News Archive

Minister's Announcement: Students with Vison Loss Initiative

May 29, 2008

Edmonton…Blind and visually impaired students will benefit from enhanced supports, thanks to $3.1 million in new funding by the Government of Alberta in each of the next three years.  The new funding was announced as part of Budget 2008 and resulted from a service review Alberta Education conducted with stakeholders from across the province.

“Alberta’s K-12 students with vision loss require specialized support to complete their high school education and become independent. Providing that support is a priority for our government.” said Dave Hancock, Minister of Education.  “Alberta Education is working with education stakeholders to create innovative learning resources and environments to further help these students succeed.”

Students with vision loss will benefit from the new funding as Alberta Education’s Learning Resources Centre staff and education stakeholders work to: 

  • recruit more braille transcribers to ensure students receive their braille textbooks at the same time as their sighted peers; 
  • revise curriculum materials to enhance the ability of students with vision loss to write provincial examinations; 
  • increase the number of vision specialists so students receive more individualized attention and support to help them succeed in the classroom and achieve their educational goals; and 
  • provide increased access to specialized equipment, such as braille computers and closed circuit televisions, so students can make full use of their textbooks and learning resources in and outside of the classroom. 

“CNIB thanks the government for listening and reacting so appropriately” said CNIB Vice President Bill McKeown. “Children in K-12 will now have better access to the technology, alternative format materials, and the skills they need to achieve at the same level as their sighted peers.”

Alberta schools serve 662 students who are blind or visually impaired. School authorities enrol these students and are responsible for providing them with education programming that meets their needs.

 “The government is commended for recognizing this important and outstanding need, and providing these funds for the development of improved programming for these students,” said Kelly Baldock, president of the Alberta Society for the Visually Impaired (ASVI).  “We look forward to our continued collaboration on this initiative.  ASVI believes that our children are in a much improved position for access to information and appropriate supports, and therefore equal opportunities that level the playing fields.”

The ASVI parent organization was established in 1971 to advocate for the needs of children who are blind or visually impaired.  Alberta Education’s Learning Resources Centre plays a central role in supporting schools’ requests for the production of alternate format learning resources and loaning of special equipment for student use.  Click here for more information about the LRC.

Backgrounder

Facts/Stats on students who are blind or visually impaired

  • There are 662 students (154 blind & 508 low vision) enrolled in schools across Alberta. The percentage of students by grade is:  
    • Preschool and kindergarten   9 per cent 
    • Grades 1 to 6    33 per cent 
    • Grades 7 to 12   42 per cent 
  • Out of the 662 students, 16 per cent are participating in modified programs.
  • Visual impairment and blindness are low-incidence disabilities, so a student with vision loss may be the only student with this disability in a school or community. 
  • Children and students who are blind or visually impaired vary in age, degree of vision loss, cognitive ability and many have additional disabilities. 
  • These students require instruction from a trained professional in such disability-specific skills as braille literacy and numeracy, assistive technology skills, use of low-vision devices, career and life management skills, social interaction skills, independent living and personal management skills, and orientation and mobility skills.

Organizations that participated in the Alberta Education Review of Services for Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, on November 28, 2007

  • Alberta School Councils’ Association
  • Alberta Teachers’ Association (including teaching assistants) 
  • Alberta School Boards Association 
  • Alberta Society for the Visually Impaired 
  • Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta 
  • CNIB
  • College of Alberta School Superintendents (including special education directors) 
  • Educational Consulting Services for the Sensory Impaired 
  • Regional Educational Consulting Services 
  • Vision Resource Centre chairs (Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge)

CNIB

CNIB is a nationwide, community-based, registered charity committed to public education, research, and the vision health of all Canadians. CNIB provides the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life while living with vision loss.