Media Access Study into Education for Children who are Blind or Vision Impaired

Media Access Australia has today released a landmark study into how the access needs of students who are blind or vision impaired can be met in Australian schools. Launched at the Blind Citizens Australia convention yesterday, it is hoped that the study informs how new technologies and systems are adopted.
While there is no official statistic for the number of children who are blind or vision impaired in Australia, a reasonable estimate is 4,000. The vast majority of these school age children attend mainstream schools.
The study explores how the challenge of providing access to media and technology for students who are blind or vision impaired is met across the public, Catholic and independent sectors. The study draws on interviews with mainstream and specialist teachers and service providers.
The report is a comprehensive review of how access is currently provided. Solutions range from large print text books to using pipe cleaners to mould into tactile diagrams. The report’s five expert authors then scope how mainstream technologies such as tablet computers could be used to improve learning outcomes.
The report identifies a number of factors inhibiting access to learning for students who are blind or vision impaired. These include:
• Existing structures hindering knowledge sharing between schools, sectors and states
• A lack of opportunities for coordination to prevent duplication of resources
• Copyright issues affecting the availability of texts in alternative formats
• A lack of information to help educators and education departments to adapt to technological change
Media Access Australia has a long history of work in Deaf and hearing impaired education which places us in a position to offer independent evidence based advice.
CEO and co-author Alex Varley said, “This report offers a bird’s eye view of how technology and information access are currently being provided across the country and across sectors. From this vantage point we can see the common challenges and identify practical solutions which could be adopted to improve services.”

Download the report:
Vision Education Scoping Report Final Version.docx
Vision Education Scoping Report (DOCX 3.4 MB)
Filed Under: Information

Thanks for the Votes

Have been back for a few days now, after attending the Blind Citizens Australia 2013 National Convention. And what a great convention it was; packed full of interesting topics, great information and fantastic interaction with fellow members.

At the AGM on Sunday 27 I was elected as the new President of blind Citizens Australia.

Thank you to those who voted for me, and thank you to all those who have wished me well and given their support.

It is going to be a very busy time ahead. I am ready for it and hope the leadership I provide is what the members of BCA are looking for.

President of People with Disability WA

What a busy week this has been. Board meetings and A couple of AGM’s on top of work. On Thursday 24 October, at the People with Disability Wa AGM, I was elected President of PWdWa.

Thanks to all who have given me their support, and for the many well wishes I have received.

Past President, Monica McGhie, has led the organisation with great passion and a good ear to the ground, giving PWdWA great insight into the issues being faced by Western Australian’s with a disability.

I hope to lead as well as Monica has, and with people with disability, our members and the WA community hope to position the organisation so it can continue it’s work on improveing lives and reducing barriers for all people with disability.

Informed debate vital for disability justice

From the West Australian:

Mentally impaired people can’t simply be treated as
criminals, say Taryn Harvey and Andrew Jefferson.

For over a decade disability, mental health and legal advocates have been calling for law reform to end indefinite imprisonment of people deemed to be “mentally impaired” due to intellectual or cognitive disability, or serious mental illness.

People’s stories have been shared in these pages in an effort to put a human face to this issue and some context to their offences, but largely they are an unacknowledged, misunderstood and extremely vulnerable group.

Last week, the State Government introduced legislation to address this injustice by establishing disability justice centres. It comes no less than 17 years after amendments to the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act (1996) allowed for the establishment of “declared places” for this purpose.

We commend the Government for taking this action, and for their commitment to pursuing a community-based service delivery approach.

Prison is never an appropriate facility for people who have been deemed unfit to plead due to mental impairment. Imprisoning people who are unfit to plead fundamentally contradicts the basic principle of a person’s right to a fair trial, What greater injustice could there be than people who are unfit to plead ending up spending longer in prison than if they had pleaded guilty and been convicted?

The current situation is harmful to the individuals themselves and counterproductive to successfully habilitating them. People with intellectual or cognitive disability are incredibly vulnerable in prison, and custodial workers don’t have the skills and experience needed to support them effectively.

The nature of the prison environment and lack of effective support can contribute to a deterioration in their mental health and the development of challenging behaviours which again custodial workers are not skilled in responding to.

These settings contradict what we know works when supporting people with intellectual or cognitive disability to live successful lives in their communities — including for those who have complex learning needs and histories of criminal offending.

While establishing the centres as a specific and identifiable place where mentally impaired accused will be supported is new, the service delivery models, knowledge, techniques and risk management that the centres will draw on are not.

Supporting people with intellectual and cognitive disability who have offended isn’t novel or untested. There is considerable evidence and experience locally, nationally, and internationally of successful community-based approaches.

What’s different is that for the first time there is a very public attention and focus on this issue. There is no doubt that there have been flaws in community engagement processes and communication about how the sites were identified, assessed and final choices made.

It is equally clear that there is a critical lack of understanding about what intellectual or cognitive disability is; what happens to people with these disabilities in our justice system; who would be eligible to receive treatment in the disability justice centres; and how would any risk to the people and the community be managed.

An example of this lack of understanding was when a member of the community called out in Parliament in June that convicted murderer Dante Arthurs might be housed in one of the centres. As the minister correctly pointed out, Arthurs would never be placed in a disability justice centre because he has pleaded and been convicted of a crime.

Examples like these only add to confusion and misunderstanding about the centres, and we need to make sure that the conversation is as informed as possible.

Only a person deemed unfit to plead following an independent assessment will be considered for being housed in the centres. And of those, only those who are considered by the Mental Impaired Accused Review Board as being appropriate would be placed there. The board makes it very clear that it places any potential risk to community safety as its top priority in making these decisions.

Disability justice centres are custodial environments but they are not urban prisons. They are staffed, secure, residential environments that allow people to receive the education, supported learning and skill development that will allow them to lead safer, more productive lives. They
are based in community settings because this is the most effective approach.

We call on the State Government to develop a planning framework that recognises that community-based services are essential and also provides community confidence in how decisions are made.

Taryn Harvey is chief executive of the Developmental Disability Council of WA.
Andrew Jefferson is executive director of People with Disabilities WA

$2.2 million for Disability Equipment Grants program

I have been on this LotteryWest Disability Equipment Grants program since it started close to 10 years ago. Back then, With a budget of around $500,000 I marvelled at how small grants could turn someones life around by giving them the tools they needed for independence .

Of all the committees, boards, councils and advisory groups I have been on this one really gives me a sense of the community we are part of.

It constantly reminds me of that great Paul Kelly song-
“from little things, big things grow”.

Group photo taken at presentation of LotteryWest cheque to Disability Equiptment Grant Program

Group photo taken at presentation of LotteryWest cheque to Disability Equiptment Grant Program

This from Jacqui Caldwell, ILC Marketing & Communications Officer, sums it up Beautifully ;

I’ve been working at the Independent Living Centre for nearly one year and what a huge learning curve I’ve been on. With the ILC providing a range of services it takes a while to learn about each and every one of them. I know of and often hear about our grants and funding programs but today it really hit home about the difference these grants make to people’s lives.

Ms Andrea Mitchell MLA, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Disability Services, presented a $2.2 million cheque on behalf of Lotterywest to the ILC for the Disability Equipment Grants (DEG) Program. Following this, people who have received grants told their stories.

Lee, a man in his early seventies who has cerebral palsy, told how he began using a computer when he was 63 and how specialised computer equipment, purchased thanks to a DEG, has enabled him to share his sense of humour and communicate more with people as well as allowing him to pay his bills online and be more independent.

Belinda, mum of six-year-old Mikayla, who is diagnosed with Aicardi Syndrome and is dependent on her wheelchair to get around, shared how being able to convert their car into a wheelchair accessible vehicle has made a huge difference to their lives. Transferring Mikayla in and out of the car is now a lot less strenuous and makes decisions such as popping down to the shops with the kids to grab a loaf of bread much simpler.

These are just two stories – last year over 570 grants were provided to individuals to assist with funding equipment through the DEG program.