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From Paralympian to star student

Thursday, 22 October 2015

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Despite having conquered the world as a Paralympian, Lyn Lepore thought her vision impairment meant university was out of reach for her.

But now, 14 years after claiming gold in the women’s tandem cycling event at the Sydney Paralympics, she is well on her way to finishing a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science.

Lyn will share her story of sporting and academic success at an ECU event to mark International Day for People with a Disability, which is celebrated on 3 December.

Not only has Ms Lepore 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.

This test included a section where she had to identify a femur bone and also determine if it was from a left or right leg.

Last year she also won the Practicum Award, which is given to the student who gets the highest marks on their 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.”

Lyn, who will start a job with the National Disability Insurance Scheme in November, 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.

Lyn said there were some simple things her tutors and lecturers did to help cater for her needs.

“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 Exercise Sports Science Lecturer Kylie Cormack 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.”

Visit the Student Equity, Diversity and Disability Service website for more information about the support ECU can offer students with a disability.

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