flurry of adding "alt text" to every image on this website, but also to the website of my other job and being much more discerning about how to keep documents, emails and webpages sleek and simple with good contrast and text clarity. 

My assessment task was to learn how to make text, emails and webpages more accessible. An excellent resource to aid my learning was supplied by Guide Dogs Australia.

Below is my evidence screenshot of having completed the “How to make Word documents accessible” module.

Screenshot . Teal background. Top left corner reads Assessment Overview. Beneath this in the centre of the screenshot, a white circle with a tick inside it. Beneath this reads Your score: 100%
Screenshot of Shari's UNSW VISN5513 Moodle page showing a module titled Creating Accessible Documents Assessment. Text below reads that Shari made 1 attempt at the assessment and recieved a grade of 100.

NDIS Check.

Australian check for working with people with Disabilities.

In 2023 I am studying a 'half load'  which means that I will not undertake my practical Work Integrated Learning (WIL) subjects until 2024. It is for this practical component that O&M students are required to complete an NDIS Worker Screening check.  

However, because I volunteer as an Audio Describer for Vision Australia, I already have, what we call in Queensland, a yellow card - which is a category of NDIS Worker Screening check. The image of my yellow card below features a large letter V in the top right corner to signify my volunteer work in the disability support sector. 

In 2024 I may need to apply for a different type of NDIS Worker Screening check if the nature of the Work Integrated Learning is not categorised in the same way as my AD volunteering. 

Yellow ID card. Top left corner reads NDIS Worker Screening. Beneath this an ID photo of Shari's face, and to the right of this her Full Name, NDIS Number (blacked out) and Expiry Date 26/10/2026. QLD government logo in bottom right corner. Letter V in top right corner

Accessibility Checklist.

This website is my ePortfolio, being built as an assessment task for the course titled "Orientation and Mobility Foundations: Disability, Diversity and Inclusion".

To demonstrate I've understood the fundamentals of making information more accessible for people with disability, this entire website must satisfy each item on an accessibility checklist.


The checklist below outlines the accessibility features required. A tick symbol beside each item indicates compliance, and a down arrow indicates the feature is not applicable in this website.

Is this website actually accessible?

  1. I have used Vision Australia’s Colour Contrast Analyser (CCA) tool to check the contrast between text and backgrounds in my ePortfolio is acceptable

  2. I have applied heading styles to headings and subheadings.

  3. I have made all headings, document titles or page titles unique.

  4. I have used bulleted or numbered lists for any list content.

  5. I have added descriptive alt text to all images which communicate a meaning to users.

  6. I have used a sans-serif font for all paragraph content (e.g., Arial, Calibri, Helvetica).

  7. I have used bold font for any words or phrases that are being emphasised (rather than italics, ALL CAPS or underlining). 

  8. I have turned all URLs into accessible hyperlinks.

  9. I have enabled header rows for any data tables and have not used split or merged cells.

  10. If the platform or program I am using to create my ePortfolio has an accessibility checker, I have used it after completing my ePortfolio to find and fix any remaining accessibility issues.

Free Braille lessons!

Reflection on learning, week ending 19 March 2023.

I'm especially enjoying lectures from Dr Emily White. Dr White's passionate advocacy for the rights and pathways to independence and agency for people with low vision or blindness is very evident and motivating. 

I was excited to discover through one of Dr White's lectures that there is an online course that lets anyone learn basic Braille. UEB (Unified English Braille) Online is an accessible Braille training course delivered entirely online with no special additional equipment required. The course is free and aims to allow more access to Braille understanding and usage in the community. 


Visit UEB Online here to learn more about Braille and register for the course

Screenshot of UEB Online homepage with a 6-dot Braille icon in the top left corner

Low Vision Simulators 

Creating simulators for various eye conditions.
Assessment task, March 2024.

It's March 2024 and I've recently returned from two weeks of intensive training at the UNSW Kensington campus in Sydney. Fun fact: the Latin motto of UNSW is: 'Scientia Corde Manu et Mente' which means 'Knowledge by heart, hand and mind' - and that feels particularly fitting when learning the art and science of Orientation and Mobility.  These two weeks included lessons in human guiding, how - without vision - you'd familiarise yourself to a room, how to search for dropped objects without vision, techniques for using a long cane to travel indoor and outdoor routes, including crossing roads and going up or down stairs.  We worked in pairs, taking turns being the 'student' under blindfold learning to use a cane, or the 'instructor' providing O&M instruction. 

Shari wearing large black tunnel vision simulator goggles. She gives a goofy smile and makes the 'peace' sign with her hand.

Why make low vision simulators? Making a cup of tea, brushing one's teeth, eating a meal, or watching TV are all ordinary activities that people with low vision will continue to perform throughout their lives. Low vision simulators aim to replicate the experience of having various eye conditions, and when worn can help the burgeoning O&M Specialist to better appreciate the real-life and day-to-day challenges for folx with low vision. Spending time under simulators can also help the friends, family and colleagues of someone with low vision to better appreciate what elements of (or habits within) a home or work place can cause a hindrance or be a wonderful help to a person's safety, participation and independence when living with low vision or blindness.

Black Blindness/No Light Perception

A grey total light blockout sleepmask with orange 'manta' logo on the front, and padded eye-cups on the back.

This blindfold simulates black blindness/no light perception. Some diagnoses include  cerebral visual impairment through accidental trauma, congenital conditions or foetal exposure to pathogens which interrupt the development of the eyes in utero. Trauma to, or advanced disease in, both eyes, may also result in black blindness.

​Total blindness has a profound impact on performing the activities of daily living. The utilisation of other means of sensory perception must be incorporated with assistive technology, mobility aids and orientation techniques to engage in activities like reading, preparing meals, or travel. Effective O&M support to facilitate the integration of all these tools, techniques and adaptations can ensure a person with no light perception can remain independent in their travel and activities of daily life.


Tunnel vision

Large wrap-around safety goggles, painted black all over, except for one pea-sized transparent area remaining in the centre of each lense.

This simulates the significantly reduced peripheral vision experienced with a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), where the visual field is reduced to a narrow tunnel, due to the degradation of retinal cells, which can continue over a person’s life.  RP is a genetic condition the presents between the ages of 10 - 30 years. This simulator replicates a visual field of less than 10 degrees.

Tunnel vision has significant impacts on activities of daily living, such as walking and navigating obstacles, and is exacerbated in low light conditions. Reading is possible, however close manual tasks like eating or preparing food require extra attention to perform as functional vision must be targeted to the immediate task. O&M training and mobility aids, such as the long cane, provide people with RP alternative methods to perceive terrain changes, detect obstacles, improve personal safety and decrease collisions.

Diabetic Retinopathy 

Clear saftey glasses have a black mottled pattern painted over both lenses.

This simulates the scattered scotoma, glare sensitivity, and loss of acuity experienced with a diagnosis of Diabetic retinopathy (DR). This vision loss is a related complication of diabetes, whereby damage to the retinal blood vessels may cause bleeding, edema and scarring. Poor management of a long-standing diabetes diagnosis and high blood pressure can increase the risk of Diabetic retinopathy. This simulator replicates an advanced stage of proliferative diabetic retinopathy where all areas of the visual field have scotoma or lost acuity.


Impacts vary depending on the stage of the condition and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Blurriness or scotomas affect both eyes and render reading, driving and night-vision difficult, and can also impact mobility and colour perception. O&M support could be useful in finding strategies to reduce visual clutter in their environment, safety around mobility and way-finding and night-time travel.

Central vision loss

Clear safety glasses have been painted black from the bridge of the glasses across to almost half way across both the left and right lenses.

This simulator attempts to replicate late-stage wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) a condition that presents in adults over 50 years, where distortion and blurriness occurs in the central visual field, and can degrade to total, sudden central vision loss due to abnormal growth of blood vessels and resultant bleeding beneath the retina.

Greatest impacts to daily activities include difficulty with close, detailed work such as reading, crafts, putting on make-up, or recognising faces. O&M implications could investigate improvements for task lighting, techniques for using peripheral vision, and alternative access to print materials.


Clear safety glasses have been coated in clear nail polish making both lenses blurry.

Cataracts result from the thickening and hardening of the eye’s lens causing cloudiness. Although light still reaches the retina, its diffusion creates very blurred vision and a sensitivity to brightness and glare. Cataracts are commonly found in older adults however some conditions can cause congenital cataracts.  This simulator replicates advanced cataracts in both eyes, whereby the entire visual field is affected.

The loss of visual acuity results in extreme difficulty with close or detailed tasks like reading and writing. Sensitivity to glare can impact the person’s comfort and capacity to travel outdoors or under bright light.   O&M instruction would need to be undertaken in suitable conditions, and making adaptations to environments and ‘everyday objects’ so that they could be recognised through better colour contrast, shape, size, and appropriate lighting.


Two pairs of safety glasses, one stacked  on the other. The top pair has the left half of both lenses obscured by black tape. The bottom pair has the right half of both lenses obscured with black tape.

A cerebral vision impairment, hemianopia is the loss of vision through damage to a specific location in the brain’s visual pathway, resulting from brain trauma through accident or stroke. The vision loss is restricted to only one half of the visual field, such that damage to the left visual pathway results in a loss of vison to the person’s right visual field, or vice versa. This condition affects both eyes, and the image here displays a simulator for both a left hemianopia (top) and right hemianopia (bottom).

The lost field of view on the affected side has implications for activities such as driving, sports/social participation, and mobility in new or unfamiliar environments.  O&M techniques such as scanning could ensure functional vision captures the information/hazards on the vulnerable side of their body.

Tasks Under
Low Vision Simulators


Fine motor task: Making tea wearing your central vision loss simulator. 

Put one tea bag into a mug, pour out water from kettle (pre-filled), remove tea bag into bin, and pour one teaspoon of sugar into the tea.

Shari wearing central vision loss sims, stands at kitchen bench pouring water from a kettle into a mug. The steam of water is close to the edge of the mug, not in the centre.
Shari wearing central vision loss sims stands at kitchen bench, one hand on mouth of sugar jar, the other lifting a teaspoon out of the sugar jar.
Shari wearing tunnel vision sims stands near a pedal bin. Her foot is activating the pedal, and the bin lid is open. She lowers a teabag with one hand into the mouth of the bin. Her other hand holds a mug.



Answer YES or NO to the following outcomes:

TASK                                 Y/N                 COMMENT

Dropped teabag                NO               Tea bags got tangled                                                                      when being removed

                                                              from box, really annoying.

Missed cup when

placing tea bag inside it     NO             Used touch to check                                                                        alignment


Spillage of water                YES           Aiming water pour                                                                           required some guesswork.

Spillage of sugar                NO            Could use touch to check 


Missed bin for tea bag        NO            Used guesswork for                                                                          bin-alignment. Helped                                                                    having a wide-mouthed                                                                   bin.

Other                                  N/A

No Problems                       N/A



1 = very easy

2 = easy

3 = difficult

4 = very difficult


Pouring water and untangling tea bags was difficult because touch was not an effective tool to solve those tasks.  Elements where I could rely on touch to align things like the sugar or placement of tea bag in cup meant the loss of central vision could be compensated for. 


Fine motor task: filling a dosette box wearing your central vision loss simulator.

Fill a dosette box with medications for 7 days, by reading the prescription instructions, opening the dosette box lids, fill compartments with ‘pills’ according to instructions, and close dosette box lids.

Shari wearing centra vision los sims sits at a table. In front of her on the table is a dosette box, a jar of vitamins and a box of mints. She has one hand cupped with pills inside it, her other hand touching the pills in her palm.
Shari wearing central vision loss sims sits at table and holds up a dosette box close to her face.
Shari wears central vision loss sims, sitting at a table. On the table in front of her is a vitamin jar and box of mints. Shari's hands are opening a compartment of the dosette box, inside it we can see some pills in other compartments.


Answer YES or NO to the following outcomes:

TASK                                Y/N              COMMENT

Dropped pill                      YES             Difficult to target grip on                                                                 single pill

Wrong pill type                  NO  

Wrong pill numbers           YES

Wrong compartment         YES            Compartments tricky to                                                                   differentiate     

Other                              Reading fine print of prescription was                                             extremely difficult

No Problems                    N/A 



1 = very easy

2 = easy

3 = difficult

4 = very difficult


Reading instructions and labels took a long time, pill sizes meant that they were fiddly and easy to drop. Took a lot of concentration and double-checking to ensure the task had been performed correctly. I failed to place pills in one of the required days/compartments because I was not systematic enough when using my sense of touch to track which compartment I had to open next. I must have skipped over a compartment (Monday) by accident.


Navigation task: washing hands at sink wearing your tunnel vision simulator.

Navigate to the sink (distance of 50 to 70 cm- use a ruler or meter to be sure about the distance), wash and dry your hands, and return to your starting point.

Shari wearing tunnel vision sims walks towards a kitchen sink, 1 metre in front of her.
Shari wears tunnel vision sims, and stands at a kitchen sink with her hands under the stream of water from the faucet. She looks over her shoulder at the camera.
Shari wearing tunnel vision sims, dries her hand on a teatowel attached to the handle of a cupboard below the kitchen sink. Her head is bowed low so she can see the teatowel.

Answer YES or NO to the following outcomes:

TASK                                       Y/N              COMMENT

Wrong direction                      NO

Unable to switch on tap          NO

Unable to switch off tap          NO

Unable to fully wash hands    NO

Missed bin when placing

paper towel inside it                NO

Other                                      NO

No Problems                           N/A




1 = very easy

2 = easy

3 = difficult

4 = very difficult


Only difficulty was navigating to the sink as I was wary of not being able to see the change in flooring or trip hazards. 

bottom of page