University of Edinburgh

Scottish Sensory Centre: 10 Years On

Information Systems

The SSC has considerable experience in the development of electronic information systems to suit a range of different client groups. It has particular experience in developing formats which are accessible to visually impaired and deaf groups, who have quite different requirements. The work undertaken in this area is underpinned by research into accessibility carried out by members of the SSC (eg, the work of John Ravenscroft and Marianna Buultjens on readability of text for visual impaired readers; the work undertaken by Mary Brennan and Ernst Thoutenhoofd on visuality and deaf users).

Launched in 1989, the Sensory Information Service database (formerly VIS) is the longest running online specialist database on deaf and visually impaired services and resources in the UK. The database has always been available online and offline.

As well as this, the SSC is developing other databases within the different research and development projects, particularly the Visual Impairment (VI) Scotland project and the Achievements of Deaf Pupils in Scotland project. VI Scotland has developed a greatly appreciated website, aimed at both visually impaired youngsters and their parents. The Achievements of Deaf Pupils project is developing a sophisticated relational database which will allow detailed information to be stored annually in relation to deaf pupils.

All of the above projects have worked closely with the relevant agencies to ensure that all databases conform to the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

As well as electronic databases, the SSC has a unique set of resources relating to deaf and visually impaired people, their education and access requirements, most of them available for loan through the SSC library.

SSC Library

This is the largest maintained library on sensory impairment in Scotland. It is staffed full-time by a qualified and experienced professional. The service offers postal lending to the whole of the UK including Ireland.

The collection includes books, journals, videos, CD-ROMs, audiotape and assessment and teaching materials. Special emphasis is on educational issues but other aspects of sensory impairment are also covered in detail. The catalogue of the collection is fully accessible and searchable via the website: Bibliographies of important topics are maintained and published.

The service is of value to a wide range of users: teachers, psychologists, social workers, carers and parents, people with sensory impairments and students. Access to the library includes normal office opening hours for visiting the library, requests and inquiries made by telephone, fax, letter and email. Flexibility is ensured by the presence of the dedicated member of staff.


The library is also an important resource for the staff of the SSC helping to keep staff members up-to-date on issues. The Resource Library Manager will pass on information from a variety of sources in the areas of special interest to staff.


A Newsletter is produced twice a year which contains articles on what is happening of interest to our clientele. We have a wide range of contributions, from SSC staff to home and international contributors. The international flavour is an important aspect of the Newsletter as it guards against insularity.
The SSC has also produced a range of publications, videos and CD-ROMs on a variety of topics. For further information see the following website pages:
SSC Publications:
SSC Videos: