New Technology Assists Visually Impaired Learner to Attend Public School
14 April 2014
Media Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Education
This morning I visited Swartland High School to meet Grade 9 learner, Pieter-Jans Durr, who has recently moved from the Pioneer School for the Blind to Swartland High School.
The transfer of Pieter-Jans, a visually impaired learner, to a public ordinary school was made possible through a variety of factors – including the use of technology.
With Pieter- Jans’s transfer, the WCED arranged for the transfer of an e-braille portable computer to his new school.
The eBrailleNote Apex computers were launched last year at two schools in the province - the Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South and the Pioneer School in Worcester.
These computers will make it possible for blind learners to read electronic text using an electro-mechanical display that raises dots against a flat surface.
The device also allows learners to type text in braille, listen to the text via computer-generated speech, and to read and listen to electronic text in various formats, including PDF and Word files.
They can also browse the internet via wi-fi and connect to other devices via Bluetooth. Learners are able to retrieve their text and save their work onto flash drives for assessment. The department has made electronic versions of relevant teaching and learning materials available, including textbooks to support the implementation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS).
Pieter- Jans is currently using the device at his new school.
The WCED arranged training for Peter’s teachers who are monitoring his writing via an external computer monitor that will present his work in normal text. They can also print out his assignments in standard text.
Special Education Support staff has also explained the device to Pieter-Jans’s parents.
I was delighted to meet Pieter-Jans this morning who took me through the technical aspects of his device and then joined him in his classroom where he is thriving as a learner.
While this device has certainly made it possible for Pieter-Jans to enrol in a public school, it is not an end in itself. For this transition to be made successful, the WCED needed to ensure that Pieter-Jans had the relevant support both technically and psychologically at home and in the classroom.
His family, as well as his new school, have been very supportive during his transition. This is certainly a shining example of “Better Together” when you have a learner with the right attitude, supported by their school, family and technology, that a transition of this kind can be made.
We will learn a lot from Pieter-Jans’s experience in a public school and how technology applications such as this can transform the face of education.
I wish Pieter-Jans, his educators and the school the best in this regard.