NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Legally blind people can do all kinds of tasks, even drive, thanks to specialized low vision devices.
Such tools have helped a low-vision Stephen F. Austin State University student proceed through nursing school, but graduation may be placed on hold.
The honor student shared her reasons for filing a discrimination grievance, which was denied by SFA.
Megan Dauenhauer has known nothing but low vision in all of her 21 years.
"I was born with albinism which causes low vision.," Dauenhauer said.
However, low vision devices enhance Megan's view.
"These are my bifocals and they're regular prescription glasses. I only use these for mostly paperwork," Dauenhauer said. "This is my dome magnifier. I just use it for reading fine print."
The accommodations enabled Megan to be accepted into SFA's School of Nursing in 2015.
"I completed two years of prerequisites which was anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, those kind of classes," Dauenhauer said.
Aside from course work, Dauenhauer completed all of her clinicals working one on one with patients. Her devices allowed her to study and read fine print seen on all those medicine labels.
"I completed two semesters, almost three of nursing classes and clinicals," Dauenhauer said.
During clinicals, the A/B student received four failure days, referred to as "F" days. Daunhauer accepts two of them. She questions ones that fell within two weeks' time.
"I failed a clinical that wasn't even scheduled," Dauenhauer said.
Dauenhauer was in the midst of a clinical, but at the wrong Lufkin hospital. Realizing the mistake she traveled to the correct hospital only to find out that clinical had been canceled. She got the F anyway.
In Dauenhauer's grievance, another "F" day is contested after she spent a day with a Longview nurse.
"She said that I was having problems taking out IVs and flushing out IVs, all skills that I've done since first semester," Dauenhauer said. "Professors have seen me do these skills and have checked me off on those skills."
Throughout Megan's grievance, she writes of nurses and professors frequently questioning her about her vision impairment and criticism of how close she stood to monitors and patients.
"I wasn't just like that close," Dauenhauer said, indicating with her hand inches away from her face.
Megan voluntarily left the nursing program. Just one more F day would mean dismissal for failing, something she didn't want on her transcript.
"Because I really feel like another professor would have given me the final F day to get me kicked out of the program," Dauenhauer said.
However, Dauenhauer said a SFA advisor suggested a discrimination grievance. Letters of support came from low-vision experts, including her low-vision specialist with Longview Eye Associates, Dr. Justin Ward. He wrote, "Under no certain terms should her visual impairment keep her from performing competently as a nurse."
"I don't want a visually impaired individual to have to change what their dream is or what their career path is because of their vision," Ward said. "If we can help it than that's what we're trying to do."
Karen McCulloh, a presidential advisor and the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities co-founder, said there's no research that indicates nursing students with disabilities cause patient harm.
"There's nothing there," McCulloh said. There's a perception."
It's a perception McCulloh says is based on ignorance.
"You see amazing things happening," McCulloh said. "When they don't happen then that is indicative of what the school doesn't know what is possible."
Dauenhauer is still absorbing this afternoon's news that her request to be reinstated in the SFA nursing program and be readmitted into the Honors Society is unreasonable. Her future possibility is her biggest unknown.
East Texas News contacted SFA for comment on this story, but a spokesperson said the university is not permitted to discuss this matter under federal law.
Dauenhauer provided us with her grievance packet and the letter she was e-mailed this afternoon.
The vice president for academic affairs concurred with the recommendation that Megan seek an alternative education/career path.