European Newsletter - Issue 19
Volume 7 number 2, August 2001
- European committee meeting, Condover Hall, UK, 10-13 May 2001
- Future of ICEVI Europe
- ICEVI subregions within Europe
- MDVI EURONET, Multiply Disabled Visually Impaired European network
- Exco meeting in Chihuahua, Mexico, 6-6 May 2001
- T.E.A.M. News - Project: "In Touch with Families"
- The role of action research in the education of the visually impaired in Romania
- Lviv, a large city in the West of Ukraine
- 150th anniversary: school for blind children in Lviv, Ukraine
- Looking back on the conference: Innovative Approaches to Rehabilitation of Visually Impaired Children
- Searching for new ways of Education for the blind and visually impaired in Ukraine
- Regional centre for the visually impaired in Maribor, Slovenia
- The role of the institute for blind and partially sighted children after the reform of the educational system in Slovenia
- New publications
- Important Events in the near future
Again a Newsletter of 12 pages containing a lot of information from all over Europe: about meetings and conferences, about current and new initiatives and projects.
Last May, the European Committee discussed its future at great length. This discussion was also inspired by the fact that the majority of the present members will no longer be available for re-election in 2002 for various reasons. The proposals can be read on page 2. Please mail us your reactions and suggestions.
Three articles have been submitted by a country which we have not paid attention to before in our Newsletter: Ukraine. One article is about an international conference in Lviv in April last which was held on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Centre Lewenia. Another article is about the school for the blind in this same Lviv which will celebrate its 150th anniversary in October of this year.
Furthermore information about an important initiative: MDVI-Euronet, the basis of which has been laid during the Cracow Conference.
By the time you have received this Newsletter, you will have only a few weeks/days left (until 1 October) to submit your abstract for the World Conference of ICEVI, which will be held in the Netherlands next year. After our experiences in Cracow, we count on many interesting and important contributions from Europe!!
Have a good start of the new school year.
Dr Herman A. A. Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI
Mook, the Netherlands
European committee meeting, Condover Hall, UK, 10-13 May 2001
In the weekend after the Exco meeting (see page 5) the annual meeting of the European Committee took place in Condover Hall, an institute for multi-disabled visually impaired children in the UK. Tony Best, at that time still the director of Condover Hall, was our host.
Three important items were at the agenda:
- evaluation of the Cracow Conference
- information and discussion about ongoing developments in the various European countries and regions
- future of ICEVI Europe
The Cracow conference:
People were unanimous in their opinion that the conference was a success in every respect and maybe the best ICEVI conference ever: both with regard to content and organisation. The programme was high standard: it reflected all issues in the education and rehabilitation of children with visual impairment. All honour to the Polish Host Committee: they did a really great job.
Developments in Europe:
Much attention was paid to various developments in Europe. Concern was expressed about the danger that specific know-how, built up in many years, threatens to get lost if education to children with visual impairment loses its characteristic traits and recognisability. That would be an undesirable side effect of focussing too much on integration. Integration in itself is of course fully subscribed to by the committee provided that certain conditions are met.
Furthermore, there are many positive developments: there is much (especially international) co-operation in projects whether or not financed by the European Union. Frequently, workshops and conferences are organised on a subregional level such as in Riga, Latvia for the Baltic countries, in Lviv, Ukraine, for East European countries, in Prague, Czech Republic, for Central European countries.
Mention was made of the recently founded MDVI Euronet: a European network with regard to multi-disabled visually impaired people: for more information see page 4.
Future of ICEVI Europe:
On the basis of the results of the discussions in our meeting of 2000, concrete proposals have been discussed and decided upon. You can read them on page 2.
We look forward to your reactions to these proposals.
It is important that the elections for the European committee after 2002 will no longer take place during the World Conferences but during the European conferences since normally speaking, more people from all over Europe are present at these occasions. This implies that the mandate from the future committee will last 3 instead of 5 years.
So far the most important results of the European Committee meeting.
Now it only remains for me to say that the meeting proceeded in an open, pleasant atmosphere in the very attractive 400 years old caste Condor Hall where one of the RNIB schools has been established since 1948.
- Keld Sochholm, member of the European Committee since 1987, has retired as director of Refsnaesskolen in Denmark as from 1 July 2001.
- Tony Best has resigned his directorship of Condover Hall as from 1 July 2001 in connection with his appointment to director of Sense, a large organisation for deaf-blind people in the UK (Keld and Tony will remain members of the European Committee until the next elections).
- Helena Keller, Russia, has informed us that she will resign her membership.
Future of ICEVI Europe
During the last meeting of the European Committee, held in the UK in May 2001, the main topic we discussed was: the future of ICEVI Europe.
During the past and the current quinquennium, especially since 1994, there was/is a rather exceptional situation in our region, because there was/is a nearly fulltime chairman, whose activities within this scope were made possible thanks to the financial and secretarial support of Theofaan (called Sensis as from 1-1-2001) in the Netherlands.
Since this "exceptional situation" will end in the middle of 2002, we are faced with the question of how to maintain at least the present level of activities.
Two important aspects can be distinguished here: the availability of time and the availability of money.
Since the amount of work which a proper functioning of the region involves, can no longer be mainly done by one person, we must make an attempt to compose the committee such that it consists of persons each of whom are willing to assume responsibility for a substantial sub task.
In addition to chairmanship, the following tasks can be distinguished:
- secretarial duties
- editing of the European Newsletter
- active treasurership
- preparatory tasks with respect to the European Conference
- preparation of some workshops
- activities with respect to special interest groups (E.I., M.D.V.I., N.T., T.T.)
- representation of ICEVI Europe in the sub regions
So far the members of the European Committee were chosen during the ICEVI World conference by and from the participants present there, the last time per sub region (for the composition of the sub regions: see appendix). Because sometimes, a certain sub region only delegates one or a few representatives, it may be difficult to make a choice.
In order to establish a new committee which is well-prepared for the tasks to be carried out, the European Committee has decided to use the following procedure:
- The present committee approaches (by means of a nomination committee to be appointed from this same committee) a number of persons who put themselves up as candidates: one for the chairmanship, and one from each sub region for committee member.
- The names of these candidates will be published in the European Newsletter of December 2001.
- The sub regions will be enabled to propose other candidates until 15 March.
- If there are several candidates, either for the chairmanship or for one or more regions, then elections will take place for those positions at the World Conference in 2002.
- The new committee will divide the positions and tasks during its first meeting by mutual agreement.
- Finally, it has been decided that the future elections will no longer take place during the World conferences but instead, during the European conferences since at these conferences usually more participants from Europe are present. This implies that the term of the new committee will now last three years instead of five years.
In order to function properly, ICEVI Europe must have its own income. It will be easier to find sponsors if it can be demonstrated that the persons involved also contribute part of the necessary funds. That is why it has been decided to introduce a membership fee starting from 2002. A distinction will be made between:
- individual membership fee
- corporate membership fee (a school, an institute or centre etc.)
- membership fee for umbrella organisations.
An individual member will receive the European Newsletter and 10% deduction in the conference fee of the next European Conference.
A corporate member will receive the European Newsletter and 10% deduction in the conference fee of the next European Conference for 2 participants.
|individual membership fee:||25 Euro per year|
|corporate membership fee:||100 Euro per year|
|Umbrella organisations:||(at least) 1,000 Euro per year|
For the time being, the fees are only intended for people etc. from Western Europe.
It will probably be possible to introduce a reduced membership fee in some Central and Eastern European Counties.
All our proposals are open to reaction and discussion.
Please send your reaction to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Final decisions will be made during our next European Committee meeting in Spring 2002 and during the regional meetings at the World conference in August 2002.
ICEVI subregions within Europe
1. Baltic and Nordic CountriesDenmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden.
2. English-speaking CountriesIreland, Scotland, United Kingdom.
3. French-speaking CountriesBelgium (francophone), France, Luxembourg, Switzerland (francophone).
4. South European CountriesItaly, Malta, Portugal, Spain.
5. German and Dutch-speaking CountriesAustria, Belgium (Dutch-speaking), Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland (German-speaking).
6.Central European CountriesCzech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia.
7. Balkan CountriesAlbania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey, Yugoslavia.
8. East European CountriesArmenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine.
Multiply Disabled Visually Impaired European network
In Cracow the first contacts were made for what is now called: MDVI Euronet: a network of people involved in the education and rehabilitation of children with multiple disabilities. The first meeting of the Network took place in Dublin, Ireland in May 2001.
We received the following information about the network:
Kent Lundkvist, Ekeskolan RC, Sweden. email@example.com
Christina Nordqvist, Ekeskolan RC, Sweden. firstname.lastname@example.org
Goal of the network:
This network will develop and share information in the following major areas:
- Assessment and visual assessment.
Co-ordinator: Eberhard Fuchs, Germany, email@example.com
- Early intervention and family support.
Co-ordinator: Jude Thompson, England, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mobility and orientation / Physical environment.
Co-ordinator: Patrizia Ceccarani, Italy, email@example.com
- Changing from School to Resource centre. Inclusion models.
Co-ordinator: Brian Allen, Ireland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Leonard, Ireland, email@example.com
- Staff training formats. Pedagogical material.
Co-ordinator Isabel Amaral, Portugal, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pre-vocational training
Co-ordinator: Marika Carlborg, Finland, email@example.com
- Emotional disturbances.
Co-ordinator: Kevin Tansley, Scotland, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Implications of changing populations in assessing models, education strategies etc.
Co-ordinator: Patrizia Ceccarani, Italy, email@example.com
The network has prepared a three-year action plan to investigate the above-named topics and will present the findings of the group in a series of International events planned in this period by the DBI and ICEVI. Individual co-ordinators have been appointed to develop each specific area from the above-mentioned founders of the network. They will also have the responsibility to find people interested in their individual area. Regular updates will be published in the relevant journals and newsletters.
The first action of the network will be the organisation of an inaugural meeting planned for March 2002 in Portugal. This study group will be the contact base for practitioners with emphasis on ensuring that all people working or interested in these areas have access to information from the group. It will be a very open network with a multidisciplinary membership.
Communication between the members of the development group will be undertaken mainly by Internet correspondence.
Exco meeting in Chihuahua, Mexico, 6-6 May 2001
On 5 and 6 May the Exco meeting of ICEVI took place. Exco means: Executive Committee. It consists of the 5 principal officers, the 8 regional chairpersons and a number of representatives of NGO's. The meeting took place in Chihuahua, North Mexico, the residence of the treasurer of ICEVI, Carla Herrera.
It was the first Exco meeting during the current quinquennium. Before, there were two so-called officers' meetings: meetings of only the principal officers and the regional chairpersons. It was also the first meeting under supervision of the new president Larry Campbell.
Larry opened the meeting with a quinquennial update: he concluded that ICEVI is moving forward in accordance with the spirit of the Sao Paulo Policy document especially with regard to the strengthening of the regions:
- Regional committees in 7 out of 8 regions
- Regional plans in 5 out of 8 regions
- Regional newsletters in 6 out of 8 regions
- Regional conferences in 5 out of 8 regions
- Courses or workshops at national or subregional level in 6 out of 8 regions.
Due to lack of sufficient financial means the plan to set up a professional secretarial office and to appoint a Secretary General has been abandoned.
There was a lengthy discussion about the New Constitution: attempts are being made to complete it before the end of this year.
Furthermore it has been decided:
- To join the Middle East region with the Asia region under the new name: West Asian region
- To publish the first issue of the New Educator, hopefully in September of this year. It will be sent to persons and organisations at the regional mailing lists.
- To introduce a form of membership fee for umbrella and corporate members from the start of the new quinquennium.
- To form a Strategic Planning Work Group in order to design a plan of action for the next quinquennium
- To form a nomination committee under supervision of Richard Porter, director of Sight Savers, UK.
It was a pleasant, fruitful and useful meeting. Carla was an excellent host!
Project: "In Touch with Families"
During the ICEVI European Conference in Cracow in July 2000 a post-conference workshop on Parents was held. The workshop's theme was "T.E.A.M" Together Everyone Achieves More and it was based on the LOOK London model of setting up and running local parent support groups that can develop to regional and national organisations.
At that workshop and after many contributions from participants it was decided that there was a need for a European Network of Support Groups for Families with VI Children. We decided to call the European Network "T.E.A.M", to carry through the theme of our workshop but also because we believed that "Together Europe will Achieve More". Details of this workshop were included in the last issue of this Newsletter. Members of T.E.A.M were also informed that Moscow Foundation "Parents of the VI" and LOOK London were involved in a Britain-Russia Development Partnership project.
I am delighted to tell you that we have been successful in obtaining a grant for this project. The two Organisations are now working in partnership on a project called: "In Touch with Families" which will respond to and address the needs of MDVI (Multi-disabled Visually Impaired) children in Russia. The project is funded by the UK's Department for International Development under its Partnerships in the Non-Profit Sector ("PNPS") grants scheme, administered by Charities Aid Foundation ("CAF") in London and Moscow.
"In Touch with Families" will create a Russian model for co-operative interaction between parents, NGO's, statutory service providers and professionals in the sphere of special education, training and rehabilitation for MDVI children. The project will make available, through interactive workshops, the methods and expertise and experience of leading British professionals in this area, with a view to encouraging improved problem solving within it in Russia. At the same time the project will also aim to stimulate within Russia the establishment by parents of local groups for peer group mutual support and promotion of children's rights. To this end there will be a visit by the project leaders to Ufa and to Volgograd to help set up local groups there. The results of the workshops will be published in information sheets and a training package so that these can be distributed to project participants and shared with other disability NGO's as well as other professionals and parents throughout Russia.
The main five workshops will be held in Moscow and these will be:
- The LOOK London experience: parent support groups, mutual support, co-operation between parents and professionals, the multi-agency approach to supporting MDVI children.
- Communications of MDVI children. Learning through play. Autism and visual impairment.
- MDVI children and environment. Sensory environment and tactility.
- Communication of MDVI children at school age. Everyday life skills.
- Learning and Education. Accessibility to education. Life perspectives and integration.
These workshops will be given by parent leaders and professionals who have had experience working with parents and parent support groups. The workshops will be interactive with the participants. Professionals in the field of education and disability will make presentations and will use case studies, possibly with videos to help with discussions. Participants, interested professionals including those working for NGO's, statutory agencies and parents will all be expected to offer their views and put forward suggestions and ideas.
The second stage of the project will contain activities aimed at ensuring the sharing in the local regions of the experiences received by participants at the workshops: These activities will include:
- editing of the training package for the benefit of parents and professionals alike
- spreading the experiences of the workshops in the local regions through the organization of parent support groups and in the form of consultations with families with MDVI children, led by parents and professionals who participated in the workshops during the first stage.
- promoting the idea of producing tactile materials, toys and games within Russia, with the help of recommendations made in the course of the workshops during the first stage.
This is T.E.A.M' s very first project of this size to be undertaken by two Parent Organizations. We are going to make a success of it because "working together ordinary parents can achieve extra-ordinary things" - with the help of committed professionals of course!
For more information please contact Tula Baxter at:
25 Newlands Avenue, Thames Ditton, Surrey KT7 0HD, UK.
Fax/phone: +44 (0) 20 8224 0735
Tula Baxter, Honorary Chairman T.E.A.M
European Network of Support Groups for Families with VI Children.
The role of action research in the education of the visually impaired in Romania
In the past years the Department of Special Education of the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania has undertaken a number of action research activities in the field of Early Intervention and computer-based visual training.
1. Early intervention in the education of visually impaired children, based on an agreement between Theofaan International (from 1-1-2001 named Sensis International Projects), the Netherlands and the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research and paid by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the first phase (1998-2000) three centres for Early intervention were created: in Arad, Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara, in the second phase a fourth centre has been added, namely in Oradea. In each of the four centres there are two early intervention workers, each working with about 10 children. Most of the activities take place in the children's families.
The objectives of early intervention is to stimulate the education of the visually impaired in their own environment: their family and the regular kindergarten. It starts with the assessment of the basic visual functions and 'ends' if possible with integration in mainstream education when the child is 6-7 years old. The specific objectives for each child depends on the degree of visual impairment and the stage of physical and psychological development.
The early intervention workers are trained by Dutch specialists, in the Netherlands as well in Romania, in co-operation with the staff of the department of Special Education of the University in Cluj, and since 2001 also with the staff of the department of Special Education of the University in Timisoara.
The first phase of the project has been concluded with a symposium, with participation of all people involved from Romania and the Netherlands.
The Ministry of Education in Romania guaranteed the continuation of the early intervention work in the for cities mentioned above after completion of the project at the end of 2002. As part of this project three books were published by Presa Universitara Clujeana:
- Preda, V. (1999) Interventia precoce in educarea copiilor deficienti visuali (Early Intervention in the Education of Visually Impaired Children). Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitara Clujeana.
- Cziker, R. (2001) Educatia si stimularea visuala la copilul cu deficienta de vedere (The Education and Visual Stimulation of Visually Impaired Children). Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitara Clujeana.
- Preda, V. and L. Sendrea (2001) Educatia timpurie a copiilor cu deficiente visuale. Ghid pentru parinti. (Early Intervention with Visually Impaired Children. A Parents' Guide). Cluj-Napoca: Presa Universitara Clujeana.
2. Computer-based visual training in early intervention, 1999-2002, financed by the World Bank and the Romanian Ministry of Education and Research.
The objectives of the first phase (1999-2000) are: content analysis of current theories and synthesis of rehabilitation models, used in Western countries, concerning the education of the visually impaired by using computer-based visual training in early intervention; experimenting with and adapting of evaluation scales of low vision/residual vision and visual training programmes.
The objectives of the second phase (2001-2002) are: setting up a pilot centre for the visually impaired, based on the use of IT. This will contribute to the development of cognitive and communicative skills of visually impaired children.
prof. dr Vasile Preda
Lviv, a large city in the West of Ukraine
has two important centres for education and rehabilitation of children with visual impairment.
- A school for secondary education for blind pupils which will celebrate its 150th anniversary in October. The director of the school, Mrs Irina Kostrobiy, tells something about this school.
- The centre Lewenia (little lion) which celebrated its fifth anniversary with an International Conference. The director of this centre, Mrs dr Wira Remazhewska, looks back on this conference.
Furthermore a summary of the lecture about the Centre Lewenia that was held by Wira Remazhewska in Cracow but which not supplied on time to be included in the Proceedings.
150th anniversary: school for blind children in Lviv, Ukraine
The School was established as School for Blind Children in 1845 by the Polish nobleman Vincent Skszynsky (1771-1850) in memory of his prematurely deceased son. The school was officially opened in 1851. The facility was sustained through the donations of the noble citizens. In 1939 the school became state-owned, and the Ukrainian language was set as a teaching language of the school. From 1959, the school has obtained the status of secondary school.
Currently Lviv secondary specialised school for blind children has 130 pupils. The education process is carried out according to the secondary education school programmes of the Ministry of Education of Ukraine, and the educational plans are modified by the specialised methodical commission of the Ministry. From 1991 the school has followed the main curriculum of national education in Ukraine. Most attention is paid to the awareness of national spiritual and cultural roots. Children regularly deepen their knowledge of Ukrainian language, history and culture in line with the required general subjects. Every year more than 40% of the graduates enter the higher educational institutions.
Usually from the 10th grade, children started to learn computer science and Internet technologies. Due to lack of financial resources the school could not provide comprehensive vocational training (the cardboard and brush production facility was closed a couple of years ago). That is why children learn massage during the two final years in the school. After each of the massage courses they pass the exam and receive the corresponding diploma. Using the newest achievements in their everyday work in the field of typhlology and typhlopedagogics, auxiliary disciplines, and specialised technical devices, the teachers of the school successfully prepare the pupils for real-life conditions. The school programme includes the rehabilitation of visual and other disease-related impairments.
Many children opt for different kinds of sports activities. They take part in the swimming, athletics and chess sections. Our sportsmen are the winners of various international competitions for children with visual impairments. On top of that, a large group of children receive music education and participate in music ensembles. The school's choir has won the first prize at numerous regional and national festivals, including the most prestigious Ukrainian festival for children with impairments "Believe in yourself".
Currently our school is preparing for the celebration of its 150th anniversary. We consider this date as a milestone which will help to evaluate our current achievements and outline the directions for the future. We strive for co-operation with different international foundations and children support funds. We do believe that our joint activities will contribute much to the successful development of our institution.
Mrs Irina Kostrobiy, director
Looking back on the conference
Innovative Approaches to Rehabilitation of Visually Impaired Children
25 - 27 April 2001, Lviv, Ukraine
The conference was held at the Education and Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired Children Lewenia. This centre was established in 1996 for the purpose of searching for a new model of education and rehabilitation which would link together early help and integration of blind and partially sighted children into mainstream education.
The aim of the conference was informing the representatives of special schools for blind and partially sighted in Ukraine about:
- Education of visually impaired children in other countries and the activities of international organisations like CBM or especially ICEVI.
- The activities of the Centre Lewenia with regard to the innovative approaches to rehabilitation of visually impaired children within the context of co-operation with CBM and Nuremberg Rehabilitation Centre.
96 Participants took part in the conference. Among them: the principals of special schools in Ukraine, the representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, scientists of the Academy of Sciences, the representatives of the universities who train specialists for working with visually impaired children, guests from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Byelorussia. Furthermore, leaders in education and ophthalmology of Lviv and Lviv region, the representatives of different social organisations of blind and partially sighted in Ukraine took part in the conference as well. On the basis of the reports prepared, speeches and informal conversation with Mrs Margarete Tanner and Mrs Gisa-Paul Mechel, the participants could have a splendid opportunity for better acquainting themselves with the activities of Christoffel Blinden Mission.
The result of 3 days' working was the decision to organise an all-Ukrainian Association of Schools for visually impaired children, formulating a mutual education policy of teaching methods for visually impaired children for the teachers from special schools in Ukraine together with the representatives of CBM and Nuremberg Rehabilitation Centre, working out an early intervention service in Ukraine. During the conference Centre Lewenia presented its own achievements with respect to finance/technology and the organisation of the process of education and upbringing with the constant support of CBM. The social programme of the conference included: a tour of Lviv, visit to the Ukrainian Drama Theatre, performance of children's folk-lore ensemble Pysanka.
The conference work was discussed in the newspapers, on radio and TV. We plan to publish the materials of the conference in September 2001 and send them to all special schools in Ukraine and interested organisations.
The film about the Education and Rehabilitation Centre Lewenia and the interview with its headmistress appeared on TV on 16 June of this year, which shed light on the significance of the activities of Lewenia, its philosophy, international contacts, co-operation and the financial and spiritual support of Christoffel Blinden Mission.
Ukraine by its territory is a European country, but its effort to adopt the European model in the field of education of the visually impaired is a complicated and long-term process. We hope that 'the opening of Ukraine' in Lviv as experienced by Mr Herman Gresnigt, European Chairperson of ICEVI and the colleagues Mrs Carina poels of Sensis international projects, Mrs Margarete Tanner and Mrs Gisa-Paul Mechel from CBM was important for Ukraine and Europe.
Wira Remazhewska, director
Searching for new ways of Education for the blind and visually impaired in Ukraine
Nowadays it is evident for all educational specialists in Ukraine that the system of Special Education is in great need of such changes which would bring it closer to the West European way of development. The existing system of special schools has justified itself to a certain degree based on a wide range of perfect theoretic principles, but in today's conditions it should be flexible and orientated towards the accelerated process of integration of the persons with special needs into the community.
There are various models of integrated education in European countries, the USA and Canada. However, these models cannot be imitated and transferred to present-day Ukraine just like that. But times change and worldwide processes and developments in Western Europe will take place in our country as well.
Medical specialists' indices have testified the fact that the frequency of detection of visual defects for children of school age makes 12,2 cases on 100 examined. But only an insignificant part of these children receives special education. Experience shows that if diagnosis and pedagogical intervention are delayed, (minor) developmental problems that have been formed due to the visual defect cannot be completely overcome.
All of that has led to a number of problems which are impossible to solve in conditions of traditional special (preschool) education. Here are some of them:
- Due to the lack of early intervention, visually impaired children have developed developmental lags when entering the kindergarten.
- Blind and partially sighted children under school age with serious defects are left without special pedagogical help.
- The family members of blind children are not given any goal-oriented systematic pedagogical support and they are not able to follow the child's development process.
- Parents who have experienced a difficult stress situation, caused by the birth of a disabled child, stay at home for a long period in social isolation which negatively affects their psychical state.
- The children with minor impairments whose parents prefer sending them to a mainstream school do not have the necessary educational tools that will have a positive influence on the child's general development and sight in the near future.
- The number of blind and partially sighted children with an intellectual disability is growing (multi-disabled children).
- The diagnosis of children's resources who are multi-disabled is complicated and they need long-term observation.
But I like the thesis that there are no problems, there are only ways of solving them. Ukraine is standing on a crossroad now. There are economic, political and social problems on the one hand, and children with their own problems and new approaches to solutions on the other.
All these reasons and the process of integration without professional support cause the need for searching for a new direction in Special Pedagogics: creating a new type of institution for visually impaired children offering different models for a child's upbringing and education in the context of integration.
Each process has its own advantages and disadvantages. Both parents and educational specialists of mainstream schools in most cases underestimate the importance of special methods in educating and teaching visually impaired children. A huge educational effort among the population and children's groups must be made.
Ukraine is making the first steps towards this new trend in the:
Education and Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired Children Lewenia which has operated in Lviv since 1996.
The main principles and structure of this establishment are as follows:
Subject of pedagogical experiment:
Testing the scientific and organisational principles of the above-mentioned Centre Lewenia, with regard to the content/curriculum of preschool and primary school education of visually impaired children.
- Term of the experiment: 1996-2006.
The purpose of the experimental pedagogical centre:
To elaborate and test a system of the early typhlopedagogical intervention of visually impaired children under new educational conditions and directed towards integration of the child in mainstream education.
Structure of Education and Rehabilitation Centre for Visually Impaired Children Lewenia:
- Early Intervention: (birth till 3 years, in-home and in ERC
- Preschool Department ( 3-6 years)
- School Department
- grades 1-4 of general school for visually impaired children
- grades 1-4 of general school for sighted children
- Out-of-school Department
- Rehabilitation Department
- Department of periodical medical assessment
- Social and Psychological Service
If we must draw a conclusion of the above, we can state the following: integration of visually impaired children in mainstream schools has become a pedagogical reality in our country. The integrated method in educating and teaching is the best opportunity to involve a visually impaired child in a wide circle of social life. But it is necessary to create certain conditions for integration:
- Material conditions (providing visual devices, equipping a workplace).
- A good atmosphere with teachers and children of the regular school understanding the problems of the visually impaired child.
- Co-operation between educational specialists of the regular school and the specialists of the specialized centre.
The main point that should be taken into account by pedagogues is to be aware of the necessity of special teaching methods together with an individual method of approach of each child with psychophysical development problems.
A very important point is: the integrated method also means that the school has close contacts and co-operation with a family. These two points are the most complicated and important ones. The integrated method in education and teaching is only one of the alternatives of classic professional education. Not each family, each child and each institution is able to create the necessary conditions for this, especially today. A gradual transition to regular school after special corresponding education must be the most realistic version of integration.
Pedagogics is a rather conservative science. There is no point in turning off the road suddenly without having studied it. Integration is not a menace for traditional approaches of education to a child with special needs.
In our centre Lewenia we realize the idea of reversed integration: a gradual transition to the new forms of education, bringing sighted children into groups of visually impaired children. They are side by side, they are finding ways to play, to create something and to live with each other.
This is a new approach. This is another possibility. This is the right to choose. And it means 'a degree' of freedom for a child, its family, the community, the future. I would like to end by stating the motto of Lewenia: "What the world will be like tomorrow depends on what we do today"
Regional centre for the visually impaired in Maribor, Slovenia
In May of this year I visited the Association of the Visually Impaired in Maribor, Slovenia, a small (number of inhabitants: 2 million) independent republic which formed part of the former Yugoslavia until 1991. The reason for my visit was the opening of a regional centre in Maribor. The ideas for this centre were developed during several visits of a delegation under supervision of the President of the Association in Maribor, Mr Milan Bobinski, to the Netherlands. The building, in which the centre is housed, is owned by the Association. Part of it is rented to an ophthalmologic policlinic and to an optician, with a view to generating income for the activities of the centre. A multi-disciplinary rehabilitation team operates in the centre, a low vision centre is still a big wish. There is frequent co-operation with ophthalmologists and paediatricians. It is impressive to see what has been realised in a relatively short period. Praise to the initiator, Milan Bobinski.
Two days later I visited the schools for visually impaired in Ljubliana and in Skofja Loka. In the building of the Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted of Slovenia, the umbrella organisation of all local Associations of the Blind and Partially Sighted, I held a lecture about developments in the field of education and rehabilitation of the visually impaired in Europe, especially with regard to integration. The lecture was followed by an interesting discussion for an audience existing of representatives of the Ministry of education, of the Department of Special Education of the University in Ljubljana, of the Association of the Blind, of both educational centres and of the Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted.
I was very impressed by the many positive developments since my first visit in 1995.
The role of the institute for blind and partially sighted children after the reform of the educational system in Slovenia
In 1996 the educational system in Slovenia was reformed. The most important changes were the enforcement of a nine-grade primary school and integration for children with special needs. In June 2000 the law for children with special needs was accepted.
There are 2 educational institutions for the visually impaired in Slovenia:
- The Institute for Blind and Partially Sighted Children in Ljubljana for children from 0 till 15 years of age.
- The Centre for Blind and Partially Sighted in Skofja Loka for youngsters from 15 years and for rehabilitation of adults.
Furthermore there is the Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted of Slovenia the members of which include nearly all visually impaired people, regardless of their age. This Association provides everything that should improve every-day life for the visually impaired such as equipment and aids, books, social gatherings, vacations etc.
A significant difference with Western Europe is that so far, no low-vision centres have been set up. Some things are done by the above-mentioned organisations in co-operation with ophthalmologic clinics. Most of the required equipment had to be paid by the parents.
The Institute for Blind and Partially Sighted Children provides services for children from 0-15 year of age. It has had an advice and support unit for more than 30 years, especially for partially sighted children in mainstream schools, but since 2000 also for blind children who visit regular schools. So the institute is becoming a resource centre, besides the classical special boarding school.
The main problem is that the new system does not provide any equipment and trained teachers as itinerant teachers. To ease this situation the institute has started with courses for teachers, parents and children. The itinerant pedagogues, itinerant teachers visit the mainstream schools and give advice to the teachers. Furthermore the institute organises summer camps, called "school in nature", for visually impaired children who visit regular schools.
Changes which are the result of the new legislation are enormous, but for the well-being of children nothing is good enough. Slovenia is taking the path of integration and inclusion but a lot of work still has to be done.
psychologist of the institute for the Blind and Partially Sighted in Ljubljana
New publications by the COUNCIL OF EUROPE:
European Convention on Human Rights - in BRAILLE
(available free of charge in English and in French)
The convention has been signed and ratified by all 41 member States of the Council of Europe.
To be ordered at:
Point 1, Council of Europe, F-67075 STRASBOURG CEDEX, FRANCE
Also available on Internet: http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/en/Treaties/Html/005.htm
Proceedings of conference on "Education of the Visually Impaired" in Ankara, Turkey
In May 1998 the Turkish Federation of the Blind held a conference on "Education of the Visually Impaired" in Ankara, Turkey in co-operation with ICEVI Europe.
The Proceedings have now been published in TURKISH, entitled:
Görme Özürlülerin Egitimi
Since there are many Turkish people in Western Europe, especially in Germany and the Netherlands, among whom also parents of a visually impaired child, it may be important for them to read about the education of a visually impaired child in their mother tongue.
Apart from ten lectures of Turkish speakers, it contains:
- the keynote address of Paul Ennals (UK): The changing world of Education of visually impaired children;
- lectures about early intervention by Eliane Bonnamie (Belgium), Herman Gresnigt (the Netherlands), Terezie Hradilkova (Czech Rep.);
- a lecture about low vision assessment by Lea Hyvarinnen (Finland);
- lectures about integration by Marianna Buultjens (UK) and Stef Pennings (the Netherlands);
- a lecture about MDVI by Eberhard Fuchs (Germany)
- a lecture about teacher training by Heather Mason (UK)
- a lecture about co-operation between professionals by Ineke van Dijk (the Netherlands).
To be ordered at:
KörlerFederasyonu, Ankara, Turkey
Fax: ++ 90 312 229 1662
New Publication by RNIB, UK - SHAPING THE FUTURE reports:
"Shaping the future is the biggest survey of blind and partially sighted children and young people ever to have been conducted in the UK. Over 1000 young people or their parents told RNIB about their everyday experiences - in education, in their social lives, and as users of health, social leisure and transport services" according to the flyer.
The publication consists of a Summary report and a number of sections.
To be ordered at:
RNIB Customer Services, PO Box 173, Peterborough PE2 6WS, UK.
Telephone: + 44 845 702 3153
At the Institute in Ljubljana a lot of adapted materials and teaching aids are developed:
- Roman Brvar is the author of "Geography in a different way", geography adapted for blind and low-vision pupils. E-mail: Roman.Brvar@guest.arnes.si
- Damijana Dusek has written an organic chemistry textbook in Braille: the blind and low-vision pupils can feel chemical structures. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ana Simac and Damijana Dusak have developed a curriculum in biology "When animals revive!" for blind and partially sighted pupils which looks very impressive. More information, also about this project, can be found on Internet. E-mail: email@example.com
11th ICEVI World Conference
Celebration of 50th anniversary of ICEVI
NEW VISIONS: MOVING TOWARDS AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY
27 July - 2 August 2002, Noordwijkerhout (about 20 km south west of Schiphol airport, Amsterdam), the Netherlands
I suppose all of you have received the CALL FOR PAPERS. If not, please contact the conference office: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do not forget to send in your abstract before 1 October 2001! If you are on the mailing list of this newsletter you will receive the registration brochure and registration forms before the end of this year. If not, please contact the Conference office.
I hope to meet many of you in Noordwijkerhout: which must be a difficult name for most of you!
The complete Proceedings of the conference (book and CD-ROM) now on our website www.icevi-europe.org
On the same website, under PUBLICATIONS, also available: the two reports of the workshops on training of teachers of the visually impaired (Budapest 1997, Bratislava 1999), and the report of the workshop on vocational training and employment (Helsinki, 1999).
The EURO is coming !!
Still a few months to go and 11 European Countries will introduce the EURO.
On a press conference of the Vice-President of the European Central Bank, the following was announced:
"....As you are aware, the Governing Council paid particular attention to the specific needs of the Blind and Partially Sighted when agreeing on the design of Euro banknotes.
To that end, several features have been incorporated into both the banknotes and the coins. In order to further assist visually handicapped citizens in recognising the Euro banknotes and coins, and to help them to distinguish between the various denominations, the Governing Council decided to allocate about EUR 1 million to the production of 400.000 specially designed cash-testing devices. These will be made available via the network of the European Blind Union".
If you like to receive these devices for teaching the children at your school: contact the Union of the Blind in your own country.
Important Events in the near future:
25-26 October 2001:
International Conference in Budapest on the occasion of the 175th Anniversary of Education of visually impaired children in Budapest and the 100th Anniversary of the School for the Blind in Budapest.
27-28 October 2001:
Eurosight 2001: Low Vision Conference in Stresa, Italy, entitled: The challenge of visual rehabilitation in Early Childhood
conference office: Fondazione Robert Hollman, www.fondazionehollman.it
24-28 November 2001:
International Conference in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, entitled:
"Employability Enhancement: transferability of the European models related to social inclusion and employment of blind and partially sighted people in view of the EU enlargement".
18-19 January 2002
Balkan Conference on Vocational training and Employment, Athens.
More information: Betty Leotsakos: Bettel@otenet.gr
16-19 April 2002
Braille in the Age of Digitisation, Copenhagen, Denmark.
An International Braille Symposium on the Development of Individual and Institutional Needs and Solutions.
More (very detailed) information: www.ibos.dk/braille/