Australia

The long-distance program helping vision impaired children to learn braille

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Families from across Australia have congregated in Sydney for the country's first braille camp for vision-impaired children.

More than 100 vision impaired children took take part in the four-day Teleschool braille camp, run by Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.

Teleschool is normally an in-home video conferencing braille workshop where children and families learn basic skills, such as reading.

The camp aimed to further develop those skills and give children the confidence to use them.

Each day of the camp was filled with a range of activities, including trapeze lessons, cooking and visiting iconic Sydney sites.

"For some children, they've never met another child who's blind, so for them, they feel that they're not the only ones, that there are other people like them," Teleschool head Tracey McCann told SBS News.

The camp doubled as a celebration to mark ten years since Teleschool began. 

Braille is a skill that Olivia Chan, 6, had been learning via distance education - first in Malaysia, and now at her home in Melbourne.

"Teleschool is fabulous because we can access (skills), over the video-conferencing, where she learns braille tuition every week," Olivia's mother Mei Fern Keow said.

The Teleschool program provides therapy services and education children with hearing or vision loss in regional remote Australia
The Teleschool program provides therapy services and education children with hearing or vision loss in regional remote Australia
RIDBC

"We do it every week and that helps me as well because I get to learn braille and be on par with her." 

Sisters Amy and Lara dial into lessons from their home in Cairns.

Their mother Lisa Cooper had originally doubted whether the program could work effectively.

"How on earth can you teach blind children to read braille from a distance? But it works really well," she said.

"Living in Cairns there's not very many other vision impaired children or parents there that we can network with, so this is a very important opportunity for us to gather information as well about what's happening around Australian and other states". 

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