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The BBC's Gary O'Donoghue
"The Education Secretary is all too aware of the problems blind children face"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 02:30 GMT
Blind learners 'denied access'
Blind child
Blind children need better resources, the RNIB says
Many blind and partially sighted youngsters are being disadvantaged at school and college, research suggests.

Insufficient resources, training and support are denying such children access to the national curriculum, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) claims.

Many teachers struggle with inadequate resources

Louise Clunies-Ross, RNIB
Bullying at school also remains a problem, the survey of 1,000 people aged between five and 25 suggests.

Blind and partially sighted children must be fully included in all educational activities if they are to play an equal role in society, the RNIB's Assistant Director of Education, Louise Clunies-Ross said.

While the government and local authorities had made progress, she said, there were still significant gaps in services.

'Left out'

"Too many still have to wait for specialist equipment, course materials they can read or are simply left out of activities wrongly perceived as 'inaccessible'.

"Many teachers struggle with inadequate resources," she said.

In total, 23% of pupils who attend mainstream schools said they were often given educational materials in a format they cannot read.

Over 30% had received test papers in an inaccessible format and 44% said their sight problem had affected the GCSE subjects they chose.

Approximately 60% of mainstream secondary pupils found geography, science, PE and technology more difficult because of their sight difficulties.

University struggle

Blind and partially sighted university and college students have an even tougher time, the survey suggests.

Nearly half (47%) of university or higher education students did not usually receive books in a format they can read and 39% struggle to use libraries.

They call me 'cockeye'

Visually impaired child
Nearly 60% of secondary school children in further and higher education said they had been bullied by their classmates.

One secondary school pupil told researchers: "I am getting bullied at school because of my eyes.

"They call me 'cockeye' and I'm scared of it because it's not fair on all the people who are like me with disabilities."

A parent of a 10-year-old boy said filling in the questionnaire had made him cry when they reached the questions on bullying.

Children's website

The report coincides with the launch of a new website for blind and partially sighted children.

Harry Hill
Harry Hill is interviewed on a new website for visually impaired children
The site - Sort it! - will offer practical advice on how to deal with bullying and a message board will allow children to share their experiences.

Details of teenage magazines available in braille and large print will feature alongside other information.

The website will include an interview with comedian Harry Hill, who was issued with prescription glasses at the age of eight and was taunted by his classmates.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said in response to the RNIB report that the government was committed to making the education system responsive to the needs of disabled children.

A Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, giving them new rights and making it illegal for councils to discriminate against them, would be introduced "as soon as possible after the Queen's Speech", he added.

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See also:

04 Apr 99 | Education
Making schools more accessible
18 Jan 99 | BETT 99
Betsie brings Web to the blind
24 May 00 | Education
30m for school disabled access
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