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School’s out for Zara but her vision loss advocacy is just getting started

Since finishing school last year, academic high-achiever, accessibility advocate and goalball champion Zara has been keeping busy in the classroom and on the court.
Zara standing with window behind her. She is wearing a burgundy blazer with a black hat and smiling
  • Vision

Since finishing school last year, academic high-achiever, accessibility advocate and goalball champion Zara has been keeping busy in the classroom and on the court.

Zara has low vision and has been supported by NextSense expert teachers since kindergarten through our School Support Service. She recently took to the stage at our annual general meeting, where she was awarded the Dr Frederick Gregory-Roberts Prize for her outstanding performance in the 2023 International Baccalaureate exams. She was also part of a panel discussion at the event about her experiences and how NextSense has supported her.

Throughout her school years, Zara’s NextSense education consultants worked closely with her and her school, Ravenswood School for Girls, to ensure she had access to the same opportunities as her peers to succeed.

Zara’s low vision impacts the speed at which she can consume information, and she frequently experiences visual fatigue as result of this. Her NextSense education consultant explained this to her teachers and helped her advocate for additional time and rest breaks during exams, which she says made a huge difference in levelling the playing field.

Everyone has the right to access things in a way that works and sometimes they just need more accommodations in order to do this.

— Zara

While Zara is very independent and can sometimes find it difficult to ask for help, she says it’s imperative that people living with disabilities are able to access the world like everyone else. She has made a name for herself in the advocacy space, having recently participated in a campaign for Guide Dogs Australia to educate people about access rights for assistive dogs, and has featured on SBS discussing digital accessibility.

Learn as much as you can about accessibility options and adaptations, and even if you don’t feel you need them today, you never know when your situation might change.

— Zara

Zara says it helps to experiment with what technology and format works best for you as an individual. While she learned braille in primary school, she realised she worked faster and better on a computer, and finds text-to-voice apps like Voice Dream and Notability (which has audio-recording features) ‘absolute life savers’.

After scoring 37 in her International Baccalaureate program (ATAR equivalent of 94.5), Zara was accepted into University of Technology Sydney. She has followed her passion for theatre and writing, and is now studying towards a Bachelor of Communication, majoring in Writing and Publishing. She says she’s loving being able to choose what she studies and is meeting a lot of interesting people in the industry.

It's clear Zara has no plans to stand still. She is relishing her new studies and pursuing her passions outside of university life.

She recently returned from a goalball training camp in Hangzhou, China where she honed her skills, and is working towards her goal of representing Australia at the 2028 Paralympics in Los Angeles.

NextSense supports children in the classroom.

Find out more about our School Support Service.

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