Opinion

Time to stop staring and think again

A new Web site is aiming to give hope to blind and partially-sighted children. Daniel Thomas reports

A Web site for blind and partially-sighted children featuring an interview with the comedian Harry Hill was launched last week by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in Scotland.

The Sort It site, at www.sortit.org.uk, is aimed at blind and partially-sighted children aged 11 to 16. It is accessible to users of adaptive technology such as speech synthesis, Braille output and large fonts.

The site is part of a major campaign by the RNIB to increase rights and opportunities for the UK's 22,000 blind and partially-sighted children, and was developed following a report into their needs.

The site also provides practical advice on how to deal with bullying. Hill's article on life views before and after bullying are included. The badger-loving Channel 4 star endured name-calling from the age of eight, after being issued with NHS prescription glasses. Now his trademark is spectacles and a huge collar.

He says on the site, "The pair of big glasses I use on stage are really saying to people who teased me when I was younger - I made it."

A message and bulletin board enables blind and partially-sighted children to make contact and share experiences. The site gives details of local leisure activities throughout Scotland. Details such as accessible teenage magazines in Braille, large print and on disc will also be available.

The RNIB report, Shaping the Future, revealed that the lives of many blind and partially-sighted children and young people are restricted by discrimination.

It found that almost 60% of visually impaired secondary school pupils have been bullied. Many parents of children with additional complex needs say they frequently experience staring, whispering or insulting remarks. It is also common for children and young people to experience isolation. Without mobility and education to be independent, many lack confidence.

In addition to his interview, Hill is also backing RNIB Scotland's efforts to combat the prejudice experienced by these children.

"Stop staring and think again" is the message being promoted to the public. Parents, in particular, are encouraged to educate children about blindness.

A free leaflet is available from the RNIB's helpline: 0845-766 9999

Online benefits

The Web site sortit.org.uk was launched after a report into needs and experiences of blind and partially-sighted children by the RNIB. Its main points were:

  • One in three feel left out of some secondary school classroom activities because of impaired vision

  • Children steer away from geography, science and physical education because they appear to be less accessible

  • More than 70% of visually impaired children attending mainstream schools have not been given mobility and independence education to help them get around

  • More than 80% find getting about difficult

  • More than 80% think most people would be more helpful if they understood about sight problems

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    This was first published in November 2000

     

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