Blind Paralympian shares academic story for International Day for People with a Disability

Lyn Lepore’s concerns about gaining a university education proved unfounded, as she has excelled in her studies.  Picture: Martin Kennealey        www.communitypix.com.au   d445486
Lyn Lepore’s concerns about gaining a university education proved unfounded, as she has excelled in her studies. Picture: Martin Kennealey        www.communitypix.com.au d445486

DESPITE having conquered the world as a Paralympian, Lyn Lepore thought her vision impairment put university out of reach.

But now, 14 years after claiming gold in women’s tandem cycling at the Sydney Paralympics, she is well on her way to finishing a degree in exercise science.

Ms Lepore shared her story of sporting and academic success at ECU to mark International Day for People with a Disability.

Not only has she excelled in written examinations, she has also topped her anatomy exams, where she had to identify parts of the human body solely based on touch.

The test included identifying a femur bone and determining if it was from a left or right leg.

Last year she also won the practicum award for the student with the highest marks for a practical placement unit.

“Being blind means I have a well developed sense of touch, which can come in handy,” she said.

“At the beginning of semester I like to go into the labs that my classes will be held in so I can go around the room and touch all the equipment and build an image of the room in my head.”

Ms Lepore, who recently started a job with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, said in addition to the support from ECU staff, technology had been a huge help in her studies.

“Textbooks and journals being available in audio form is a huge help for me,” she said.

“It does mean I have to listen to a whole article rather than skipping to the specific parts I need, which is time-consuming.

“But listening to all the information rather than just what I need for my assignment does give me a good overview of the topic I am studying.”

In addition to her hard work and dedication, Ms Lepore credits her success in her studies to the support offered to her by ECU staff.

“I have an assistant who comes to classes with me to help out with taking notes and explain things I can’t see,” she said.

Ms Lepore said there were some simple things her tutors and lecturers did to help her.

“Some of my tutors were a bit nervous about having a blind student I think, but once they realised they don’t have to change the way they teach much at all it wasn’t a problem,” she said.

“The main thing they do to help me is to describe and visualise data, like a picture or graph, rather than just pointing to it on a screen or projector.

“I’ve had some tutors say doing this has been helpful for all their students.”

Senior sports science lecturer Kylie Cormack said said Lyn was a model student.

“I was a bit nervous when she signed up for the course, to be honest I wasn’t sure how she would go,” she said.

“But Lyn has smashed our expectations of her, everyone is so incredibly proud of what she has achieved.”