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Bachelor with distinction for blind student Henk Mulder

In 2008, a traffic accident suddenly turned Henk Mulder’s world upside down. The now 27-year-old UT student lost his eyesight. It was not a reason for him to give up his studies. Henk switched from the Mechanical Engineering programme, which he could not continue due to his impairment, to the Technical Computer Science programme. He recently earned his bachelor degree with distinction. 

A passing grade is not enough 

Henk laughs when the fact of his earning his degree with distinction is brought up. “It was never my goal to graduate with distinction,” he says – not without pride. “But for me, it was simply necessary to be really familiar with the material. I have learned that an attitude of settling for mediocre grades will eventually weigh me down as my studies progress.”

His academic results reflect the enormous efforts he made over the past few years. “Occasionally, as a blind student, you do run into the limits of accessibility. You must also make sure to always show up. Substantive contact with teachers is essential. The lectures and tutorials are the best way for me to acquire knowledge. It requires me to actively participate during the lectures. I cannot afford to sit around and play with my phone during a lecture.” 

Studying with special needs 

Once he had sufficiently recovered from his moped accident, it was time to consider how he would move on with his life. “I had given up the idea of continuing my Mechanical Engineering studies. That method of studying, which I had liked very much, was simply no longer possible for me. I have always been interested in electronics, ever since I was young, and I have an affinity with automation. The choice for Computer Science was an obvious one.”

The University of Twente sat down with Henk to find ways for him to study successfully. “It calls for a custom solution. Both parties had to explore the possibilities. A whole new world opens up with, for example, text-to-speech software. Still, you encounter practical issues from time to time. Textbooks are the biggest hurdle, because they have to be converted. That is a process that can take several months. It requires you to always know which books are going to be used next in your studies. It is also difficult to convert mathematical and technical textbooks, especially when they contain a lot of diagrams.”  

Perspective for the future 

It is hard to say what the future might bring. In any case, Henk will try to earn his master’s degree next. “I have chosen the specialisation of Methods and Tools for Verification within the field of Computer Science. It will probably take me a while, but I’m going to give it my best shot and we’ll see how it goes.”

At the same time, he has been given the opportunity to put his expertise into practice at Nedap. “Studying takes up a lot of time, but this is also a wonderful opportunity to work on interesting projects. We first came into contact with each other because they were looking for someone with experience with using their applications in a non-visual manner. Now, I look under the hood of their products one day per week. It gives me the chance to put my expertise to good use.” 

Laurens van der Velde
Press relations (available Mon-Fri)