Photo from ICEVI-Europe event

European Newsletter - Issue 15

Volume 6 number 1, March 2000




This is the last issue of the European Newsletter before our European Conference in Cracow: indeed issue number 15.

Fifteen newsletters bridge the period of the Budapest Conference (1995) towards the Cracow Conference (2000). In this period the circulation developed from 500 (issue number 1) to 1500 (issue number 15) covering all countries in Europe.

In this issue we will provide the last information about the Cracow conference. The programme has by now been determined: 150 lectures and 75 poster presentations. At the moment this issue will be printed (15 March) already 150 persons have registered for the conference. Do not hesitate: join them. Please note that the conference venue can host no more than 400 participants.

Also in this issue: informative articles about the education of visually impaired children and youngsters in Bulgaria, Norway, UK and an interesting article from Sweden about "The Playground as a Meeting-place".

The next issue will appear during the Cracow Conference in July 2000 and will mainly be dedicated to the state of the art and developments with regard to the education of visually impaired in Poland. If you like to publish an article or announcement: please send in your copy before 1 May.

I am looking forward to meeting you in Cracow.

Dr Herman A. A. Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI

Please do not forget to send in your REGISTRATION FORM for
the European Conference in Cracow, POLAND,


The Education of the visually impaired in NORWAY

In Norway formal education for visually impaired started in 1861 when an institute for the blind was established in Oslo. In 1886 a second residential school was established in Trondheim. The first attempts at mainstreaming blind pupils were made in the early 1970's.

Compulsory education and laws, reorganisation

In 1975 an Education Act was passed dealing with primary and lower secondary education, giving all Norwegian children the same statutory right to schooling, stating that handicapped children as far as possible should be integrated into regular schools.

In 1991, a reorganisation of special education was adopted by the Norwegian Parliament, as a result of which the two schools for visually impaired in Norway together with the special schools for hearing impairment, language disorders, behavioural disorders and learning disabilities became resource centres from 1 August 1992.

The reorganisation of special education can be summarised in this way:

Integration and inclusion of the visually impaired

Over a period of 25-30 years - starting from 1970 - we accomplished a mainstreaming process for all visually impaired compulsory school pupils. There are no boarding schools left for blind or partially sighted children. All visually impaired children, the totally blind and most of the multi-handicapped as well, are living at home. They attend their local school and a majority of them are in ordinary classes.

The support system in Norway is constantly changing. Last year the County's special Agency for the visually impaired was placed under the administration of the two centres, and at the same time 25 staff members at the centres were made redundant to transfer resources from the state to the municipalities.

National resource centres in Norway

The two national resource centres of the visually impaired in Norway, Tambartun and Huseby, are serving all municipalities in Norway, Huseby the southern region and Tambartun the western and northern. The two main objectives of the centres today are:

The two centres are offering pedagogical support to pupils in mainstream education, to teachers, parents, rehabilitation workers, staff from local agencies, school administrators and to related professions.

Textbooks in braille are produced at the centres

All educational materials and textbooks in braille are produced at the centres, for the lower grades at Tambartun and for the higher at Huseby. The centres are offering comprehensive support like assessment of vision, developmental screening and assessment, counselling and guidance, individual curriculum adaptations, rehabilitation planning, courses for teachers of visually impaired, family-focused early intervention, pre-school advisory services, selection of appropriate equipment, use of computers and educational technology for blind and partially sighted, training in daily living skills, auditory skills, mobility and sport activities.

To secure the competence and knowledge in Norway in this special field, Tambartun and Huseby are running several development projects and are conducting some research. All research is done in co-operation with colleges or universities.

We distribute information and knowledge by organising courses and conferences, producing articles, research reports and periodicals.

Mr Qystein Forsbak
Mrs Kirsten Rekdal
Tambartun National Resource Centre
Melhus, NORWAY

For further information please contact one of the two centres:


New steps in the education of visually impaired children in BULGARIA

The education of Visually Impaired people in Bulgaria started in 1905 when the first special school was opened in the capital of Sofia. 41 Years later a second special school was started in Varna city. These schools have existed until now and are the only two special schools for Visually Impaired people in the country. In 1966, the first boarding rehabilitation centre for newly blind started. In 1990 the short courses for teachers for the Visually Impaired in the Department of special education at the University of Sofia were changed into full-time university education for Bachelor's and Master's degree. The University of Sofia is the only one in Bulgaria offering teacher training for the Visually Impaired.

Nowadays the two special schools are more open to society supporting the integrated education. In 1999 the service for integrated education at Sofia school was increased, and a new regional one, situated in the town of Gabrovo, was opened serving 20 visually impaired students. The early intervention services existing at the two special schools have also been expanded and an early intervention centre will soon be opened in the city of Plovdiv. There is a network of 8 rehabilitation centres for visually impaired adults in Bulgaria. They also serve children in the regions with no services for visually impaired of this age. In 1998 the rehabilitation centre in Plovdiv was the host of the second national conference on orientation and mobility. Besides the plenary sessions and the discussion groups there were also video sessions and practical demonstrations.

There is considerable development in the education of visually impaired multi-handicapped students. For a short time now, Varna school accepts visually impaired students with physical disabilities. Following the recommendations of the Bulgarian association for education of visually impaired children, the Ministry of education allowed the students with severe disabilities to participate in the special school education. When leaving the school they are given a certificate of attendance and educational level achieved. This put a stop to the old system of artificially passing of school degrees. In June 1999 two Bulgarian special teachers received a two-week training on education of multihandicapped in Würzburg Blindeninstitutsstiftung. Two other special teachers are attending the educational leadership programme of Perkins school for the blind. In the year 2000 the Union of the Blind in Bulgaria will open a new institute of modern design for visually impaired multihandicapped adults in the countryside.

In the last few years the voluntary organisations for visually impaired have become more and more active. The parents' association for the Visually Impaired provides financial support to the school transportation to and from the special schools. Several foundations care for the Visually Impaired adults.

The Bulgarian association for education of Visually Impaired children is the main organisation on a national level realising the international relations with similar foreign organisations. There is good co-operation with ICEVI. Many projects are financially supported by CBM, Hilton/Perkins International, Würzburg Blindeninstitutsstiftung, SENSE International. They all were of great help to us in modernising the school equipment and training teachers for multi-handicapped students including the deafblind. Theofaan Institute was kind to offer us desk's design for low vision students.

In the year 2000 we will celebrate the 95th anniversary of the education of the visually impaired in Bulgaria by organising the first Balkan conference. It will be held in Varna school, 26-30 October 2000.

Dr. Mira Tzvetkova-Arsova,
Dr. Vladimir Radoulov,
University of Sofia, Department of special education,


Sixth EBU General Assembly

The sixth General Assembly of the European Blind Union was held in Prague on 24-27 November1999. There were delegations from 42 European countries.

For the third consecutive time (in 1993 in Ustron, Poland, and in 1996 in Giardini Naxos, Sicily, I have been allowed to attend this Assembly as a guest.

Apart from many procedural matters such as reports of the President, the Treasurer, the Director of the EBU office (in Paris) and the elections of the new Board, there were a number of interesting presentations: by a representative of the Council of Europe about the role of the Council regarding blind and visually impaired citizens, by a representative of the other EBU (European Broadcasting Union) about the future of audio described television. Furthermore, there was a presentation about the importance of Information Technology for blind and visually impaired people and a presentation about electronic money systems and the visually impaired.

Such a meeting is a good opportunity to strengthen existing contacts and to establish new ones. Co-operation between organisations of the Blind, like the EBU, organisations for the Blind, like the ICEVI, with respect for everyone's identity is, in my opinion, extremely important for realising everybody's goals.

Mr John Wall has been re-elected as President.

Mr Enzo Tioli from Italy has again been appointed as Chairman of the EBU Commission on Education.

This commissions will organise a conference on Education shortly after our European Conference, 19 -23 July 2000 in Montegrotto (near Padua) in Italy.

Dr. Herman Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI


Last information about the Cracow Conference

I assume that you have received the Invitational brochure and the registration forms. If not, or if you need more forms:

Please contact the Conference Office in the Netherlands:

fax: 00 31 486 420497

About the programme:

Ten days before the deadline for submitting abstracts (1-11-99) we had only received 10 abstracts. But in the days after this number grew till around 160 and by the end of the year we had received nearly 200.

In the middle of January the programme committee (consisting of Mr Tony Best, Mr Keld Stochholm and I) composed the final programme. Since we have received so many abstracts we were forced to make a few changes in the original conference schedule (as published in the conference brochure) to allow as many participants as possible to present their lecture or poster.

In spite of these adjustments it has not been possible to fit all the lectures into the conference schedule. More than 30 persons have been asked to make a contribution in the form of a poster instead of a lecture.

You will receive the final programme and the book of abstracts at the registration desk at the conference venue.

About registration:

For regular registration
Please send in your registration forms and pay your fee as soon as possible.

NOTE that the conference venue can only host 400 participants and that the hotels do not guarantee rooms after the 15th of May.

Registration for a supported place
Please send in your registration forms for a supported place as soon as possible, in any case such that it will be received before 1 April at the conference office in the Netherlands.

In the first week of April we will take a decision as to who will be allocated a supported place! Since we expect more applications for a supported place than we can accept we shall make a choice from the received registration in the above-mentioned week on the basis of the criteria mentioned in the brochure.

About Transport:

On 8 and 9 July there will a conference information desk at the airport and at the railway station. There will be (mini) buses to take participants to the conference venue/student flats. There will be taxis (taxi firm: Radio Taxi; price: 40 Pzl = about 10 Euro) to take participants to their hotels.

Registration desk at the conference venue:

The desk will be open:

Opening session:

Sunday 9 July: 15.00 - 17.00, followed by the opening reception in Sukiennice (transport by buses).

Herman Gresnigt


ICEVI meetings during the conference

Assembly for all participants
Tuesday 11 July, 16.00 - 17.30

Agenda items include:

Meeting of contact persons
Thursday 13 July, 9.00 - 10.30

In the first issue of our Newsletter of 1999 (volume 5.1) we published an article about ICEVI contact persons. It contained a job description of contact persons and an invitation to all European countries to make proposals for a contact person for their country.

This article also mentions that a meeting will be arranged for all contact persons during the Cracow conference. So far I received a proposal for a contact person from only a few countries.

For your information we publish the job description again:

  1. He or she should have a good network of contacts in his or her country in the field of the education of the visually impaired, and be well-up in what is happening there and in what is important.
  2. Observing and pointing out special events and activities that could be important for the European Committee, European chairperson and for the European Newsletter, such as conferences, workshops, anniversaries.
  3. Communicating with the European Committee and/or European Chairperson about needs and demands in his or her country and about possible twinning contacts.
  4. From time to time, supplying copy for the European Newsletter about what is happening in his or her country.
  5. Supplying agenda items for the meeting of the European Committee.
  6. It would be best if the contact person is able to communicate in English (him- or herself or by means of someone else).

I make an urgent appeal to all delegations/countries that have not yet nominated a contact person to do so during the conference.

I would like to invite all contact persons to the meeting on Thursday 13 July 2000.

Herman Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI


"The Playground as a Meeting-place" by the SRF: the Swedish Association of the visually impaired in SWEDEN

"The Playground as a Meeting-place" is the title of a report, which decribes the situation during the breaks for visually impaired children in the primary school in Sweden.

The state-run special school for visually impaired children in Sweden, the Tomteboda School, ceased to be a school in the 1980s, and today it functions as a resource center. The reason why the special school was closed, was to give the visually impaired children a more normal school situation and more social contacts with other young people without visual impairments. However, over the years, SRF has seen many indications showing that the social situation in the school does not work as was expected, which is why the project "Social Integration" was initiated. In an earlier report (Ann-Christine Persson & Bertil Sköld , Synskadades kamratkontakter pa högstadiet, SRF:s rapportserie 1995:2), the situation of the secondary school pupils was studied.. This report concluded that a major obstacle to developing good friendly relations between pupils with and without visual impairments is the lack of equality. The visually impaired pupils' need for a helping hand seems to put them at a disadvantage most of the time. Furthermore, well-meaning but misdirected help by teachers and other adult staff tends to even underline the lack of equality.

This report deals with primary school pupils (forms 1-6, the 7-12 year-olds), and focusses on the situation during breaks and in the school playground. The study is based on observations of interaction between pupils, interviews with pupils and inquiries among teachers. Previous studies suggest that the classroom situation and the schoolwork as such go reasonably well, whereas free activities and breaks between classes present certain problems. The present material confirms the picture, but it also shows that all is not unsatisfactory. At best, interaction and friendly cooperation work well - the visually impaired pupil need not necessarily be an isolated outsider in the school playground. The report discusses what the favourable conditions might be: kind of activity, group size and group composition, the attitudes of the other pupils, but also the attitude of the school to what in actual fact constitutes equality.

Furthermore the report discusses what, in principle, may be the long-term importance of equality in the development of the individual. The meaning of symmetrical, mutual relations between peers is seen in a socialization perspective. The lack of equal status and rightful connection does not only mean momentary frustrations and disappointments. It also turns peer interaction into a superordination-subordination relationship, which eventually may impact on both self-respect and attitude to others. To belong is ultimately a question of democracy.

The concept of integration ia also discussed, and the concept of "inclusion" which dominates the debate in the US is suggested as an alternative. The concept of inclusion places the emphasis on the basis right to belong on equal terms, which is justified not only by developmental arguments but, above all, by the values that should be fundamental to our education system. The responsibility for creating favourable conditions for inclusion rests on the institution and the system, not of any individual pupil or group of pupils. The choice of interaction to participate in is the business of the individual pupil, but he or she should have a change to make this choice on reasonably equal grounds.

A summary of the report has been translated in English. You can get the summary in inkt print, a cassette and diskette from the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired, SRF, information department, S-122 88 Enskede, Sweden.

Tel: + 46 8 - 39 90 00
Fax: + 46 8 - 39 91 77 / 39 93 22

Mrs Ann-Christine Persson


Evaluation of twinning contacts

At the European Conference of ICEVI in Budapest in 1995 the idea of twinning contacts in Europe was launched. As a result, a number of twinning contacts has developed. We have already evaluated the twinning contacts that we know, by a questionnaire. But contacts between between organisations have been established through other channels as well.

We are also interested in the development of these twinning contacts. Therefore, we have drawn up a list with questions that we would like to present to you at this moment, and that we will present during the European conference of ICEVI in Cracow lateron.

  1. What is the topic and objective of the twinning contact?
  2. What kind of twinning contact do you have: exchange of know-how, exchange of advice and information, financial support, supply of materials, others....?
  3. For how long has the twinning contact existed?
  4. How frequent was/is your contact?
  5. How many persons in your organisation are/were involved?
  6. Has the contact lead to positive results. What kind of results?
  7. Were there any matters that did not go the way you wanted them to go?
  8. Has the contact lead to a follow-up?
  9. Do you have other contacts? If so, what kind of?
  10. Do you know other organisations in your country involved in twinning contacts? If so, what organisations are they?

When you or your organisation have twinning contacts, may I kindly ask you to answer these questions and to send them to our secretariat in the Netherlands, before 1 May 2000. If you have different twinning contacts I would like to ask you to answer these questions for each twinning contact.

And please do not forget to fill in your name, address, place and country, also of the twinning contacts you have.

I thank you in advance for your effort and I am looking forward to your reply.

Dr Herman Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI


Low Vision in Early Intervention - a European Project

The project: "Low Vision: interdisciplinary collaboration in Early Intervention with blind, multiple and visually impaired children" forms part of the European Union Action Comenius 3.1 programme.It focuses on the topic of low vision in early childhood of multiple disabled visually impaired (MDVI) children.

Across Europe very varied systems and practices to support these children have developed. Some countries are still in the early stages of providing intervention whereas others have well-developed structures.

A survey of thirty European countries should give us a first overview of the current state of this important field of work.The outcomes of this research will be presented at the ICEVI conference in Cracow in July.

The members of the project team are: Marianna Buultjens, Scottish Sensory Centre, Edinburgh Scotland, Eberhard Fuchs, Verband der Blinden- und Sehbehindertenpädagogen, Würzburg Germany, Lea Hyvärinen, ophthalmologist, Helsinki Finland, Mercé Leonhardt, centre Joan Amades, Barecelona Spain, along with Renate Walthes und Frank Laemers, University of Dortmund in Germany, who are coordinating the project. So far four meetings of the project team have taken place.

One of several aims of this Action Comenius 3.1 is staff development.There is great need for this in the area of low vision in early intervention because of the crucial role of developing visual potential in the general development of children with visual impairment. It is not very easy to assess the vision of young children or children with multiple disabilities. However, in recent years a lot of material has been developed which makes child-centred practice possible. One important issue is how knowledge gained through the assessment process can be translated into day to day support for the children and their environment in order to improve the quality of life for the children and their families. All of this points to a greater need for more knowledge in the areas of assessment and intervention.

A core curriculum focussing on child-development, the visual system, assessment and intervention, all within the context of low vision in early intervention, is being developed. The project team is currently preparing a training course, based on the core curriculum, which will take place in September near Dortmund. This course has the twofold aim of allowing participants to exchange knowledge and ideas on provision in their own countries as well preparing them to pass on to colleagues what they have learnt during the course on return to their own countries.

In collaboration with ICEVI further courses will be organised in different parts of Europe to provide staff development for people already involved in early intervention.To this end the project team met with the Early Intervention Group of ICEVI in Barcelona in February 2000.

Both within the project team but also working with colleagues from other institutions it has become obvious that within the educational systems for blind and visually impaired across Europe, terms and definitions with very different meanings are used. This often makes communication more difficult in the international context. The project team has done some work on an overview of the most important terms and definitions.

Within the time span of the current project we are working on identifying "minimum standards for low vision in early intervention". If these recommendations are agreed they could serve as guidelines for setting up or developing early interventions sytems in European countries.

The project team will present the outcomes of their work and open them up for discussion at the ICEVI conference in Cracow, Poland, and also at the post conference session on Early Intervention.

Further information can be found on the Internet at: At the same address there is also a discussion forum on the topic and contributions are very welcome.. Anyone who wishes can also make direct contact with:

The University of Dortmund
Faculty 13, Project "Low Vision in Early Intervention"
Att. to: Mr. Frank Laemers
44221 Dortmund.

Mr Frank Laemers
Dortmund University



"Aspectos evolutivos y educativos de la deficienca visual"

(Volume 1 - 360 pages)

By a group of professionals, under the coordination of Ismael Martinez Liébana, and directed by Maria Rosa Villalba Simon.

The first volume, constituted of twelve chapters, introduces the reader into the psycho-evolution and educational basis of the visual impairment.

The contents of this first volume (chapters I to V) are the following:

  1. Visual perception and blindness
  2. Psychological development of the blind child. Different aspects
  3. Early intervention
  4. Psycho-educational evolution
  5. The special education needs of the blind and visually impaired students and psycho-educational intervention

ISBN: 84-484-0223-5
Published by: Spanish National Organisation of the Blind
Distributed by: Centro Bibliografico y Cultural (ONCE)
C/La Coruna, 18
28020 Madrid, SPAIN
Tel: +34 91 589 4200
Fax: +34 91 589 4225


The British Journal of Visual Impairement (BJVI)

Issue 18.1, March 2000

Kevin Carey, editor

Issue 18.1 of the British Journal of Visual Impairment (BJVI) differs from its usual format because we have taken the opportunity in the first issue of 2000 to print some especially important but rather long Papers. The first of these by Angus Ramsay and Helen Petrie, entitled "The Tactile Depiction of Visual Conventions: The Advantage of Explicit Cues", shows that blind and visually impaired people can interpret symbols indicating movement in tactile diagrams. This is a very important finding which makes it compulsory reading for all those who are interested in tactile media.

The second long paper is the second contribution by Julie Franks to her survey of rehabilitation work in the United Kingdom entitled "Blindfolds Off: The current State of Rehabilitation". It is full of rich detail about what blind people are taught and not taught by local government rehabilitation workers. It is interesting to contrast rehabilitation theory with what actually goes on in the field.

Gregory Hale explores how software can be assessed for usability in an article entitled "The Technical Assessment of Software Usability with Reference to Screen Readers for the Graphical User Interface (GUI)"; Greaney and Reason explore whether there is a phonological explanation for difficulties with braille reading; and Chris Arter and Lyn Layton explore the use of braille and moon library services.

Issue 18.2 of the Journal due out in May 2000 is being specially prepared for the ICEVI Cracow conference and will focus on research in Europe.

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