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Budget Should Invest In Nation’s Blind Students

Association Of Blind Citizens Of New Zealand

Budget Promoting General Youth Literacy Should Invest In Nation’s Blind Students

The Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand congratulates the Government for providing $15m in last week’s budget to literacy teaching. “We hope that some of the funds dedicated to improving literacy of New Zealand’s youth in years 1 to 8, and the appointment of Literacy Development Officers, will take into account the specialised need of blind and vision impaired students who require instruction in Braille so that they might enjoy improvement in reading too” said Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand President Carolyn Weston.

“It is a crime that a significant number of blind children in New Zealand don’t have basic reading and writing skills. We associate high levels of illiteracy with developing countries and it is intolerable that a group of New Zealand children have been so under-resourced that they cannot reach the literacy level of their sighted peers,” Mrs Weston said.

Currently a Vision Education Resource Teacher may be working on average with 1 to 38 children whilst in the USA their counterparts may work with 10 to 15 children. Furthermore, these children are often spread over a large geographical area making it difficult for trained staff to devote optimum amounts of time to student instruction.

“Imagine your six year old child only receiving one two-hour reading lesson a month; this is a reality for many blind children who receive this level of Braille tuition,” says Mrs Weston.

Mrs Weston said the $15m should be partially devoted to enabling more teachers and teacher aides to learn Braille, encouraging teachers who are Braille literate to continue educating blind children and enabling more printed material to be transcribed into Braille.

“Such initiatives will only enhance the literacy level of blind children, giving them maximum opportunities to achieve their aspirations and goals. If the government will heed our call to devote a portion of these funds to such literacy programs, the future could certainly look a lot brighter for New Zealand’s blind children,” Mrs Weston concluded.

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