Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Monday, 26 May 2008 01:11 UK

School support for deaf and blind

Sign language
There are concerns about a lack of sign-language interpreters

Children with problems with vision and hearing are to be offered more support in schools in England, Schools Minister Andrew Adonis has said.

This will include more sign language and extra large-print text books.

At present, for GCSE pupils, only 12% of maths texts books and 8% of science text books are available in large print or Braille.

"It's vital that sensory impairments are not a barrier to learning," says Lord Adonis.

"Children with hearing difficulties and visual impairments have the same right to a quality education as everyone else.


"Parents with deaf children must be made aware of the sign language options open to them and helped to make informed choices.

"We need to share the expertise of schools and colleges that use British Sign Language with mainstream services," said the schools minister.

The aim is to make it easier for children to access sign language in schools and to have the learning the resources they need.

According to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), for every hundred users of British Sign Language there is less than one qualified interpreter.

The initiative will offer £800,000 to organisations to encourage greater use of British Sign Language in schools.

It is also intended to increase the reading material available for blind and partially-sighted pupils. Only 4% of books are ever put into a Braille or large-print format.

Lack of books

"Blind and partially-sighted children are currently losing out on their education because they can't always get hold of textbooks they can read," said Richard Orme, head of accessibility at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

"Not one of the dictionaries or atlases most widely used by 14 to 16-year-olds were available in a format that a blind or partially-sighted child could read," said the RNIB spokesman.

The extra support for children with hearing problems was also welcomed by the RNID - particularly the efforts to tackle the "chronic shortage of sign language interpreters".

"The shortage has a major impact on both the education system and deaf people’s communication needs more generally," said a RNID spokesman.

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