University of Edinburgh
Newsletter 19 Spring 2005

use of art

Use of art - click to see larger photo


Welcome to another SSC Newsletter. In this issue we report on the latest developments at the Centre, including progress from our partner projects: Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland and Visual Impairment Scotland. As always we are also keen to include news from various organisations throughout the UK and in Europe.

We present the first of what we hope will be a series of reports on location changes in Scottish education’s sensory services. In this issue, Janet Allan, Principal of Donaldson’s College tells us about the plans for the College’s move from its historic site in West Coates, Edinburgh. In order to make the most of the images Janet has sent us, this issue is in colour.

There are lots of news items which will be of interest to you. New DAISY and BSL resources have been made available on the Web. There are courses and conference details from Concept Training and the ICEVI. Our own CPD programme is nearly half way through its programme but we still have a few interesting courses to run (p15). As you can see from the picture above, participants at one of our earlier courses, the “Therapeutic use of art with visually impaired pupils”, were busy getting creative at their workshop with Vicky Smith from LOOK. Contact us if you would like more information about any of our courses or if you have new ideas for future courses.

Remember there is always an opportunity to contribute to the Newsletter yourself; we would love to hear about your initiatives and success stories from all over the country. See the back page for submission details.


Sheila Mackenzie
Newsletter Editor


Helen Robertson

In October 2004, Helen Robertson, SSC Secretary/Receptionist, moved along the corridor to take up a full-time position within the University of Edinburgh with the Higher & Community Education Department. As some of you may know, Helen already worked for this Department in the afternoons. When the opportunity arose for her to extend her afternoon role as placement administrator to include students doing an MSC in Management in Training and Development, it was too good to pass up.

Helen joined SSC in December 1998 and for 5 years she managed her split role very well. This might have had something to do with her ability to take proper holidays during her annual leave - there are probably very few countries that Helen and her husband, Jim, have not been to. Add to that her shopping jaunts to exotic places like Iceland, Prague, Dunfermline(!), etc, with her friend, Liz, and you can tell that she has her leisure and work time in the right balance. Sadly, Helen's control is lacking when it comes to chocolate but then, she's not alone there, is she?

The Community Education students are fortunate to be in good hands with Helen and we all wish her well.

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DAISY website

Virtual SEN website

A free DAISY digital talking book transcription service for teachers and students has been launched. Virtual SEN ( now hosts a Daisy and Education Area, specially for students and teachers interested in this form of accessible digital talking book. There are two sections: one that contains titles that are copyright and requires a password to access, and one free area entitled Daisy Education Archive (DEA). The DEA titles are submitted by teachers and students from booklets, worksheets and other classroom materials, available for all to share via the free Archive.

Daisy Consortium

DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System - is a standard for talking books which can be accessed by blind people and others with problems reading print. In order to access the free Archive, users will need DAISY playback software, such as the DAISY Consortium's free TPB Reader (

British Sign Language Survey

Many of our readers will know that British Sign Language (BSL) has regional dialects. Signs used across the UK, from Aberdeen to the Channel Islands, can be very different. For the first time, BSL users will have the opportunity to take part in an interactive survey about the signs they use.

Over the coming months researchers at Bristol University?s Centre for Deaf Studies are collecting data, using signs from as many UK cities as possible to compile the first-ever comprehensive survey of BSL variation covering the whole of the British Isles. The survey is part of a wider BBC project, Voices, which is looking at the impact of language on society as a whole.

Regular BSL users can help the Bristol researchers increase what is known about BSL variation by telling them which signs they use or know. Signs have already been collected from eight UK cities. Taking part in the survey will enable the researchers to identify where these signs are used. There is also an opportunity to send or email a video clip of signs used or known, which aren't part of the survey. The results will be available in July 2005. To take part in the survey go to and click on 'Take Part Now'.

BBC Voices

Dr Rachel Sutton-Spence, Lecturer in the Centre for Deaf Studies at Bristol University, said: "Although BSL is used across the British Isles, there are considerable differences in regional dialects. We would like to encourage as many BSL users as possible to take part in the study. By taking part in the interactive survey you'll be giving us an insight into how we sign today."

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ICEVI Conference


Education - Aiming for Excellence: 14th-18th August, 2005

The 5th European conference of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) will be held this year in Chemnitz, Germany. The task of this conference is to establish a baseline of good practice for professionals in all countries based on co-operation with parents. The conference offers an opportunity to get informed about latest developments, exchange experiences and network with colleagues from all over Europe. Topics to be covered are: Assessment, Low Vision, Mobility & Daily Living, Professional Enhancement, Families of VI Children, Technology and Social Competence. Registration forms and more information are available from the website:


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From Visual Impairment Scotland to VI UK


Most of you will be familiar by now with the work of Visual Impairment Scotland (VI Scotland). This latest news is of a new project which hopes to extend the kind of service VI Scotland currently provides in Scotland to a UK-wide service.

Childhood visual impairment has far-reaching effects throughout life. It can impact upon a child?s developmental, educational, employment, emotional and social prospects. Accurate and current knowledge of the number, whereabouts and type of child to be served is required in order to offer integrated and effective services and support to children and their families. Such knowledge also aids research into prevention, diagnosis and treatment of conditions causing visual impairment.

How many children are there with significant visual impairment?

There is a great disparity between the estimated and actual numbers of children with visual impairment in the UK. The register is under-reporting children with visual impairment but it is also failing to identify children with additional motor, intellectual and sensory impairments. In developed countries 80-90% of childhood visual impairment is evident within the first two years of life. In Scotland, VIS has found that 74% of new blind and partial sight registrations occur after the age of 5 years. So it is clear that even when the register does identify children it identifies them late.

Children with visual impairment require help from a wide team that involves health, education, social work and voluntary organisations. The basis for planning and developing such a service like VI UK is to have accurate and current knowledge of the number of children that can be helped.

None of the current registration systems in the UK can provide this information.

Information and support services for children with visual impairment

In the UK there is a wide range of services and benefits available for children with visual impairment but the delivery of such services can be different in different parts of the UK. Part of the problem may be a lack of knowledge by children and their parents and carers. There is, therefore, a requirement for a comprehensive information and signpost service. This service already exists in Scotland through VI Scotland but not in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is also a vital need for a single source of comprehensive information on the epidemiology of childhood visual impairment. VI UK can address these problems.

Aims of Visual Impairment UK

The project has two complementary aims:

1. To develop a new and comprehensive notification system for children with visual impairment for all of the UK.
VI UK aims to describe the cause and level of impairment as well as any additional disabilities of all visually impaired children in the UK. This way we will know the number of children with visual impairment, where they are and, as a result, we can plan better services for parents and children with visual impairment.

2. To develop a tailored support and information service
The development of a support or signpost service is aimed to fulfil unmet need and to motivate parents and children to become involved in the VI UK project. Elements of the support/signpost and information service to be developed include:

  • A club for children with visual impairment called VISKIDS
  • A safe and secure internet chat room for VISKIDS members
  • Understandable medical information
  • A telephone signposting service for children and parents
  • A web-based parents discussion forum
  • A website to access all these services and help achieve these aims

The VI UK notification system aims to include all children with significant visual impairment. This includes any child that a parent believes has something wrong his vision.

Why bother having a notification system?

VI UK aims to develop a notification system which fulfils the requirements of these five key points:

  1. To be inclusive and comprehensive. A key feature is to be able to identify all children with significant visual impairment regardless of age, the causes of visual impairment, whether they have any additional disabilities and where they live.
  2. Effective sharing of useful and practical information. A notification system should be able to provide up-to-date and relevant information both to parents and children on the system as well as service providers.
  3. Provision of clear and immediate benefits to parents and children. Parents will be more motivated and more likely to agree to notification if they know there are tangible benefits from doing so.
  4. Convincing professionals of the value of the notification system. Regular feedback to professionals who care for children with visual impairment of the benefits of a notification system will enthuse and convince them of the value and continued worth of such a system.
  5. Facilitation of research. Data held by the notification system should be accessible anonymously to researchers in the fields of visual impairment including rehabilitation and education.

VI UK's model of notification

The unique feature of the VI Scotland model of notification is that it is parent-led. Most other models have been professionally driven, such as the current BP1 system in Scotland and the Certificate of Low Vision in the rest of the UK. In contrast, the VI Scotland model turns the notification process around and seeks notification from children and parents themselves.

VI UK: When will it happen?

Currently, members of VI Scotland are talking to organisations such as LOOK, RNIB, National Blind Children?s Society (NBCS), as well as relevant health professionals, and we aim to make a grant application sometime in 2005. We hope to start soon after that in 2005 so that we can aim to provide a national signposting, notification service as soon as possible for the whole of the UK, as we do, already, in Scotland.

I hope that you will support this project. If you would like further information about VI UK please contact:

John Ravenscroft
Visual Impairment Scotland
Scottish Sensory Centre
Moray House School of Education
Holyrood Road
EdinburghEH8 8AQ
Telephone: 0131 651 6078
Fax: 0131 651 6502
Textphone: 0131 651 6067

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adps presentation

Marian in action

Our last article in the SSC newsletter reported on our 2004 conference and website launch. This report gives an update in a number of key areas, including the future of the project itself.

Data Collection

We have had a tremendous response from teachers of deaf children across Scotland. Every year we have been asking them to complete details about individual deaf children/young people, so that we can continue to gather information about achievements and factors affecting those achievements. For the first three years, we got an average of 99% returns and, so far, have received over 80% from year 4.

In the past, the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD) has included Scotland in its own biennial survey. However, so that teachers weren't asked to complete two lots of questionnaires in one year, we made an agreement to collect information on BATOD's behalf in 2003, and to share it with them. BATOD have also been working closely with us to raise funding for future years (see below).

Data has to be rigorously checked during and after inputting, including ensuring that pupils are tracked when they move to new schools, so that they are not double-counted. This takes time and can be very complicated! Once a year?s information has been fully checked, Emily Healy begins the job of producing statistical information in the form of tables and charts. We are adding new information to our website regularly, in the ?National Survey? section. Try visiting our website on

ADPS website

Here is an example of one year?s information in the ?types of hearing loss? category of information in the website:

Family Survey

Readers may remember our ?Family Survey? feature in the Spring 2004 SSC newsletter. We worked jointly with National Deaf Children?s Society (NDCS) and local Deaf Children?s Society (DCS) groups to survey parents directly about their experiences and views. In the end we got over 400 completed forms returned. DCS volunteers from all over Scotland helped by stuffing envelopes, answering queries from local parents about the forms and chasing up DCS members to complete them. Hearing impairment services and schools helped by distributing the packs to local parents on our behalf. The data has been compiled into a database and we will soon be analysing the wealth of information it contains. Watch this space.


Our aim is to provide accurate information which is useful to groups and individuals in making choices at all levels. This could be individuals planning placement options, services planning their work, organisations campaigning for change or politicians and officers making and implementing policy at local and/or national levels. So, the requests we get to present information reflect this wide variety of interested people. We have been out and about presenting information about ADPS to national and local politicians; heads of service; parents; teachers and deaf young people themselves. See our website page for the full list:

The Future of ADPS

Our time-limited funding from the Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED) runs out at the end of March this year. We have been very grateful for this opportunity from the Scottish Executive, which has enabled us to build up a unique foundation of data, technology, expertise and networks over the past four and a half years. However, the early findings point towards the exceptional value of collecting data over longer periods of time. It is undoubtedly the case that tracking the effects on Scottish deaf children of major developments (such as increasing numbers in mainstream schools, recognition of BSL, newborn hearing screening, to name but a few) requires data which spans a number of years, and includes a wide range of factors. This is particularly the case where numbers are smallest - for example when splitting the population of deaf children down into smaller groups for comparison (eg, groups with different levels of hearing loss, or in different local authorities, etc). So we think that it is important that data-collection should continue in some form or another: the value of ADPS as a national source of information increases significantly with every year that is added to the collection.

We have had a lot of support for this approach to monitoring change in the education of deaf pupils from both national and local politicians. This included a members debate on ADPS in the Scottish Parliament on 4th March 2004. See our website page for the full details:

It is clear from ministerial comments that there will be no continuation of our current SEED funding. But we are actively researching alternative arrangements for funding. One of the options is the CoSLA*-supported idea of local authorities buying into a system of monitoring deaf pupil progress that is responsive to individual authority?s needs. At the time of writing, we are awaiting responses from authorities to this suggestion.

* Convention of Scottish Local Authorities

If you want any more information on this, or any other aspect of the project, do contact us:

Simon Laurie House
Moray House School of Education
The University of Edinburgh
Holyrood Road
Edinburgh EH8 8AQ
Telephone: 0131 651 6462
Fax: 0131 651 6469
Textphone: 0131 651 6470

Changes at Donaldson's

Donaldson's college

Donaldson's College is the National School for deaf children and children with severe speech and language impairment in Scotland. It is centrally funded to establish another element of choice for parents and children and young people. All of us value the inclusion of all children, but for some, inclusion is more effective within a specialist provision. Donaldson?s College offers both schooling and a range of services to the deaf and speech and language impaired communities. The school educates children from 3-18, either on a daily or residential basis, and has children from all over Scotland. The school is a bilingual community in which British Sign Language (BSL) and English are equally respected.

All of the children and young people who attend the school have very individual needs and these are addressed by a wide team of specialists, including an educational audiologist, speech and language therapists, teachers of the deaf, teachers with autism experience, an educational psychologist, a fully qualified care team and a team of dedicated support staff. We are especially proud to have a number of deaf staff within our staff group. The deaf staff not only lead the British Sign Language teaching and the Deaf Studies teaching, but are involved as classroom assistants and residential care workers. They provide good role models for our pupils. The College is currently applying for funding to develop a full 5-14 British Sign Language Curriculum, which it is hoped will be given to all local authorities who wish to make use of it. In addition to individualised educational programmes, all children have communication profiles and there are strong links between both the school and home and the school and the residence. All of our children then proceed to certificate classes. We offer a range of certification from Access 1 to Higher. All secondary subjects are taught by subject specialists, most of whom are also teachers of the deaf and we offer a Lifeskills course for 16-18 year olds who have additional needs. The school was very pleased with the recent HMIe, Care Commission report, in which the very high quality of its education and care were acknowledged.

As well as for the schooling of children, we have developed a range of services for mainstream local authorities and other learners who benefit from additional support in the areas of language and communication. We offer an assessment service that local authorities can use if they wish to receive a second opinion about a pupil in their own educational provisions. In particular, the multi-disciplinary assessment team can focus on receptive and expressive English as well as offering an educational audiology assessment and psycho-educational testing, presented in BSL if required.

As part of our additional services, we are delighted to work closely with Careers Scotland in supporting young deaf people aged 15-24 years when they leave school and begin to participate in adult life. Our 15-24 Inclusiveness Project provides mentors and befrienders for this group of young people and works to ensure improved access to employment opportunities, housing, benefits, further education and leisure services. Additionally we provide communication support for deaf students in Further Education or Higher Education who require note-takers or communication support workers in order to participate in their chosen courses.

We work in partnership with a number of national organisations such as National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) and Afasic to provide training courses for parents/carers and professionals as well as offering courses at Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) levels 1 & 2 and NVQ3 in BSL. We are planning to offer Access 2 courses in literacy and numeracy from April 2005 for deaf adults.

A few years ago the Governors, encouraged by the quality of new buildings on the present site, took the monumental step to move the College from its well known campus in the west end of Edinburgh to a campus on which we could build for the future. A site has been located in Linlithgow, which it is felt will serve all parts of Scotland well, as it is more centrally placed than Edinburgh and it is also on the major transport network links. The plans for the new College are well ahead with great attention to detail in areas such as acoustics, lighting and the design of the buildings to maximise visual stimulation for the children and create natural spaces which facilitate communication. The new College will include 24 single occupancy residential rooms, each with en suite facilities. Within the College there will be areas in which the services outlined above will be expanded. There will also be a full range of classrooms, a nursery, a pre-nursery room for parents, a multi-media suite, a speech and language therapy department and a deaf studies unit. The building, built on an 8 acre site, will also house a modern library, supported by the latest information technology, a games hall, a swimming pool and a range of outdoor facilities. At a time when many special school provisions across the country are experiencing a decline in numbers and a threat to their future, it is good to see this tangible evidence of the confidence that the Donaldson?s Governors and our funders have in the future of Donaldson?s. Our numbers are as high at the moment as they have been for some time and the new building is being built with expansion in mind. We look forward to our pupils and services being located there, probably in July 2007 and to welcoming our colleagues and friends and to share with us in the experience of the new Donaldson's.

Janet Allan,
Donaldson's College

Resource Library Update

Further to the last newsletter, I can now confirm that the British Journal of Visual Impairment has indeed resumed publication, this time by Sage. The first new issue was published in October 2004. The library has ordered a new subscription for 2005. More information is available from the Sage website:

Sage publications

A Journal Article database can now be accessed via the SSC Library website:

Many visitors to the library have commented on the lack of provision on commercially available databases for our subject area and we hope to improve access to that part of our collection by providing this service. The layout will be familiar to those who have used the web catalogue. Use surnames only in the author field search. Terms are searched on an 'and' basis so if you input 'Jones' in the author field and 'Deaf' in the title field it will find all articles by Jones with Deaf in the title, etc. Most of the articles have been cited from journals held by SSC and initially will cover recent years as we begin to build up a retrospective collection. The articles are selected based on relevance to the fields of visual impairment, deafness and deafblindness with a particular interest in those dealing with education. I hope that this database is useful to our members and beyond. Articles can be photocopied and sent to requesters for a small fee. Copyright restrictions apply.

At the same time I have refined the Library Catalogue and the Journal Article database so that searching is a bit easier. Many will have noticed that the catalogue would only retrieve items with the word exactly as typed on the search screen. Now, it will search for the word(s) as typed plus other words starting with that root. For example, 'blind' will also retrieve 'blindness', 'blinded', etc. I hope users find that this is an improvement. Please contact me with suggestions for improvements or features you would like to see.

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Initiative to improve health care communications with deaf people in Scotland

NHS Scotland

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) has funded the production of a Communication Tactics with Deaf People (Health care) tutor pack aimed at improving communications between healthcare staff in Scotland and members of the deaf community. The pack has been developed in collaboration with the Scottish Council on Deafness (SCoD), the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP), and members from a number of other organisations representing the needs of the deaf community.

In a nationwide study by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, A Simple Cure (2004), it was found that:

  • 35% of deaf people had difficulty communicating with their GP
  • 30% of British Sign Language users avoided going to the GP because of problems with communications
  • 33% of British Sign Language users were unsure about their medication
  • 24% of all deaf people interviewed had missed at least one health appointment due to poor communication ? some had missed up to five.

Lilian Lawson, Director of SCoD and a Deaf Sign Language user added:
"SCoD is delighted that NES has fully responded to our request for a standardised and customised training programme that will help remove communication barriers between deaf and deafblind patients and health professionals and thus improve deaf and deafblind people's health and wellbeing."

Given the existing pressure to release staff for training, the working party agreed to tailor an existing one day communication tactics course produced by CACDP. A series of recommendations was made on how the pack should be developed to reflect what health care staff need to consider when communicating with a deaf person - for example, not wearing a mask when talking to a deaf patient. The pack provides detailed information for trainers, together with a series of handouts for course participants which will enable them to sit the assessment for the CACDP Level 1 Certificate in Communication Tactics with Deaf People.

Welcoming the launch of the pack, Gaynor Kingsman, CACDP's National Development Officer for Scotland said:
"This qualification sets a national standard for the basic skills needed by health care staff to communicate effectively with deaf and deafblind health service users. Demand for the short course and assessment is growing as the NHS and other such services respond to the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act to improve access to services for deaf and deafblind people."

NES intends to offer funding for a number of deaf and hearing trainers to attend the CACDP curriculum training. This training will instruct trainers on the content of the new course and advise them how to prepare course participants adequately for the assessment. In addition, NES will offer funding for a number of places for NHS Scotland staff to attend the training and to sit the assessment. Further information from:

Sarah Ward,
NES Education for Scotland
Telephone: 0131 220 8671

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British Sign Language websites

In 2002 the University of Wolverhampton published a new website with BSL signs relating to English terms used in Arts subjects aimed at d/Deaf students and staff supporting them (Communication Support Workers and BSL/English interpreters). The website aimed to list subject-specific English terms with their most appropriate BSL translations; and in particular those terms that do not often feature in the kinds of BSL used outwith (higher) education. Some signs may therefore be new to students or support staff, and can be seen as a means to facilitate agreement on sign development.

Signs were gathered from deaf people and sign language interpreters and were approved by a panel of critical friends. Only signs which were agreed upon by everyone involved have been included. Definitions are available for each term in English only. Under each entry you can find related English terms with links to their BSL translation. This range has now been expanded, and specialist glossaries from English to BSL are now available in Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Built Environment subjects and are fully searchable by an A-Z index, a subject index and a keyword search function. The Power Search option allows keyword searching in particular subject areas.


Although these sites have been developed primarily for higher education, there is scope for using these vocabularies within secondary and even primary schools. However, the sites are fit for their intended purpose, rather than in the wider sense of offering a truly sign-bilingual resource: since the entries do not include definitions in BSL, the sites are much less useful for BSL users seeking to understand the actual concepts through BSL.


As an aside, it is worthwhile checking your search results before deploying the terms, since (as so often with large datasets) the database occasionally links to the wrong movie, eg, the term faculty on the science site was linked to the BSL movie showing DEPARTMENT*. Such wee errors happen, and there is a feedback form to point database administrators to them. You should also check for agreement, since some signs are regional variants, as is explained in the somewhat misnamed About us section. Furthermore, some signs are actually compound signs, so that (for example) the nearby movie for campus actually shows UNIVERSITY-CAMPUS; some are BSL clauses, such as the movie for lecturer (ME LECTURER). Such inaccuracies are of no consequence to those familiar with BSL, but may well confuse those with little knowledge of BSL.


Another notable point is one that is familiar to lexicographers: quite frequently, the English definition of the term translated into BSL includes vocabulary that is as much in need of clarification (or translation) as is the term itself. The definition for solar cell for example makes reference to the English terms device, photovoltaic cell, semiconductors and silicon. Although some of those English terms can then be located in further searches, it seems clear from this too that the inclusion of proper BSL definitions (and perhaps example sentences showing appropriate context for the BSL sign) would be an extremely helpful extension of functionality to d/Deaf students using the resource. Admittedly, this would require far greater resources, and take a much longer time to accomplish.

To access the sites you must first select a video player (Quicktime or Windows Media Player) and click on Save details before you can proceed to the search the website. A cookie will save your settings on your machine for future access.

* All examples accessed 03/02/2005.

Sheila Mackenzie & Ernst Thoutenhoofd, SSC

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