World-leading educator of the blind visits RIDBC

RIDBC Renwick Centre auditoriumDr Cay Holbrook giving her keynote address

One of the world’s foremost educators for students who are vision impaired, Dr Cay Holbrook, will be the keynote speaker at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children’s Renwick Centre, 27-28 October.

Dr Holbrook will address 90 Teachers of Vision Impairment from across Australia at a conference hosted by RIDBC Renwick Centre. Those attending will leave with a greater understanding of issues and strategies for teaching braille reading and writing – ensuring that children with vision impairment have the same chance to develop literacy skills as their sighted peers.

“Over my career I have seen the sophistication in this field grow. We now understand that a vision impaired child has a right to inclusive education, that is – inclusion in the education mainstream,” said Dr Holbrook.

“The single greatest risk I see for vision impaired children is to be surrounded by low expectations. Underestimating a child’s potential will leave an indelible footprint; on their social skills, mobility, literacy and employment prospects. It will affect a child’s entire life.”

Braille is a writing system which enables people who are blind to read and write through touch. For children who are blind, braille means literacy and numeracy but it requires specialised support to learn.

“Unlike most teachers, Teachers of the Vision Impaired often work in isolation, making this conference an important mechanism to encourage collegiality and knowledge sharing. It is essential that we provide our teachers with all the latest information and strategies to ensure that vision impaired children get the best possible start in life.”

Dr Holbrook’s visit comes on the heels of the 24 October announcement by the United Kingdom (UK) that it will adopt Unified English Braille Code (UEB) which unifies the previously separate systems of mathematic and literary braille, seeking to act as the new standard for all major English-speaking countries.

“Australia is seen as a world leader in UEB,” said Dr Holbrook. “UEB’s capacity to open access to information across national borders is a monumental leap forward. This profession has lost a lot of time to reinvention – having to transcribe braille books over and over again to make them accessible to vision impaired people across the English speaking world.”

“Information sharing, and understanding how technology opens up communications avenues, is increasingly a characteristic of successful organisations - and RIDBC really is an exemplar of this. RIDBC acts as a knowledge hub, a resource into which parents and professionals can tap into to gain access to the wide variety of information they need to help children with vision impairment succeed in life.

RIDBC Renwick 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.

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children provides vital support to over 1000 children with significant hearing and/or vision impairment and their families across Australia. As well, RIDBC provides vision and hearing screening to around 2000 babies and children each year.