Graduate to make a difference to children with vision loss

17/06/15
Michelle receives her testamur from RIDBC Renwick Centre Director, Greg LeighMichelle receives her testamur from RIDBC Renwick Centre Director, Greg Leigh

Michelle Knight, is one of 51 trained graduates to be recognised at a ceremony at Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) for completing their postgraduate qualifications - helping to alleviate a critical shortage of trained teachers of children with vision or hearing loss.

Michelle has been working with people with vision loss for many years.

"Many years ago, after I first received my teaching qualifications I decided to apply for a position as a braillist at the Royal Blind Society," said Michelle. "It took me three months to learn braille before I started supporting adults with vision loss. I eventually moved on to being a technology consultant."

When a position came up to start the access technology unit at RIDBC, Michelle jumped at the opportunity.

"I came to RIDBC in 1997 to set up their technology centre," said Michelle. "It was great to be back supporting children. I decided to further my studies so that I could better support the children at RIDBC."

Michelle chose to study her Master in Special Education (Sensory Disability) through RIDBC Renwick Centre, the largest provider of postgraduate education programs in the field of the education of children with a sensory disability in Australia. The centre operates in affiliation with the University of Newcastle (with all degrees awarded by the university).

"When you are working with children with vision loss, showing them how to use technology to better access the world around them, you very soon see how there is so much more to the picture than the technology," said Michelle. "You cannot teach technology in isolation, as it links into so many areas of a child's life. My studies really helped me to understand the complex needs of many of these children.

"Mainstream teachers cannot be expected to have the skills and knowledge to understand the unique needs of children with vision loss – everything from orientation and mobility through to braille or accessible technology. All these things are integral to a child's ability to learn, and that's why it is vital that specialist vision teachers are able to go into schools – not to teach the curriculum but to support the teachers and students to implement the curriculum."

Through RIDBC Renwick Centre, RIDBC and the University of Newcastle have reversed a trend of diminishing professional specialisation in the field of educating children with a sensory disability. Over 818 graduates from the centre are now working to improve the educational opportunities available to children with sensory impairment around the country and the world.

More information about RIDBC teacher training, professional development and research is available at www.ridbc.org.au/renwick

RIDBC is Australia’s largest provider of services for children with hearing or vision loss, assisting thousands of children a year across Australia. As Australia’s premier provider of training and education for professionals in the field of sensory disability, RIDBC also ensures that services delivered throughout government and non-government organisations remain cutting-edge.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in children's lives.