Photo credits: Save the Children
Children with vision problems require various adaptations that allow them to participate in the entire curriculum. Learning material requirements depend on the level of functional vision. One child might have to use braille, while another could make do with large print. Accessible Educational/Instructional Materials (AEMs, AIMs) cater to the largest spectrum of student variability. Although this article focuses on braille code, it considers several other options available for visually impaired children. They include:
- Large print books – Some students with low vision need pages printed in larger than average letters to see properly.
- Increased contrast – Enhancing the contrast in certain learning materials improves visibility.
- Tactile graphics – These materials convey non-textual information, such as maps, pictures and graphs.
- Teacher-made materials – In certain cases, educators have to craft specialized instructional content to match individual requirements.
Braille is a literacy medium expressed as raised dots to help blind and visually impaired persons to read and write. For decades, mechanical braille writing tools were used to give students with special needs quality learning or instructional materials. However, the options can be severely limited, which impacts the curriculum offered to visually impaired children.
Many LICs Still use these systems due to lack of access to high-tech assistive technology tools. Developments in braille assistive technology over the past 25 years have been created primarily by the for-profit sector. On the other hand, mechanical devices for braille writing have remained mostly in the dominion of the non-profit sector and have effectively been removed from the forces that lead to innovation and improvements in products and cheaper prices
When available, a large percentage of instructional and learning materials for visually impaired learners are found in special schools. Various nations have schools for the blind that serve this particular demographic. However, only a few of these institutions are present, meaning they only accommodate a limited number of students. The rest have to try to fit into the conventional school system. Structuring education programs for the visually impaired incurs considerable costs and comprehensive planning that many developing nations lack the means, or enough commitment, to satisfy.
Learning materials for special needs children are crucial, because they simplify teaching, especially for students with one type of disability, and also gives them a chance to keep up with non-disabled children. Well-structured content and tools make communication between educators and learners easy and interesting, particularly in inclusive schools, where visually impaired children share classes with their able-bodied counterparts. Another factor is that children who use specialized tools tend to learn better than those who don’t. It’s not sufficient for schools to provide AIMs, though. They must also encourage proper utilization. Teachers, students, braille transcribers, and anyone else in the education ecosystem should know how to utilize learning resources.
Impediments to Availability of Braille Materials
One of the biggest issues impeding inclusive education is the lack of funds. According to the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (2016: 44), a majority of school systems in developing countries don’t have the resources, financial capita, or teachers with proper training in special education to cater to special needs students in regular schools. Another obstacle identified is the limited information available on funding of inclusive education.