Transitions Study: longitudinal study from age 14 of blind and partially sighted young people in the UK


2012 - 2016

Principal Investigators
Rachel Hewett 
Professor Graeme Douglas 
Dr Huw Williams

Contact details
Phone: 0121 414 4394

The Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) at the University of Birmingham is undertaking a longitudinal study which commenced in 2009. The current phase of the project which runs from 2012-2015 is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and is looking at the transition of blind and partially sighted young people from the age of 14 years of age through to employment or further education. Phase 3 is being funding by Thomas Pocklington Trust and will focus in particular on the participants’ experiences of transitioning into the labour market and independent living.

The key objectives of the project are: 

  • To track the process of transition for blind and partially sighted young people from age 14 for the next five years. 
  • To identify the roles of professionals involved. 
  • To identify the factors that improve or reduce a young person's chances of gaining employment.

Eighty participants were originally recruited into the study in 2010, and since then they have been interviewed twice-yearly. Our findings have been presented in a series of Technical Reports, available below, as well as papers in peer reviewed journals and research briefings.

The research has been a collaborative project between Graeme Douglas and Rachel Hewett from VICTAR, Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs and Sue Keil from Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), who initially funded Phase 1 of the study (2009-2011).

In Phase 3 in addition to continue to track the experiences of our participants, we will also be developing guidance based on our research findings to help support young people with visual impairments through the various complex transitions they have to navigate, as well as guidance for those providing support to them..


Pathways through Transition Conference. This one day conference showcased the latest findings from this research on 1st July 2015. Find out more

CSUN 2015 - Inclusive Design: its impact on young people with visual impairments

Media Access Australia (January 2015)

Listen to Dr Graeme Douglas discussing the project on BBC Radio 4 programme 'In Touch' (October 2012)

Rachel Hewett presents findings from the research at visual impairment seminar in Dublin (November 2014). 

Research Reports

Phase One reports:

A survey of visiting teacher services for blind and partially sighted students

A survey of the transition experience of visually impaired young people 

A survey of the social activity and social networking of blind and partially sighted young people 

Phase Two reports:

Young people’s progress and views of independence aged 16-19

Vision, Accessing Information and Accessing Benefits

The Transition Experiences of Young People with Visual Impairments aged 17-21 (Year 3)

Support and information received by young people with visual impairments (Year 3)

Young people, visual impairment and preparing to live independently (Year 3)

Wellbeing of young people with visual impairments (Year 3)

Experiences of blind and partially sighted young people as they make the transition into Higher Education 


Hewett, R., and Douglas, G. (2015) Inclusive Design: It’s impact on young people with vision impairment. Journal on Technology& Persons with Disabilities. Vol 3. pp 277-290.

Douglas, G., Hewett, R. (2014) Views of independence and readiness for employment amongst young people with visual impairments in the UK. The Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling. Vol. 20 (2). pp 81 - 99.DOI is 

Hewett, R., Douglas, G., Keil, S. (2014) Post-16 transition experience of visually impaired young people in England and Wales: Early findings from a longitudinal study. British Journal of Visual Impairment, Vol. 32 (3), pp. 211-222. DOI: 10.1177/0264619614535374