RIDBC Renwick Centre graduates to support students with vision or hearing loss

Dr Frances Gentle receives her testamur from Professor Greg Leigh at RIDBC Renwick Centre

Dr Frances Gentle has completed her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) on the education of children with a disability in the East Asia Pacific region – her work being instrumental in improving the educational opportunities for children with a disability in the region.

Dr Gentle is one of 84 graduates who have been recognised for completing their postgraduate qualifications in special education at a ceremony at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC), Tuesday 21 May.

These graduates completed their studies through RIDBC Renwick Centre and will now help to alleviate a critical shortage of trained teachers of children with hearing or vision loss.

Dr Gentle is a Lecturer in Vision Impairment at RIDBC Renwick Centre and Vice President of the International Council for the Education of People with Visual Impairment.

“I have worked for many years in disability education and during my time in Japan in the 1990s I established a language program at a vocational centre for adults who were blind,” said Dr Gentle. “I fell in love with the work and when I returned to Australia I was offered a scholarship to study my Master of Special Education (Vision Impairment) at RIDBC Renwick Centre – Australia’s most well respected tertiary institution in this field.”

After completing her studies, Dr Gentle was given the opportunity to work at RIDBC Renwick Centre.

“As part of my community work I have spent a lot of time in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, where 90% of all children with a disability aren’t in school. This number grows to 99% when the child has a vision loss. For my PhD I developed a national model for these countries for educating children with a disability,” said Dr Gentle.

“It’s the most satisfying career imaginable knowing that you are opening the doors of language and literacy to children with a sensory impairment. I love working with my postgraduate students – they are so committed to improving the lives of children with vision loss, and their families.”

RIDBC Renwick Centre operates in affiliation with the University of Newcastle with all degrees being awarded by the University. The Centre is the largest provider of postgraduate education programs in the field of the education of children with a sensory disability in Australia, and is among the largest and most widely recognised in the field across the world.

“With skilled early intervention and special education, children with hearing or vision loss can access the same opportunities as all Australian children and reach their full potential,” said Conjoint Professor Greg Leigh, Director of RIDBC Renwick Centre. “These children get the best possible start to life when they, and their families, receive immediate support from appropriately trained professionals.”

“Through RIDBC Renwick Centre, RIDBC and the University of Newcastle have reversed a trend of diminishing professional specialisation in the field of education for children with a sensory disability. Over 700 graduates from the Centre are now working to improve the educational opportunities available to children with sensory impairment around the country and the world.”

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.