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Children who are visually impaired are not getting equal treatment in the education system – reportMEERI News

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Children and young people who are blind or visually impaired are not being treated equally by the education system, according to a new report.

There are at least 4,700 school-age children in Ireland who are blind/visually impaired and around 280 in higher education, the most recent figures show.

The National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI) Equal Education report states that visual impairment affects learning, movement and social relationships throughout childhood and adulthood and lists the challenges these children and young people face from primary school onwards. does

They include: movement between classes and navigating new buildings; identifying the placement of objects, papers, materials, etc. on a desk; access and view whiteboards or other printed materials; making and maintaining new friendships; Use of assistive technology including set up and unpacking; reading aloud in class; participation in all teaching; participation in learning and social activities and physical activity; Unclear instructions such as ‘hang up your coat without directing the child to the designated area’ and being perceived as different by peers.

The report covers inconsistencies ranging from delays in getting school books in accessible formats at the start of each school year, lack of assessments and supports to meet a child’s individual needs, and inadequate adaptations in state tests. How further and higher education colleges support such students. .

The report cites a 2018 survey of parents where only 46 percent said they received books at the start of the year, with some children finishing the school year without access to all their books.

In relation to further and higher education, it reveals that people who are blind/visually impaired are under-represented in these sectors, a proportion that has fallen in recent years, while there is no explanation for the reasons for this decline in participation. There is no concrete evidence, NCBI. suggests that this may be due to issues highlighted in the report, including inappropriate assistive technology, inadequate training, and inconsistent or inappropriate adaptations for exams.

NCBI Advocacy and Engagement Manager Lorna Fitzpatrick said sight loss is a spectrum and can affect everyone differently, “so it is important that children and young people with sight loss receive regular individual assessments and timely have access to interventions to ensure they have the skills to be independent. and active agents in their own learning.”

He said the report clearly showed disparities that exist in students’ experiences of receiving support as well as a serious lack of quality data on the number of students with visual impairments in the education system or evidence to show that existing Support is enabling these students to thrive. .

The report called on the Department of Education and other state agencies to collect more data, and Ms. Fitzpatrick said it would be “key to driving future decisions related to support for students with visual impairments.”

Eithne Walsh, who heads communications and advocacy with See, a support group for parents of blind and visually impaired students, said the report “provides a good starting point for improving support for blind or visually impaired students in education. “

Ms Walsh said the issues highlighted were “denying students with low vision equal access to education, which ultimately affects every aspect of their lives. No issue is permanent, practical solutions can be made that have a huge impact on their educational outcomes.

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