University of Edinburgh

Issues and Strategies for Visually Impaired Learners

Tuesday 7 March 2006

Access to the Curriculum for All: Supporting Visually Impaired Pupils Transferring from Primary to Secondary School

Philip Whittaker
ICT Support Teacher for Additional Needs

Vicki Logan
PT Additional Needs (Deaf and VI), Scottish Borders

Where are we based?

  • Earlston and Melrose – soon moving to Galashiels.
  • But the services are peripatetic

On the road in the Beautiful Borders

on the road in the Borders

Scottish Borders Visual Impairment Service The History of the Service

  • A peripatetic service, based in Earlston PS, with no centre for pupils.
  • Pupils are supported in their local primary schools.
  • Pupils with severe VI have tended to go to Royal Blind School, Edinburgh at or before Secondary stage.

Inclusion of Pupils with Visual Impairment

Driving Factors;

  • Parental Expectation of Mainstream Education
  • Inclusion as a Government and Local Authority Policy
  • DDA Legislation – a full accessible curriculum for all learners
  • The Development of assistive technology for the visually impaired – It's cheaper, and more reliable.

The Pupils when "VI Transfer" meetings began with the High Schools – Sept 2002

  • Two P6 pupils transferring to High School in Hawick HS in 2004, one with significant motor difficulties
  • One P5 pupil transferring to Peebles HS in 2005
  • One P5 pupil transferring to Hawick HS in 2005 – a Braille learner.

Primary-Secondary Transition

The Challenges

  • Curricular
  • Social and Emotional
  • Mobility

Autumn 2002

  • RNIB Training for one VI auxiliary
  • Formation of High School VI Transfer Group in October. Rector, Depute Rector, PT LS, LS Teacher, VI Auxiliary, PT Additional Needs and Senior Teacher ICT Support for Additional Needs.

The Aims of the Project

1. To help develop, within schools, an ethos of acceptance, understanding and support for pupils with visual impairment.

2. To provide a wide range of approaches to giving pupils access to the curriculum and to evaluate these solutions with the pupils. An important part of this is the development of curricular materials on the schools' intranet to be accessed via the pupils' wirelessly networked laptops.

3. To develop a sustainable model of support for the High Schools, that could be used in future in other High Schools where VI pupils will be transferring from P7
To evaluate the value of these developments to other text-impaired pupils.

VI Awareness Training - Pupils

Creation of Topic Boxes for Pupils – Primary and Secondary

Contents; Simulation glasses, books and videos about VI, posters and leaflets, aids; long cane and magnifiers.

Delivery; To P7 pupils- contemporaries of VI pupils, by PT Additional Needs (VI). Tie in with citizenship.

To secondary pupils – delivered by Guidance staff in PSD classes.

VI Awareness materials

  • Simulation Glasses
  • Books and videos

VI Awareness - Teachers

In-Service at HHS – May 2003

  • Raising Awareness of VI;
  • Importance of early preparation of curricular material;
  • Teacher's Questionnaire regarding particular concerns over VI pupils studying their subject;
  • Subsequent meetings with subject PTs.

In- Service at HHS – May 2004

  • Specific information about pupils in school, technology and use of the Intranet.

VI Awareness Auxiliaries

  • Two auxiliaries have undertaken RNIB course, and one has gone on to take SSC Braille course
  • In-service Training.

May 2004 – Joint High School and Primary school auxiliary training

August 2004

  • Additional training for auxiliaries and LS staff in HHS.

Mobility and Orientation

  • Liaison with SBC VI mobility officer.
  • Liaison with Health and Safety Officers regarding school adaptations including signage.
  • Additional orientation visits for VI Pupils in June 2004.

Researching the Technology

  • Research into use made in other authorities, especially Uddingston Grammar and Darnley Primary School.
  • Exhibitions in Glasgow – Sight and Sound.
  • Exhibitions organised by ourselves in Scottish Borders, for families and professionals.
  • RNIB courses and membership of the DAISY Project.

Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired

ScannaR -

  • A scanner/reader with synthesised voice
  • Texts can be saved to disc
  • Can be used as text generator for large print books


CCTV in distance mode.

cctv in use

CCTV in near mode

cctv in near mode

The pupil has to move the book to read the complete line.

Note the adaptation the teacher has made to her practice – writing in columns.

Using Magnification Software

Using Supernova or Dual

using magnification software

Using a mid-tech approach – existing facilities in software; enlarge text using key shortcuts.

using magnification software

The Importance of Touch Typing (Using Type to Learn-Original Version)

using learn to type

The DAISY Project

Digital Audio Information Systems – a standard adopted by RNIB for their talking books
CD Media play on both hardware players and on software players which allow the synchronisation of audio and the text on screen.

using DAISY

RNIB Scotland ran a project which we took part in.

DAISY Software Player – (Easereader)

using easereader

The pupil uses hotkeys to magnify, go to a page, volume off/on, etc.

Audio Formats - MP3s

  • MP3s of English Novels – either from commercial tapes or else synthesised voice made from electronic text.
  • MP3s will play on DAISY players or else portable MP3 players

Reasonably cool commercial product but the menu text is minute – no audio prompts More useful for dyslexics?

The Schools’ Networks

Model we did not wish to follow - Pupils with laptops being chased by VI staff with work on disc!

We wanted support for VI pupils to be a whole school matter. NGfL provided equipment; servers, network cabling, workstations. We wished to build on this potential.

The use of the School Network

  • Set up VI transfer area on the network for transcribed and other materials.
  • Set up means to add work to school’s intranet.
  • Set up additional network points and wireless network points.
  • Set up wireless laptops with screen magnification/ screenreader software.

Materials on the School’s Intranet in Use – The Web Interface

school web interface

Materials on the School's Intranet in MS Word Format – with standard sized text

materials on the school's intranet

Word Document the School’s Intranet in Use – Using Ctrl+A, Shift,Ctrl + >

adapting word

The Electronic Document Service

Some course materials existed in e-formats. However a very important part of the project has been to develop an Electronic Document service to;

  • Scan/retype/ adapt existing course materials (Abby Fine Reader);
  • Organise course materials;
  • Prepare the materials and web menus for adding to the intranet (MS Front Page).

Electronic documents can be used directly by pupils, or converted into;

  • large print materials
  • DAISY books
  • audio formats
  • Braille embossed documents

Large Print Books

Published books and books created using scanner and OCR

Hawick HS English department have provided a list of all the novels to be studied for the year for each VI pupil.

Digital Video

Certain subjects rely on video to deliver important aspects of the curriculum.

A trial has been made of converting existing recorded broadcasts for pupils to view on laptops or at home (Pinnacle Studio).

The ideal is that pupils should view videos projected onto whiteboards as part of class lesson whiteboards, allowing totally inclusive practice. Currently more classes are using projectors/whiteboards.

Key Findings; Pupils

  • The pupils themselves can be the best ambassadors for inclusion.
  • Pupils have the choice of technology to support them – through trialling it.
  • They need to develop a range of ICT Skills and skills with assistive technology where possible in Primary School.
  • The VI pupils are members of mainstream culture. There has to be sensitivity about the use of assistive technology.

Key Findings; Planning

  • Start Early - At least Two Years in advance of the transfer to High School.
  • Identify Key High School Staff.
  • Plan training for all staff and for changes of staff.

Key Findings; Ethos

  • Awareness raising exercises do work!
  • It's an ongoing process!
  • Involve everybody!

Key Findings – Electronic Document Service Scanning/Transcription/Intranet Preparation Work

  • Set up a dedicated station in a conspicuous area that staff frequent.
  • Find and Employ superwoman!
  • Motivate Staff to submit forthcoming curricular work, well in advance.

Key Findings; Human Support

  • Key staff from High School should visit the Primary School.
  • Liaison and training needs to be on-going throughout secondary school.
  • Staffing is always changing. Plan for this. Consultation is a valuable form of training once the pupils have transferred.

Key Findings; Technology

  • A school's intranet can be turned into a powerful means of delivering an accessible curriculum.
  • Technical Support for this work is vital, especially with regard to laptops and networking.
  • Assistive technology for the Visually impaired is mostly developed for the home market. It needs to be tested by the pupils themselves in school.
  • Low and medium tech solutions can be preferable and more reliable.
  • Think Creatively eg; Trial Alternative Browser (Opera, Firefox).

Where to now? To the future and beyond!

Ensure the project is sustainable at Hawick HS and plan for a prospective pupil now in P6, transferring in August ’07.

Prepare for transfer of a pupil now in P6 to another High School – transferring the strategies which have been successful.

Thanks to;

  • The staff and pupils of Hawick High School.
  • The Future Learning and Teaching Team, especially Darren Dickson.
  • Staff and pupils of Uddingston Grammar and Darnley Primary School.
  • Jamie Cuthbertson and Kim Main, Pamela Chater and Hazel Martin, the Daisy Project, RNIB Scotland.
  • The SSC Evaluation Team.