Two women at the reception of the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Update on the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Education and Training, Visual Impairment

It was exciting to join the group attending the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham last week. It involved the teachers of students with sight impairments up to the age of 18, I think.

First thing, I met Gwyneth, Director and teacher of visual impairment, displaying her lesson plan, games et al, from the Positive Eye Consultancy.

Eillen Finch team leader of Access2books chatting to Gwyneth McCormack from the Positive Eye at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Eileen Finch team leader from Access2books picking Gwyneth McCormack’s brains, the director of Positive Eye, at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

I had spoken with Gwyneth before when she supported me with the promotion of Access2booksShe is the most generous woman with her guidance, support and information. 

She is striking and authentic; no wonder why everyone has good things to say about her and her work in the UK and abroad.

As well as other countries, she has run courses in Iceland and Romania, and one of these courses involved bringing teachers, students and families together to learn tricks about applying make-up if you can’t see. 

So now, I look forward to learning easy ways to put on make-up. I haven’t done this for 30 years (I have no central vision).  Well, that should be funny!

You can learn more about what Gwyneth and her team at The Positive Eye are doing by following this link www.positiveeye.co.uk.  

A medium shot of Eileen Finch from Access 2 books chatting to Gwyneth Macormack the Director of the Positive Eye chatting at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Eileen Finch team leader from Accesss2books sharing ideas with Gwyneth McCormack, the director of Positive Eye, at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

The weekend was full of interesting people; for example, teachers who taught up to 18 year old VI students science and maths. Below are the timetables for the weekend.

A snapshot of the timetable on Saturday  at the  Visually Impaired Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

This is a snapshot of the timetable of the day and the modules we covered. I would recommend it for anyone involved in this sector.

As I could see up to the age of 30, I have no experience of science experiments with partial sight or none at all. It does make me and my VI friends smile often when we talk about trying to get certain things done. Chemistry and physics experiments are one of them.

A snapshot of the programme at the University of Birmingham during the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend

The programme on Sunday involved the Learning Through Touch modules.

The teachers gave us lots of feedback. Many already had stock of who we were or they were aware of our books. That is great! Isn’t it? 

We tend to feel like we are a little team working hard but not necessarily getting the ‘music through the speakers’. But we are, great work Joseph, Chris and me as we do most of the ‘talking’.

Our books are 75 point print, Tiresias font, double sided, grade 1 Braille and improved illustrations for access.

Here is the some of the feedback we received:

  • Provide single sided Braille: the teachers sight read so double sided Braille can cause problems.
  • Some want double line spaced Braille for early learning  
  • Some want 36 or 48 point print for various reasons: they don’t want young children to use any larger print size when Braille is a necessary skill
  • A few people ask for Comic Sans font so that the children read print which reflects how they write 
a picture of the interior pages of the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear. On the left hand side is text and the Braille transcription which reads, "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me. " On the right hand side of the page is a picture of the brown bear strolling and below the picture is a Braille description of the picture.

A shot of the interior pages of the classic picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear written and illustrated by Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jnr.

So as I can’t access blogging, please blog away Joseph, I look forward to hearing if you were interested out there in social network world.

Before I forget, Mike McLinden heads up the VI Study Degree Course at Birmingham University. I called him and he invited me to show the books to his students.

I was delighted when he asked me to come next September when he has his new in-take. I will show the books again, and meet with the students for a session – content to be planned. I am delighted!

I met Janet Harwood, from CVIS Cerebral Visual Impairment Society, what an exciting woman. Meeting Janet was a great education for me.

Eileen Finch and Janet Harwood from the CVI Society chat about their work at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

Eileen Finch the team leader from Access2books gets comfy with Janet Harwood from the CVI Society [The Cerebral Visual Impairment Society] during registration at the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham.

She works with other volunteers to grow this charity and educate us about people with CVI; for example, they may see 14 point print but need 36 to understand and process the information.

This seems to me to be a classic myth about disabled people. Cerebral palsy is one reason for CVI: it is often treated as a learning disability by the community at large.

Learning disability is also often assumed to be the condition of someone who can’t understand. So if someone with CVI can see something, but not understand it, they can be mistakenly regarded as if they are unable to understand, but in fact, they may only need a larger print.

I look forward to learning more from Janet, CVIS and their community. She was excited about our books and even more supportive when we discussed Access2books next series of diversity in children’s stories, potentially including, Three Mums, Two Dads, a Disabled sister and adopted children,

We have a children’s biography version of Nelson Mandela’s life that we are interested in making into an accessible book. It is produced by Kadir Nelson – and no, he is not related to Nelson Mandela. However, this book is still in the early stages of consideration. Hopefully, we will be granted permission to work on it as it is visually stunning as you can see by the front cover below. The illustrations inside are equally stunning.

The front cover of  the book on Nelson Mandela for children distributed by the Letterbox Library

Access2books hand-made books offer flexibility. This means our books will benefit people with CVI and many other conditions and situations.

Many classrooms want the books to be used for group reading ensuring everyone can join in.

Most adults with access to information needs can read 75 point print or Braille, so our standard format will continue to be available, and as adult large print readers are the majority of our users, I think, it will continue to be the most popular format for most of the population who need access.

Aliens Love Underpants inside pages

Interior pages of the book Aliens Love Underpants written by Claire Freedman illustrating the format of our books with text on the left hand side and images on the right. At the bottom of both pages is a Braille transcription of the text on the page and picture descriptions of the image on the right.

We can make many changes to our hand made books and plan an Early Learning Braille version of our books. Watch this space.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend. Feel free to comment and make any suggestions which you think might be helpful or worth considering with regards to what we do as book publishers or anything that we cover on this blog. 

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2 thoughts on “Update on the Visual Impairment Residential Study Weekend at the University of Birmingham

    1. Yes, Janice, I concur. Our specialty is making accessible books for people who happen to be visually impaired so it is helpful to be empowered by studying visual impairment and knowing more about it because it is an area not so well understood.

      Don’t worry about thank us for following you but thanks to your willingness to share your knowledge, you are reaping the rewards of the seeds you sow and attracting like minded people. I guess it’s called the law of reciprocal action or something like that. Keep up the great work!

      Bookwon

      Like

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