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Education supports for students who are blind or visually impaired can vary from school to school. This can happen because of resource availability or because of a lack of knowledge about what is needed.

Sight loss affects people in different ways. It is important for parents and students to voice their concerns and ask for whatever type of assistance the individual needs at that particular time.

Below is some information that may be helpful as you advocate for yourself or for your child.

National Council for Special Education (NCSE)

The NCSE have produced a booklet to inform parents and guardians of supports and services available for children and young people who are blind or have a visual impairment. You can download the booklet here.

ChildVision

ChildVision is dedicated to the education and therapy needs of children who are living with blindness or multiple disabilities and vision impairment. They cater for students from all over Ireland, ranging in age from birth to 23 years of age. For more information visit their website here or contact them on info@childvision.ie or 01 837 3635.

National Braille Production Centre

National Braille Production at ChildVision was established to meet the educational needs of children with a visual impairment attending either mainstream or special education at both primary and secondary level. They offer books in Braille, Large Print, text files, and DAISY format. For more information visit the ChildVision website or contact them on 01 837 3635 or braille@childvision.ie.

Visiting Teacher Service

The Inclusion Support Service (which is part of the National Council of Special Education) operates Visiting Teacher Service for deaf or hard-of-hearing children and children with visual impairments. Visiting teachers aim to be a support to both the parents or guardian and the child.

They assess and evaluate the needs of each child and provide information and advice to assess educational planning for children and young people with visual impairments.

They work closely with colleagues from a range of educational and other professional backgrounds, in addition to national organisations to ensure a multi-disciplinary approach to the student’s education.

The Visiting Teacher Service is available for pre-school, primary and post-primary education. More information about the service is available here on the NCSE website and a list of visiting teachers by area, along with their contact details can be found here.

Irish Guidedogs Next Steps Programme

The Next Step Programme aims to equip young people who are blind or vision impaired with the skills to manage the transition to life in college. For more information visit their website or contact Irish Guidedogs at clientservices@guidedogs.ie or 1850 506 300.

Disability Access Route to Education (DARE)

DARE is a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers, whose disabilities have posed additional academic challenges. DARE is for school leavers under the age of 23, who are determined to pursue a higher education degree despite the challenges they face. The steps to the application process can be found here.

The Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD)

AHEAD is an independent non-profit organisation working to promote full access to and participation in further and higher education for students with disabilities and to enhance their employment prospects on graduation. AHEAD provides information to students and graduates with disabilities, teachers, guidance counsellors and parents on disability issues in education. AHEAD works with graduates and employers through the GET AHEAD Graduate Forum and the WAM Mentored Work Placement Programme. AHEAD coordinates LINK, a worldwide network of professionals promoting the inclusion of students and graduates with disabilities in Higher Education managed by six European partner organisations. For more information visit their website here.

Disability Services in Third Level Institutions

All third level institutions will have a support service for students with disabilities. These will vary depending on the size of the institution. In some places it may fall under the remit of the Access Office and others will have a large Disability Support Service. Some colleges hold a weekend prior to the start of the college year for students on DARE to get to know the campus and facilities. Contact the relevant institution for more information about their services.

CareersPortal.ie

CareersPortal.ie is Ireland’s national career guidance website, providing the most up-to-date and relevant career information and resources to those needing or providing career guidance. Information about the impact of vision impairment on learning, learning strategies and available supports can be found on their website here.