My son graduates from secondary school in 2022. But he shall attend university in Australia or UK — where you must apply for ONE major — not liberal arts in the USA. He wants to pick BSc Math with Statistics for Finance, or Financial Math and Statistics. His secondary school MATH teacher advised us that statisticians must work with software and programming.

But son is legally blind, and suffers from Computer-induced medical problems. We have taken him to consult two ophthalmologists and three optometrists. They all advise the same thing — he must try to minimize using computer and screen devices. None of them took university statistics, and they cannot comment whether son should study statistics at university.

What can you advise please? Will his legal blindness and computer induced medical problems, thwart or stymie him from BSc statistics? What about PhD statistics? Thank you.

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    $\begingroup$ I have added some tags that might be appropriate. Please feel free to modify them if you feel they are inappropriate (or other tags are more suitable). $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Nov 7 '21 at 10:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, have you considered asking this question on academia.stackexchange.com or stats.stackexchange.com? While cross-posting is discouraged, if you do not get useful answers here, you might want to look into whether one of the above Stack Exchange sites would be a better fit for your question. If so, please remember to link to your question here (unless you decide to delete it). $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Nov 7 '21 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, I think the bigger difficulty may be being able to follow on during lectures. Mathematics involves a lot of complex formulas, etc., and those are hard to translate into accessible forms for the visually impaired. Yes, there are accommodations, but most professors are not going to be willing to entirely change their way of teaching to accommodate the visually impaired nor do they really have the knowledge of what kinds of accommodations would be useful. $\endgroup$
    – Isaiah
    Nov 8 '21 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ My prediction would be that avoiding computers is impossible (or near impossible) in statistics and challenging in most other majors also. So I would ask those specialists whether continued use of a computer really makes your son's vision deteriorate further. The WP article you linked to left me with an impression that the computer induced impaired vision is mostly related to old terminals and/or not taking the necessary precautions (limiting daily hours, larger fonts,...). I really don't know the truth. A suggestion could be to also contact disability services at the university. $\endgroup$ Nov 17 '21 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ (cont'd) My experience (as a university teacher) is that those people are good at finding solutions, or at least helpful suggestions. I have had a few students with varying degrees of vision impairments, and they seemed to cope with due remedies in place (not sure whether they all graduated though): versions of all printed material in larger fonts (easy in the age of LaTeX), screen readers, assistants,... $\endgroup$ Nov 17 '21 at 13:08

I suspect the avenue to answering this revolves much more around his condition and his reaction to it than it does around statistics as a field. For one thing "legal blindness" is a pretty different thing than complete blindness. I also admit to ignorance of "computer induced medical problems" syndrome (for example how well is it understood, how much does it vary, etc.--just having a wikilink is not like Euclidean certainty.) Also, of course there have been completely blind people who still made contributions in science/methods. Bottom line is I would get some more second opinions (including having him examined) as well as checking out some forums or the like for the blind community. As well as just working with him and seeing how he does.

On a simpler level, I do think working in statistics involves a significant amount of reading, writing (typing nowadays), and coding. If he has a hard time with those activities, it may hold him back. For example (statistic of one), I had a (since recovered) low brain blood flow several years ago and found that it interfered with detail work. Still pretty bright, could converse, even do PPT and Excel in a business setting. But Word footnotes (never an issue previously) were extremely hard on me. Something about detailed reading was trickier for me.

So I really think attention to him and trial of different activities is the key. More so than theoretical ideas of what is required for statistics.

On a practical level, if it's something you/he want to do, I would not let the first contrary answer* turn you off. At the same time, from a Bayesian standpoint, it's not promising that the first answer was negative. And we don't know how much of an examination they did, etc. So...good look into it some more, since...why not? But don't assume that the initial advice was invalid either. Just check some more.

*Rereading, I see it is 5 people that you talked to, not just 1. That doesn't sound good. Still, if it's something you want to do, maybe check in with some other people, such as a neurologist or psychologist who specializes in treatment of the blind. I guess also talking to someone in the blind community (or an occupational therapist) might be helpful as well. For example, an avenue to explore would be how well can Braille substitute for computer text, especially in the work of an applied field. (I don't know, would check to learn.)


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