On the net, we read and watch so many stories about the ‘success of a blind child’ in an English school, the achievement of a young teenager with low vision finding a job in the United States. Where are all the Australian stories? Even when we are looking for information about vision impairment, syndromes, good braille resources – we all tend to initially look at websites based in the US or other countries outside of Australia. Their resources with some purchased and freighted to Australia but it can be very expensive. There are some great websites with resources in Australia too. In fact, on this website I have put up recommended links to other Australian sites including our own professional association (South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment), information about NDIS, Raising Children’s Network which holds lots more information about vision impairment and additional disability considerations.
Very recently, we have learnt about a parent in Australia who had finally achieved success for her twin girls to learn braille in school despite past differing opinions. Parents like Raquelle continue to ‘fight the fight’ so her girls can have equitable access to learning through alternate formats being made available.
Sadly, some of the Australian States have moved towards a more “generic” approach, expecting teachers in-house to know how to manage ‘all kids’, no matter what their disability. Some regions of Queensland have reduced the number of specialist Advisory Visiting Teachers visiting students and employing those less experienced, and on a ‘temporary basis’. This doesn’t give continuity to a child’s support for learning. Where are those children going to be in a couple of years down the track? Still trying to get some consistency in their learning, from a teacher who is less knowledgeable of specialised needs such as braille or specific technology to achieve academically and prepare them for the future. Who will assess the child’s reading needs in braille? Will they know what is required?
As NDIS rolls out, it will be up to family members and those with a disability to do the research to source the providers to meet the person’s goals. Like the twin girls, achieving reading in an alternate format or travelling down the road independently can be achieved with the right people to support you.
NDIS Registered Provider no. 4050011793
Kerri Weaver is a service provider for children with disabilities.