Online resources for blind youngsters are 'sub-standard'

16th May 2008 at 01:00
RNIB vows to continue campaign for a national education transcription service. Emma Seith reports
RNIB vows to continue campaign for a national education transcription service. Emma Seith reports

Government plans to provide educational materials for visually-impaired pupils via an online service are "sub-standard" to the national transcription service it has been demanding for the past three years, says the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The charity's hopes for a centrally-funded centre which would transcribe textbooks, study guides and past papers into large print, Braille or audio were dashed this week.

Instead, students and teachers will from August be given access to adapted materials through the Scottish Books for All database powered by SCRAN, one of the largest educational online resource banks.

The result, says the RNIB, is that resources for blind youngsters will continue to "lack consistency" and will be "reactive, not proactive".

The RNIB has vowed to continue its campaign for a national education transcription service for Scottish students which, it argues, would provide "the best method of producing high-quality educational material for blind and partially-sighted schoolchildren".

A spokesman said: "The current arrangements do not fulfil the right of blind and partially-sighted children to have access to the educational material they need to maximise their learning."

Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years, said there was no need for the type of national transcription service backed by the RNIB because steps were already being taken by the Government.

These included piloting the Books for All database, a project that began in April and is scheduled to be assessed in June, and changes to copyright legislation which will make it easier for teachers to share resources.

Mr Ingram said: "This is a fantastic achievement which will benefit a large number of pupils with a range of needs, including those with dyslexia."

The Government has also funded CALL Scotland (the Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning team at Moray House School of Education) to take forward a project which will enable pupils to listen to digital curriculum materials spoken out in a Scottish voice, called Heather.

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