Visual Impairment Scotland Research
A Web-based Information and Support Service for Children with Visual Impairment
Ravenscroft J, Blaikie AJ, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, Visual Impairment Scotland Research Group
Royal College of Ophthalmologists Congress
Birmingham, May 2003
The primary purpose of this project is to develop a user-driven information and support service that is accessible and relevant to children with visual impairment as well as their parents and carers.
The development of services was to both fulfill unmet need(1,2,3) and encourage notification of children with visual impairment to a new inclusive nationwide medical and educational notification system(4).
Using information gained from focus groups and web-based questionnaires an information support service and website (www.viscotland.org.uk) was developed offering:
- Medical information documents
- A web-based parent’s discussion forum
- ‘VISKIDS’ club for children
- A safe and secure internet chat room
- An email information line
- A quarterly newsletter
These results represent information collected from launch between 21 March 2001 and 31 of October 2002.
Between these dates 62, 675 website visits have been made, increasing over the past 12 months by an average of 405 every month (Figure 1).
436 families were notified to Visual Impairment Scotland (VIS) and all now receive a regular newsletter. Parents have posted 49 questions on the discussion forum.
A medical information document was written for each child notified to VIS. 74 separate medical information documents have been written (Table 1) with an average reading age of 14 years and a ‘Flesch-Kincaid’ readability score of 68%5. The medical information documents are the most visited information page with 8138 documents downloaded in the past 6 months. The documents are also regularly published in a national RNIB magazine for parents and professionals concerned with the education of children with visual impairment (6,7,8,9).
380 children joined ‘VISKIDS’ and 76 children requested passwords for the internet chat room. In collaboration with the Royal Blind Society in Adelaide passwords have been issued to children with visual impairment in Australia. Scottish ‘VISKIDS’ now regularly chat to Australian children.
The chat room won the 2002 Computing Industry ‘Special ABILITY Award’ for enabling disabled children to ‘overcome their disability and attain their full potential’10.
A successful nation-wide information and support service has been delivered that fulfills unmet need, supports inclusion and drives notification to an inclusive medical and educational childhood visual impairment notification system.
The notification system is helping to improve understanding of childhood visual impairment in Scotland (4,11,12,13,14,15,16)
1. Ravenscroft J, Blaikie AJ, What visually impaired children want from a website,
11th International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment World
Conference July 2002, Amsterdam
2. ‘What families need now’: A report of the needs of families with visually impaired children in Scotland, Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Publications (1996) ISBN 1 85878 111 6
3. Walker E, Tobin M, Mc Kennel A. Blind and partially sighted children in Britain: the RNIB survey Vol 2 London: HMSO, 1992
4. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Development of an inclusive childhood visual impairment (VI) notification system, Royal College of Ophthalmologists Congress, Birmingham, May 2003
5. A J Blaikie, J Ravenscroft, GN Dutton, Development of childhood visual impairment medical information documents The 7th International Conference on Low Vision Activity and Participation July 2002, Göteborg, Sweden
6. Andrew J Blaikie, Joyce Renton, ‘Focus on’ Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, Visability Vol 33, 2001
7. Andrew J Blaikie, ‘Focus on’ Retinopathy of Prematurity, Visability Vol 34, 2002
8. Andrew J Blaikie ‘Focus on’ Glaucoma Visability Vol 35, 2003,
9. Andrew J Blaikie, ‘Focus on’ Marfan’s Syndrome Visability Vol 37, 2003
11. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Description of the characteristics of children with dual sensory impairment, Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCO) Congress, Birmingham, May 2003
12. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Low vision aid (LVA) use in a population of children with visual impairment (VI), RCO Congress, Birmingham, May 2003
13. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Description of blind and partial sight registration rates amongst a population of children with significant visual impairment (VI) RCO Congress, Birmingham, May 2003
14. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Description of the characteristics of visually impaired children with a legal statement of special educational needs, RCO Congress, Birmingham, May 2003
15. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Childhood visual impairment: The time course from birth to blind registration RCO Congress Birmingham, May 2003
16. A J Blaikie, Ravenscroft J, Buultjens M, Dutton GN, VI Scotland Study Group, Visual field loss in children RCO Congress Birmingham, May 2003
VI Scotland, SSC