University of Edinburgh

VIScotland Parent Guide to Mainstream Visual Impairment Education

What right does my child have to a mainstream education?

Parents of visually impaired children often face the difficult task of deciding which school their child should attend. The very specific special educational needs of a visually impaired pupil mean that he may require additional intensive specialist input to enable him to achieve his full potential. More and more are now opting for a mainstream setting for their child and most education departments throughout Scotland are pursuing a more Inclusive education system. So, what right does your child have to a mainstream education?

The introduction of the Standards in Scotland's Schools, etc, Act (2000); the Disability Discrimination Act (1995); and the more recent Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001), has meant that local education authorities in Scotland should now think about taking "reasonable steps" to ensure that children with disabilities obtain the support they require to access the curriculum within a mainstream educational environment - if this is appropriate. As a result it is presumed that "mainstreaming" will take place and education authorities as well as individual schools, are obliged to review their policies and practice, so that children with a disability are not disadvantaged in any way or treated "less favourably" than their able-bodied peers.

Local authority responsibility to plan ahead

From October 2002, the introduction of the Education (Disability Strategies and Pupil's Educational Records) (Scotland) Act means that "responsible bodies" - the local authorities - will be required to have a strategic plan for the implementation of improved accessibility to schools. These strategies should improve service provision over time and will consider:

Improved physical access to the school

Local authorities and individual schools will be required to address issues such as;

  • improvements to signage,
  • route finding systems to enable pupils to find their way round a school easily,
  • colour contrasting, eg; door handles and steps to enable pupils to make best use of their residual vision,
  • adjustable lighting, blinds,
  • tactile paving outside the school,
  • evacuation procedures.

Improved access to the curriculum

Strategies must be put in place to ensure that the visually impaired learner achieves full access to the curriculum, with particular attention paid to improving communication.

All resources provided to pupils in writing, such as handouts, worksheets, textbooks, timetables, test and examination papers, posters around the school, and information about school events should be made available in an electronic format. This Information may then require adaptation and be presented in an alternative form such as, in Braille, in large print, in audio formats, through ICT, through sign language or by a recognised symbol system (such as Makaton).

Classroom learning materials should ideally be presented at the beginning of the lesson, for immediate use, when it is required by the student. Resources should not be reproduced at a later date as this would disadvantage the student, and therefore be regarded as "less favourable" treatment.

Any strategic plan should also consider health and safety issues, which have often been regarded as the main barrier to full access to the curriculum. Particular attention should be paid to any potentially 'problematic' areas of the school curriculum, such as Physical Education, Science, Home Economics and Technical Subjects. Pupils should not be prevented from accessing any subject area and the local authority will have to ensure that this can and will happen.