University of Edinburgh

Newsletter 24 Autumn 2007

Visual Impairment Support Service for Children in the Community (VISSCC): 10th Anniversary


VISSCC is a support service for visually impaired pre-school and school age children and their families; it aims to:

  • provide specialist advice
  • provide ongoing assessment of a child’s functional vision
  • evaluate a child’s educational needs
  • offer support to families
  • link with other professionals.

Today everyone involved in the education of visually impaired children promotes
multi-agency working. The VISSCC group is no different and it continues to evolve to meet the needs of the children that it supports.

Prior to 1996 Central Region had a Visual Impairment Service with three teachers
of the visually impaired managed by the Psychological Service. Each of these teachers had responsibility for their own case list and they were encouraged to adopt a holistic approach towards the education and learning of the children and families that they worked with. Around this time Dr Aisla Sinclair, a Community Paediatrician developed an interest in working with visually impaired children and she began forging links with the teachers. At that point, there were no formal links with the local ophthalmology departments and very little communication between professionals.

In 1996 Central Region was divided into three smaller authorities. Each of the three teachers were allocated to an authority: Janis Sugden to Clackmannanshire, Kathy Smyth (who has since retired from teaching) to Falkirk and Christine Stones to Stirling. This proved the catalyst needed to form VISSCC, as when each of the teachers transferred to their new bases they were working very much in isolation. Dr Sinclair, the three teachers and John Wilson, an Educational Psychologist in Falkirk met with the consultant community paediatrician at that time to discuss the possibility of forming a group. VISSCC was eventually launched at Stirling Royal Infirmary in June 1997. The original team consisted of Dr Sinclair, who co-ordinates VISSCC, the three teachers and two orthoptists who are still with the team: Anne Anderson and Dawn Swan.


The current team members (pictured above) continue to meet on a monthly basis, to discuss individual cases, to pick up new referrals and to exchange information with each other. In addition to this, the team carries out multi-disciplinary assessments in local vicinities involving relevant team members, parents and school staff. The VISSCC team continues to provide support to visually impaired learners in the Forth Valley health board area.

About five years ago the team became aware of a shortfall in provision, in that although the children were included in all academic activities, this was not always the same for social activities. The visually impaired children often lacked peer group support. The team were successful in a bid to the Royal National Institute for the Blind for funding to run a project: "Kids Together Club". This allowed young primary pupils to meet regularly and to gain skills that children usually learn incidentally through fun activities. This too has been a successful activity for VISSCC. Feedback from the children, their parents and schools is always positive.

If you need more information or would like to refer a child to VISSCC, contact the VISSCC Co-ordinator:
Dr A Sinclair
Department of Child Health
Stirling Royal Infirmary
Stirling FK8 2AU
Telephone: 01786 434059
Fax: 01786 434479

Janis Sugden
Chartered Teacher of Visually Impaired Children, Clackmannanshire



eileen burns

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Eileen Burns and I am now undertaking the post of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) co-ordinator for deaf education within the SSC from
August 2007.

I have been seconded for one day a week (Wednesday) from my post of teacher of deaf pupils, within Inverclyde Council. Some of you may have already attended CPD courses organised by me when I was the Accessibility and Inclusion Project Manager with The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS).

I hope to continue in Mary Dowell’s footsteps by providing good quality, relevant and up-to-date training experiences from which Scottish deaf pupils will benefit.

Mary and Rachel have already put in place what looks like a very stimulating programme for 2007-08. It will be my role, working with Rachel, to finalise arrangements for this programme and possibly add to it, while putting together the programme for 2008-09. To ensure that we meet the needs of our client base (that is, you), it would be very helpful if you could let us know what you feel are your professional development needs. As soon as you have the "I really could be doing with some information/training on …" thought, then email me at:

I look forward to hearing from you.

Eileen Burns
Teacher of Deaf Pupils, Inverclyde Council & Scottish Sensory Centre


Tempus Fugit

mary dowell

Is it a sign of age that time passes so quickly? It feels like only one and a half minutes ago that I was introducing myself in the Scottish Sensory Centre magazine and, in a flash, I’m bidding you all a fond farewell in August 2007.

I assumed the role of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) co-ordinator for deaf
education with considerable trepidation. I had in 2005 something of a personal renaissance in terms of postgraduate development but it did not prepare me for the 'mind-stretching' experience of being a CPD co-ordinator for the SSC. I've had two years of hectic and sometimes chaotic experiences. I've been fortunate to meet a huge range of interesting people associated with deaf education and I feel the programmes we have produced have been engaging and relevant – feedback from the presentations suggests that they were.

Highlights of my secondment have included the two day residential conference at Dunblane Hydro in 2006 and my involvement in the new Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)/SSC guidance document: "Support Strategies for Candidates Who Use Sign in SQA Exams". However I could not have coped with, or enjoyed, this job without the support of my colleagues at St Vincent’s School for the Deaf in Glasgow. I also received outstanding
support from the SSC Admin staff at Moray House for which I will always be grateful. Finally, I’d like to thank my academic advisors: Marian Grimes and Rachel O'Neill for their superb guidance and Dr John Ravenscroft for his generous leadership of the Centre. I’m now off to finish my MSc thesis – hopefully!

Good luck to Eileen Burns who will take over from me this session and I hope to see you all at future in-service at the SSC.

Mary Dowell
Chartered Teacher of Deaf Children, St Vincent’s School for the Deaf


BSL Glossary Project: Work in progress: Science


Audrey, Derek, Claire, Gary and Gerry

We announced in the last SSC Newsletter that we had secured funding to expand on the pilot BSL glossary on mathematics to produce a glossary for science subjects. The project has been subdivided into 3 groups which are working on Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Gerry Hughes, Deaf teacher from St Vincent’s School is leading the team on Biology. He previously produced the Maths glossary with BSL terms and definitions. The Biology team includes Derek Rodger, Deaf teacher, Oak Lodge School who grew up in Scotland; John Denerley, Deaf Manager, Galloway Wildlife Park; and Claire Leiper, a biology graduate. The Chemistry team is led by Deaf chemist, Dr Audrey Cameron and includes Dr Mark Fox, another Deaf chemist. Audrey is also overseeing the Physics team with Eileen Burns, a hearing teacher of deaf children from Kilmarnock. Dr Colin Dunlop, a deaf space scientist, University of Durham, is also on the Physics team. Deaf linguist, Gary Quinn is acting as sign monitor for the project, providing advice about the principles of BSL vocabulary.

Our glossary steering group is composed of Deaf scientists, hearing and deaf teachers of deaf children, two Deaf secondary student representatives and Professor Graham Turner from Heriot Watt University.

The teams have been working throughout 2007 and we aim to have the website ready with BSL science terms and definitions in both BSL and English by the end of the year. The subject and steering groups have reviewed video clips of draft signs using a bulletin board as well as meetings in person.

As we write, final filming has started on the signs and definitions. The development of sign vocabulary is particularly important in Scotland because deaf pupils here can give their exam answers in BSL for most subjects, unlike in other parts of the UK. The discussion has focused largely on the meaning of the terms so that the signs have a clear visual link for deaf learners. Group discussions have revealed interesting issues about BSL and English vocabulary.

One word – two signs
The sign LIVE is associated with animals, insects, humans but not plants in BSL. So the sign HABITAT has two versions, one for animals (incorporating the sign LIVE) and one for plants (incorporating the sign GROW). Different meanings of apparent synonyms. The word effect is neutral in English but the sign EFFECT has negative connotations in BSL.

English words are sometimes used in BSL for proper nouns or new terms imported from English. The group has tried to avoid using fingerspelling as it doesn’t give meaning to a deaf learner, eg; a new term for DNA has been devised based on the molecule shape. The fingerspelt DNA will doubtless still continue to be used, but the deaf learner will have an alternative which is visually motivated.

Existing signs
The sign METAL is widely used in BSL already, but the same sign is also used for BONE and STEEL. Another sign for metal has been suggested based on electron flow which may be used in more technical discussions about metals. The group has drawn on other databases of BSL science terms such as ones produced by Wolverhampton University; Craigie High School, Dundee; a signed genetics project from Edinburgh University; Donaldson’s College and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), Rochester, New York. Sometimes terms from these sources have been adopted, and in other cases new signs developed. None of the above resources exactly suited our target age range of 11-14 and also they didn’t give explanations of the terms in BSL.

SSC Web Manager, Elizabeth Izatt, is compiling the website and, with Rachel O’Neill, Lecturer in Deaf Education, devising a way that deaf learners can access the database by BSL handshape as well as by the English alphabetical order. Deaf people who remember a sign will be able to navigate a series of visual screens to identify the sign by handshape and where it is made on the body in order to discover the English translation. This will make the website a truly bilingual resource. The maths glossary, completed in 2005, has had handshape access added. Do have a look to see how it works and send us your comments.

We are planning a launch event for the science signs glossary on Friday, 18th January at the SSC, 10 am - 1 pm. Further publicity will be available soon. We would welcome groups of deaf learners and their teachers. The launch will include:

  • Computers to try out the science signs;
  • Scientific experiments demonstrated and explained by project members;
  • Opening address by Professor Marc Marschark from NTID who is the new honorary professor in Deaf Education;
  • Workshops for pupils aged 11-14 and staff. Have a look at the draft science signs site.

The definitions and examples will be added over the next two months:

Rachel O’Neill Lecturer in Deaf Education Scottish Sensory Centre
Telephone: 0131 651 6429

Project funded by grant from Scottish Government, Support for Learning

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UK Vision Strategy: please get involved

On 4th April 2007, a major initiative to establish a UK Vision Strategy was launched. This strategy will encompass all sectors having an influence on eye health and sight loss prevention, as well as those providing services to those people experiencing sight loss. The initiative is under the auspices of VISION 2020 UK and led by RNIB with the full support of Action, Guide Dogs and National Association of Local Societies for Visually Impaired People (NALSVI).

A Steering Group has been established. Representatives from health, the statutory sector and the not-for-profit sector will meet over the coming months to steer the process.

All of the comments and contributions of the 300 delegates who met on 4th April have been processed and grouped within four key headings. These have been designated as "Chapters" of the Strategy and each has been assigned a lead person.

The four Chapter headings and lead persons are:

  • Awareness, education and prevention of blindness - David Hewlett
  • Correction, treatment and the eye care journey - Andy Cassels-Brown
  • Support and independent living - David Scott Ralphs
  • Empowerment and the inclusive society - Rob Legge.

Further consultation will take place, once work on the Chapters is finished in the Autumn, which will close by the end of January 2008. The Strategy will then be further refined and amended with a launch planned for April/May 2008. All are encouraged to consider how their work and service developments will input to, and impact on, the Strategy.

vision 2020 logo

VISION 2020 UK have established a "UK Vision Strategy" microsite within its website. People can self-register in the normal way by going to the Interest/Work Groups and Committees section and registering themselves for this microsite.

Comments regarding children should be directed to John Ravenscroft, as Chair of the VISION 2020 Children’s group, and he will undertake to direct those comments to the appropriate person. Further information can also be obtained from the RNIB’s website by using the following link:


The following article links may also be of use:
Setting the Scene:
Taking up the Challenge:

John Ravenscroft
Co-ordinator, SSC & Chair of VISION 2020 Children’s Group
Telephone: 0131 651 6071

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Scottish Local Authorities' Alternative Format Database

The database of items which have been converted into alternative formats by several Scottish Local Authorities is now running on the SSC website:

Please have a look to check if anything you might need has already been converted into Braille, electronic format or large print! You will notice that there are a limited set of sources listed as we are only to able to detail information given to us so far by services. Please get in touch to contribute your own data.

Contact information for each item is provided and services should contact each other to set up co-operative arrangements for lending formats to each other.

Copyright law should be observed when dealing with published works and services will need to ensure that they are acting lawfully. In essence, the recipient of an alternative format needs to ensure that they have a corresponding print copy of the book. For the full text of the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 see:

If you have provided us with details of your holdings don’t forget to keep us up-to-date and please provide updates. Many thanks to those who responded to our appeal for data, we are very grateful for your help in providing this service.

Elizabeth Izatt

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Enquire - Scottish Advice Service for Additional Support for Learning

enquire logo

Enquire is the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning. Here we review three of their resources, which are aimed at teachers, parents and pupils.

The website

enquire website

The website has two sections, one for teachers and parents on the left and one for pupils on the right. The pupils’ site is funky and appealing to young people. There are downloads of leaflets written in clear English with attractive graphics. I would have liked to have seen some videos on the site, or perhaps links to YouTube clips so that deaf young people could see other children talking and signing. There are minicom contact numbers, but what about SMS and Skype? This is how young deaf people contact each other nowadays. The interactive map is a cool feature which encourages young people to try out new activities in their area. Some of the weblinks could have been made more relevant to deaf young people, for example it would have been good to see links to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), the Scottish Deaf Association, or the excellent guide for deaf students going to college on the Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education (BRITE)

There is no search facility on the Enquire site and this makes it difficult to search for materials which are subtitled or in BSL, for example. The information for parents, teachers and advisors is not so visually appealing but has all the key information about Additional Support for Learning. Unfortunately the film clips don’t load very easily.

The parents’ guide to additional support for learning, 2007: This new guide is aimed at parents but is actually very useful for teachers too. It has sections on eligibility, assessment, choosing schools and being involved in decision-making. The booklet explains very clearly how Individualised Educational Programmes (IEPs) and Coordinated Support Plans (CSPs) are prepared and what parents can do if they are not happy with decisions. It is well designed and has many interesting case studies. An outstandingly good publication which is free from Enquire.

Have your say, a film about joining in and getting your views across at secondary school, 2004: This DVD has two versions available from the start menu, one with BSL and one with subtitles. It is aimed at secondary aged pupils with additional support needs and includes several deaf learners. This is a free and fun DVD which could encourage pupils to become more active participants in the access arrangements they have at school. A set of teachers’ notes is available to develop these ideas with groups.

Quite rightly they don’t target these activities at particular groups of pupils, but at all learners. Translations: Enquire do translate a number of their leaflets into community languages, but so far I can only find one in BSL – the DVD. The general helpline number (0845 123 2303) can be used by parents speaking any language. The person ringing up needs to give the name of their language clearly, then Enquire ring the Language Line and the interpreter comes on speaking the appropriate language. This would be particularly useful for parents from Eastern Europe, because so far there are no Enquire leaflets available in languages such as Polish. It would be good if Enquire could extend this service to parents who use BSL using a relay interpreting service with broadband and a webcam.

Rachel O’Neill
Lecturer in Deaf Education, Scottish Sensory Centre

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Honorary Professor of Deaf Education

mark marschark

Marc Marschark has been appointed as an honorary professor of Deaf Education at Moray House. Marc is a prolific researcher and writer in the field of deaf education. Many Scottish teachers of deaf children met him when he attended the Scottish Sensory Centre’s conference at Dunblane in March 2006.

Rachel O'Neill, Lecturer in Deaf Education at Moray House said "I am so pleased that Marc has accepted this honorary professorship. It means that we can work much more closely together on joint research into deaf education."

Marc will be available to lecture to students on the Moray House Postgraduate Diploma in Additional Support for Learning (Deaf Education) bringing an international perspective. He will also be able to contribute towards SSC deaf education events. Marc is likely to be at Moray House for several weeks a year and be in contact throughout the year on joint projects. Find out more about Marc Marschark:

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Impact of Scottish Sensory Centre Courses on Professional Development

Some months ago we sent out a questionnaire to teachers who participated in selected SSC courses which were held in 2005-06 asking about how they felt particular courses had impacted on their professional development.

The courses chosen for study were: Subject Workshop for Teachers of Deaf Children (English Language) (4/10/05), The Educational Transition Process for Visually Impaired Young People in Scotland (23/11/05), Early Diagnosis: Working with Families of Deaf Children (11/1/06) and Prematurity and Vision (3/3/06).

The questionnaires were sent to teaching staff who participated in the events as this group is the main focus of SSC’s remit. Participants were asked, given the benefit of several months to allow the training to sink in, if:

Q1. This course has strongly improved my understanding of concepts and principles in this field.
Q2. The course reading materials (handouts, etc) have been used and referred to since the course.
Q3. The course provided something new that I could use in my professional practice.
Q4. The course had a positive impact on my daily professional practice.
Q5. I have implemented parts of the course into my daily professional practice.
Q6. The course was a valuable use of my CPD time.
Q7. I would recommend SSC courses to colleagues.

Space was also provided for respondents to make general comments on the CPD received.

1. Course 4: Subject Workshop for teachers of Deaf Children (15 Attendees, 14 were teachers)

Agree Not sure Disagree Strongly
Q1 1 3       4
Q2   3   1   4
Q3 1 3       4
Q4 1 2 1     4
Q5 1 2       3
Q6 2 1 1     4
Q7 1 3       4

Other Comments:

1. Very interested in hearing about Gallaudet materials (new at that time to me) and in finding others engaged in similar work. I remember the day as having positive atmosphere and feeling more enthused. Course materials not used as our unit has used other resources but may still be worked on now as work changes.
2. Sorry for the odd mixture of responses above. The course was geared towards secondary pupils. As I had very little experience of this area it was of limited relevance.

2. Course 7: The Educational Transition Process (VI) (18 Attendees, 11 were teachers)

Agree Not sure Disagree Strongly
Q1 2 3       5
Q2 2 2 1     5
Q3   4   1   5
Q4   5       5
Q5 1 4       5
Q6 3 5       5
Q7 2 1 2     5

Other Comments:

1. I would recommend this particular course, especially Dominic Everett’s contribution.
2. The courses confirmed much of my practice rather than changing or developing it. The transition to colleges was the area I was most interested in - a more detailed approach would have been good. Courses - require delivery by people with ‘in depth’ research backgrounds for VTVIS. General courses I would and have recommended to mainstream staff/parents, etc.
3. It was a very worthwhile day. Looking at transition through all stages of education was good to have an overview of the processes involved from nursery to leaving school. I found it helpful in the writing of one of my modules for my Diploma in Education Support (Visual Impairment). Being given a copy of the new publication by Visual Impairment Scotland - Moving Through - was very much appreciated because I was able to share this with my colleague and we got further copies which have since been used to help several families through the transition process.

3. Course 10: Early Diagnosis: Working with Families of Deaf Children (37 Attendees, 28 were

Agree Not sure Disagree Strongly
Q1 3 8   1   12
Q2 1 7 1 2 1 12
Q3 2 7 1 2   12
Q4 2 6 1 3   12
Q5 1 5 3 3   12
Q6 5 6   1   12
Q7 5 6 1     12

Other Comments:
1. I am not currently working with newly diagnosed babies/toddlers but hope to be doing so in the future. At that point, the information obtained would be of great use.
2. While I found the background knowledge useful and interesting it did not impact on my practice. I would like a course on strategies to use.
3. I always find SSC Courses interesting and very useful. I am disappointed that those being organised for this year do not fit in with my CPD. Courses aimed at teachers working with signing deaf children are less useful to my needs.

4. Course 16: Prematurity and Vision (47 Attendees, 27 were teachers)

Agree Not sure Disagree Strongly
Q1 8 6       14
Q2 5 8 1     14
Q3 3 11 2     14
Q4 4 8 2     14
Q5 3 9       14
Q6 8 6       14
Q7 8 6       14

Other Comments:
1. Knowledgeable speakers from doctors to parents. Really good course!
2. The majority of the speakers were extremely interesting and they spoke with obvious empathy about their client group. Some talks were too lengthy and tedious and some more like plenary sessions. I don't recall receiving any reading materials.
3. The speakers were all very knowledgeable and interesting. It was a lot of information in one day but I enjoyed it.
4. I did know quite a lot of this already but my knowledge was refreshed. I have genuinely used it in delivery of onset recently. Don't underestimate the value of meeting colleagues at courses!
5. It was very useful for me as I am writing a dissertation as part of an MSc in Profound Learning
Disability - not directly a daily practice so much - thank you!
6. Course content was disseminated to all staff shortly after this course - very valuable. We plan to continue sampling impact of courses as part of our commitment to quality monitoring. We will be grateful for any responses you can supply in the future on the longer-term usefulness of our CPD programme.

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SSC Braille Competency Course, Grade 1 - distance learning mode

An increasing number of children throughout the UK are being taught Grade 1 Braille at an early age before moving to Grade 2 Braille.

Grade 1 Braille is a method of writing braille where the words are written using the alphabetical letters which is much easier to learn than the more complicated and intensive Grade 2 Code, and should take no more than 3 months to master.

This Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) validated course will provide an opportunity for parents, as well as primary and nursery staff with a young visually impaired child in their care, to gain an insight and some understanding into the way a visually impaired child will access the school curriculum.

At present the course fee is £150 (£100 for parents) and covers:

  • course handbook material
  • tutor time (correction, feedback onassessments and support by letter/email/telephone)
  • final assessment materials, and
  • payment to the SQA for the certificate.

The course is suitable for all, whether you are supporting a young visually impaired child or you are interested in developing an extra skill. It would also provide an excellent grounding should you wish to undertake the Grade 2 Braille at a later date.

If you would like to have an informal chat about what is involved, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

Morag Heeps
Braille Tutor, SSC
Telephone: 0131 651 6073


Resource Library Update

The SSC Resource Library has been very fortunate in the last six months to receive a number of donations of materials. We were invited at the beginning of the summer to visit Carnbooth School to help pare down their library collection in preparation for the move to Hazelwood School. As a result we gained a box or two of books and articles which will be a welcome boost to our deafblind section of the library. Also, from Miranda Pickersgill, whose name will be well known to many teachers of Deaf children and who retired this year, we were pleased to find a home at SSC for much of her collection including a good stock of all the LASER publications.

Thanks to a generous donation from the Scottish Council on Deafness’s Director, Lilian Lawson, the library now boasts a great collection of sign language dictionaries from across the world. Rachel O’Neill has suggested that this collection could form the basis for project work with Deaf pupils. Some of the countries represented are: France, Spain, Denmark, Japan and Sri Lanka. A bibliography of the collection is available.

One recent addition to the library was the Visual Thesaurus which struck us as a possible resource for deaf pupils learning English as it presents the information in a more visual way than traditional formats. If you wish to buy it for your school or service there is a cost: you can subscribe to the online edition (c$20 US a year) or you can buy a desktop CD-ROM version (c$40 US), but you can try it out for free for a limited number of searches on the website:

Let us know if you have found any really good resources that we can share with colleagues or what
you really could do with, you never know what we might have just sitting here!
Sheila Mackenzie
Resource Library Manager
Telephone: 0131 651 6069

Comparing Software for Electronic Notetaking Training

Electronic notetaking offers many advantages over manual notetakers for deaf learners. Electronic notetakers (ENTs) can wordprocess at speeds of at least 60 words per minute, and they are trained to summarise spoken speech effectively, whilst retaining all essential meaning. ENTs are able to add in information which will keep the pupil/student informed about the ongoings in the class or session, for example, discussions, jokes, interruptions, asides and implications through tone of voice. The ENT can also add in definitions of technical terms if the client requests this. The notes are usually saved by or emailed to the student/client on the same day as the session, allowing for early revision and review.

Two laptops are needed for electronic notetaking to work most effectively. They can be linked with a cable, by Bluetooth or with a wireless network. Students may, or may not, prefer to sit next to the ENT.

There are three ENT software systems currently in use in education: NoteED, Speedtext and Stereotype. Here we briefly introduce each system so that services for deaf students can evaluate them (websites at end of article).

NoteED - developed by Chris Casey at the University of Central Lancashire with input from Jenny Webster who runs the ENT course at the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC). The software costs about £275. Site licences, academic/ university licences, and training are also available.

Stereotype - developed by Sheffield Hallam University. One licence costs £700. The website explains about their own training courses which can be delivered anywhere in the UK.

Speedtext - developed by the RNID is only available to ENTs who trained with CACDP.
to discuss how to become licensed to use this software.

The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) run a course for electronic and manual notetakers, the Level 3 Certificate for Language Service Professionals Working with Deaf and Deafblind People (Notetaking).

2007 ENT group

The SSC trains electronic notetakers using a course validated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and devised by Jenny Webster. The SSC is able to run this course on an annual basis and operates a selection policy to choose suitable applicants for the 8 places available.

There is a new UK-wide association of ENTs. For more information about terms and conditions of employment look at their website:
Speedtext: (RNID website)
A list of qualified freelance ENTs is available at:

Rachel O’Neill
Lecturer in Deaf Education, Scottish Sensory Centre

Employment and Technology Online Resources

VISIONS Employment & Technology Institute: Building Your Future 2007 was an event held this summer in New York to discuss strategies and issues surrounding employment for visually impaired people.

The event was aimed at visually impaired young people looking for work and professionals involved in helping visually impaired people look for work. It provided participants with an opportunity to sharpen employment skills, develop networking strategies, and gain hands-on experience with the latest assistive technologies.

The keynote address: "Cornerstone to Success: Work" was delivered by Dr Karen Wolffe, Director,
Professional Development and CareerConnect at the American Foundation for the Blind. Dr Wolffe
discusses the importance of work in the lives of people with visual disabilities. She shares information about current employment rates and proposes ideas for how to improve those rates. In addition, Dr Wolffe presents her "Top Ten Tips for Successful Interviews" and shares her considerable expertise in career counselling by offering advice on interviewing. Other highlights from the Institute, include panel discussions with:

  • Human Resource Managers from companies with track records for employing people with
  • Human rights advocates;
  • Consumer groups and service organisations that are available to assist with advocacy;
  • Experts from the Social Security Administration discussion Benefits Planning; and
  • Financial management experts and investment advisors who share important information about
    budgeting your salary, setting financial goals, establishing credit while avoiding debt, and
    planning for retirement.

Audio recordings from this event are now online in Real Audio and Windows Media formats:

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Hearing Aids for Malawi

children at chiphazi

During the Easter Holidays I visited Chiphazi School in the Dedza Mountains about 86km from Lilongwe. I was paying a visit to my village, school and family where I spent 5 weeks during my summer holidays as a Global Teacher in 2006. The rainy season had just ended and the countryside was green, lush and much warmer than last July. It was wonderful returning as a friend and experiencing a different season. My reason for going back was to meet with the Village Development Committee about plans to build a new community block with funding from a concert called Music for Malawi. At the end of one of my meetings a young advisory teacher called Rockerfeller Chammagoond, who works as a Peripatetic HI Teacher, told me about the problem he had in trying to obtain hearing aids in Dedza. I told him that I’d approach Scottish Teachers through this newsletter and we would see if there were any available for sending over to Malawi.

If you could please ask around within your Local Authority; check in cupboards or with your Audiology Department if there are any hearing aids which are no longer being used and which may be available for students in Malawi; they would be gratefully received. Any amount no matter how small will make such a difference to the lives of our Global Friends in Malawi.

Please contact the Scottish Sensory Centre, if you are able to help.

Heather E Cameron
VI Support Teacher, South Lanarkshire


National Deaf Children's Society Consultation

NDCS want to meet 200 deaf and hard of hearing children in Scotland. The NDCS is running a UK-wide consultation programme to meet deaf and hard of hearing children aged 9-18. The organisation wants to find out about deaf people’s concerns and what they would like to see the NDCS doing. The NDCS are looking for a representative sample of deaf children in this age group. The questionnaires can be done online or face-to-face with a deaf or hard of hearing volunteer. For more information, look at this website:
The website is very unusual in showing a deaf child signing the plea for volunteers. Dr Tyron Woolfe is leading the consultation, and can be contacted at:
Telelephone: 020 7490 8656
Textphone: 020 7490 8656
Fax: 020 7251 5020


Pastures new . . .

john ravenscroft

As many of you now know I will be leaving the SSC on a four-year secondment to Australia at the beginning of January. I am going to the University of Newcastle which, spookily enough, is where I hail from here in the UK. I will be taking up the post of Senior Researcher in Special Education (Sensory Impairments) and will be based at the Renwick Centre in Sydney:

The Renwick Centre, in partnership with the University of Newcastle, is committed to the provision of high quality teaching and learning opportunities for professionals in the area of Special Education for students with hearing or vision impairment, research in these same areas, and related community service. So very much a home from home for me.

I will be keeping in touch and providing an account of living and working in Sydney in forthcoming
newsletters, with perhaps a picture of me, a beer in hand, tending the ‘barbie’.


John Ravenscroft
Co-ordinator, SSC


Linguistic Access for Deaf Pupils and Students

The Equalities Unit of the Scottish Government is funding a short scoping study to collect information about linguistic access for deaf pupils and students in Scotland. Lynn Hawcroft is currently working with the Unit and was instrumental in commissioning the study.

The Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) was successful in obtaining the contract for the project, in collaboration with NDCS Scotland. The aim is to take stock of current provision nationally, and identify some key issues, which will aid planning for the future. Marian Grimes has been employed to undertake the research work and write up the report, with the help of staff from SSC and NDCS.

In October, questionnaires were sent out to deaf education schools and services across Scotland to ascertain information about specialist professionals working within the school sector. At the time of writing, a number of responses have been received and we hope to get a high level of returns. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all who have responded. We are also conducting a similar survey among further and higher education institutions. We expect that findings will be available early next year. We will give more information in the next newsletter.

Marian Grimes
Research Consultant