Prevailing over life’s challenges ‘gives me the advantage,’ says UMSL student

Mike Walker, a sophomore information systems major at UMSL, uses an automated Braille device to access a computer at a work station in Express Scripts Hall.

University of Missouri–St. Louis student Mike Walker overcomes challenges every day. Making the College of Business Administration Dean’s List two semesters in a row was no exception.

Walker, 20, was born without his sight. Growing up blind, he has learned how to do things differently than his sighted classmates. He maintains a demanding class schedule, a 3.39 grade point average and in his spare time, he works on programming and designing websites.

“I see it as an advantage,” said Walker, of Jefferson County, Mo. “Having to overcome challenges gives me the advantage because it makes me that much more capable of doing anything and succeeding.”

After graduating in 2009 from Fox High School in Arnold, Mo., Walker decided UMSL was the perfect fit for him. He said he wanted a university that offered an information systems program, since computers are his passion, and he wanted to make sure the campus and faculty provided the access he needed.

Walker said the Office of Disability Access Services at UMSL is great.

“That’s one of the reasons I chose UMSL, because of the services offered,” he said. “Through disability access services, I’m able to get my books transcribed into Braille or electronic format that can be read on my computer. They also provide me with the best walking route to and from each class, testing accommodations and student readers when I need them.”

Walker’s parents, Jan and John, take turns bringing him to campus. He uses a PAC Mate to access his classroom, lab and home computer. The portable device allows him to hook into any computer and an automated voice navigates him through websites while using a Braille keyboard.

Monica Farrell, senior academic adviser in the College of Business Administration, has worked with Walker since he started in the college.

“Michael is just amazing,” Farrell said. “He really does well in any situation and is determined to succeed. He doesn’t mind a challenge. To meet him is to like him. He is good at reaching out to others and I know he’ll go far.”

Walker said he enjoys college and loves UMSL. He hopes to get a job in programming after graduation and feels no matter what he does, he’ll be prepared.

“I don’t have concerns about my future,” he said.  “I know that UMSL is preparing me for my career and giving me the tools I need to meet any challenge.”

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