RIDBC staff and Renwick Centre graduates showcased their expertise at last month’s South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment (SPEVI) Conference in Adelaide.
For SPEVI Co-President and RIDBC Renwick Centre Lecturer, Dr Fran Gentle, the Conference is a special one.
“There are limited opportunities for families of children with vision impairment and vision professionals to come together to share ideas and experiences,” she said.
Four RIDBC staff facilitated sessions during the conference which was attended by 150 delegates, comprising specialist vision teachers, orientation and mobility instructors, assistive technology experts, therapists, families and young people with vision impairment.
In line with the conference theme of Creating a Clear Vision for the Future, RIDBC experts facilitated the following sessions.
Promoting Early Literacy — Little Readers Program
Ana Radis and Sonali Marathe presented at the SPEVI conference on a new project – The Little Readers Program.
According to Sonali and Ana, “The Little Readers Program was developed to address the unmet need for appropriate books for children aged 0 to 5.years with vision impairment and blindness. While children with sight have numerous books available to choose from, there are but a miniscule fraction of books available for kids with a vision impairment,” they said.
A team of professionals contributed to the Early Learning (Vision) program including:
- Early childhood specialists to gather information about early pre- literacy development.
- Occupational therapists to understand fine motor and tactile skill development.
- Specialist teachers (vision impairment) to understand the child’s pre-braille skill development.
- Publication Officers to create an accessible version using appropriate guideline, with print and braille.
The presentation generated a lot of interest from professionals in Australia and New Zealand with a number of people wanting to join the program.
The study of braille reading fluency from students around Australia and New Zealand
Tricia d’Apice – RIDBC Senior Consultant and Teacher of Vision Impairment.
Tricia reported on the results of her previous research on braille literacy fluency rates of students throughout Australia and New Zealand. As hypothesised, the braille readers were generally slower than the reading rates of their sighted peers.
“Parents of sighted children often invest time and money into their children’s literacy, this is not always possible for parent of a child who is blind” Tricia said. “Braille books are rarely, if ever, available at bookstores or local libraries. As well, the parents rarely know the braille code.”
dAp Dots was driven to address this need. Named after creator Tricia d’Apice, dAp Dots is a set of resources that allow parents, caregivers and teachers to learn the braille code along with their braille reading children.
Tricia’s knowledge and expertise around the needs of children learning braille and their parents is drawn from decades of experience teaching braille.
Although the dAp Dots program is in its infancy, many children, educators and families are benefiting from the program as they learn and develop skills in the braille code.
More information here.
Global priorities in education for children with vision impairment
Dr Frances Gentle – RIDBC Renwick Centre Lecturer.
“My presentation was well attended — delegates were interested in learning about my role as President of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI)” said Dr Gentle.
“A key issue is improving the quality of education for children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries. In my presentation I described some of the key initiatives of the United Nations, ICEVI and the global education community in this space.”
Dr Gentle also spoke about the 2019 framework of disability-inclusive education published by UNICEF and the International Institute for Educational Planning.
“The framework is a useful tool for measuring our own education service delivery for children with vision impairment and their families. It also shows how, as vision professionals, we can contribute to building a strong foundation for quality education for vision impaired children in developing countries,” Dr Gentle said.
Key takeaway from SPEVI 2020
“I enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues from across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and felt recharged and inspired by the leadership and expertise of RIDBC staff and graduates of the RIDBC Renwick Centre who showcased their professional expertise” said Dr Gentle.
“I loved networking with other professionals in the field, showcasing what we do at RIDBC, scanning the sector for innovation in service provision and coming back wanting to implement new ideas,” said Sonali.