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Literacy For Blind Children Being Compromised

From Association Of Blind Citizens Of New Zealand Inc

Access To Literacy For Blind Children Through Braille, Compromised Due To Ministerial Inaction

At its annual Conference, which was held in Christchurch, the Association of Blind Citizens expressed very grave concern over the lack of braille expertise throughout New Zealand's education system. The skill of reading and writing via a code of raised dots embossed on paper has been critical in expanding the educational and vocational opportunities for blind people.

This year's conference theme was "Blindness in the family," and the topic of braille featured prominently in this large gathering of blind people. "Braille is the tool of literacy for blind people, and there is now huge risk and considerable evidence that children in New Zealand are being denied their basic human right to learn braille as a core part of their educational experience," Vaughan Dodd, National President said. "The Association is saying unequivocally to Government that it must commit to the provision of braille and we have a number of strategies which we call upon Government to implement," Mr Dodd said.

The Association is calling for a greatly increased awareness of braille to be incorporated into teacher training programmes. It also endorses wider demands for a substantially increased number of specialist teachers to support the learning needs of blind and vision impaired children who require braille.

The Association believes that Trevor Mallard, Minister of Education and Lianne Dalziel, Associate Minister of Education (Special Education) must make a much greater commitment to supporting the educational needs of blind children who read and write through braille," Mr Dodd said. "We have seen little evidence so far, that the ministry is able to deliver what is required."

“Government initiatives to support literacy for all New Zealanders are applauded by the Association, but blind children have been largely excluded from any such commitment, in contravention of the New Zealand Disability Strategy", Mr Dodd stated. "The Government has failed to understand that it has a social and economic responsibility to invest in the future of children who read and write through braille", Mr Dodd said. The Association supports the statement by the International Disability Alliance, (a United Nations sponsored gathering of international leaders in the disability movement) concerning braille which calls on all states to proclaim ‘Official recognition of Braille as the written language of blind persons.’ "This Government must commit to braille for children through its own Disability Strategy and in order to respond positively to growing United Nations’ pressure," Mr Dodd concluded.

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