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Reading with their fingertips Visually impaired students learn Braille at school’s new programme

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Six children with visual impairments now have a brighter future thanks to a special programme officially launched at Prospect Primary school.

As part of the Busy Bee Braillers programme six visually impaired students from schools across the Island, now spend each morning at Prospect Primary, learning to read Braille with equipment newly donated by several local companies. They are instructed by a new teacher for the visually impaired, William Ridley.

Town Crier, Edward Christopher kicked off a special celebration at Prospect Primary on Thursday marking the occasion that included Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith, other officials from the Ministry of Education, members of the Bermuda Society for the Blind, teachers, students and families.

“For so long, I have heard about the benefits of technology in this area,” said Dame Jennifer. “It is just wonderful to be able to launch this programme which will see Braille books provided at each level, so that all students will be exposed to the printed word and the participation of visually impaired students in classroom activity will be greatly increased.”

Braille is a system of writing and printing for the blind, in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots.

The Bank of Bermuda Foundation, Ace Group and Cox, Hallett and Wilkinson Limited donated $64,000 for the new equipment, which includes Braille readers and embossers (essentially Braille writers).

“Their efforts have been selfless and stand as a prime demonstration of community spirit,” said Dame Jennifer.

Fundraising for the programme was spearheaded by Sylvia Munro, grandmother of visually impaired student, Stephen Davis, 13.

“A little while ago, an HSBC television commercial was being aired about four times a night,” said Ms Munro. “The commercial talked about how every child should have a sound education.”

Ms Munro called the bank and told them that out of all the visually impaired students on the Island, only her grandson had the benefit of a Braille reader, and his was second-hand and ancient. There were several other children in the education system who did not have this equipment, and needed it. To her surprise, the bank suggested she apply to the Bank of Bermuda Foundation for funding. She sent them, and several other companies, a letter laying out the situation for blind and visually impaired students in Bermuda. The Bank of Bermuda Foundation and several other companies granted funding for the much needed equipment, and the Busy Bee Braillers programme was born.

“I wrote that there is no point bashing the Government,” she said. “They have cut their budget. There is no money. We need to get past that. The Government has done things. They provided the school, the paraprofessionals and the initial set up.”

She said the Busy Bee Braillers programme is still looking for funding to provide the visually impaired students with laptops, special software, and special scanners.

For more information or to make a donation, contact Ms Munro at 504-3050 or e-mail sylviamunro[AT]yahoo.com .

Seven-year-old Kaori King gets some hands-on lessons from Jean Howes, 85, who is helping students learn to read Braille. Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith joined members of the Prospect Primary faculty and staff at the official launch of the school?s Braille Programme Busy Bee.
Photo by Tamell Simons Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith joined members of the Prospect Primary faculty and staff at the official launch of the schools Braille Programme Busy Bee. Pictured; Students show their skills on brail teaching tools.
Photo by Tamell Simons Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith joined members of the Prospect Primary faculty and staff at the official launch of the schools Braille Programme Busy Bee.
Photo by Tamell Simons Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith joined members of the Prospect Primary faculty and staff at the official launch of the schools Braille Programme Busy Bee.
Photo by Tamell Simons Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith joined members of the Prospect Primary faculty and staff at the official launch of the schools Braille Programme Busy Bee.
Photo by Tamell Simons Minister of Education Dame Jennifer Smith joined members of the Prospect Primary faculty and staff at the official launch of the schools Braille Programme Busy Bee. Pictured 6 year old Zyare Outerbridge along with his father Lerenzo Simmons show his Braille lessons.

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Published November 04, 2011 at 10:04 am (Updated November 04, 2011 at 10:03 am)

Reading with their fingertips Visually impaired students learn Braille at school’s new programme

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