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Minister Fails Blind And Vision Impaired Children

Associate Education Minister Fails Blind And Vision Impaired Children

The Association of Blind Citizens calls upon Lianne Dalziel (Associate Minister Special Education) to acknowledge and correct the crisis situation facing delivery of education services to blind and vision impaired children in New Zealand.

"These children are losing out on good quality education opportunities due to a persistent inability of the Ministry of Education to implement appropriate, specific policies which will give them a chance in our education system," said Vaughan Dodd, Association President. "No other part of the education system accepts an average of 36 students to one teacher as being the norm," Mr Dodd said. Further: the Association understands that in at least one region, one teacher has 52 students on her roll. Services are heavily prioritized to support those, whose needs are most complex; services are delivered at pre-school, primary and secondary levels.

Resource Teachers Vision (RTVs) are the highly trained professionals who support blind and vision impaired students in their local schools. RTVs travel extensively, providing materials, specialised instruction and assistance to students and school personnel. Blind children need intensive instruction in braille, safe travel through the environment and the various skills required to live independently. New computer technology offers exciting opportunities for learning, but this as in all other areas of education for these children is difficult to access. Many children who have a small amount of vision need printed material in large font and all course material for each student needs to be adapted to meet highly individualised requirements. The Minister has ignored requests (supported by the Association), to increase the pool of RTVs, despite a substantial quantity of material highlighting New Zealand's emerging status as a nation whose blind and vision impaired children’s’ education is being treated with bureaucratic contempt. Failure through poor policy development by the Government to provide specialised teaching and equipment means poor literacy and numeracy skills, unemployment and forced dependence on struggling social services.

The Association calls upon Government to adopt a policy model prepared two years ago with the collaboration of all interested in the education of blind and vision-impaired children. “The model addresses professional development, governance and delivery of services which will ensure that all blind and vision impaired children receive the appropriate specialised educational support they as citizens have a right to receive," Mr Dodd said.
The model is consistent with the Government's New Zealand Disability Strategy and the philosophy of involvement by relevant stakeholders in all aspects of policy formation. Parents, blind adults and professionals joined together to meet the challenge of preparing a structure which ensures that consistent, quality services can be delivered nationally for the long term. The new Group Special Education offers little hope for the expertise contained within this sector to be utilised positively by the Government.

"The rhetoric must stop and real action must occur," Mr Dodd said. "Investing in the future of blind children through appropriately delivered education programmes generates productive and contributing members to society," he concluded.

Ends.

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