Vision Impairment Cross-Border Approaches to Training – VICBAT
Funded with the support of: INTEREGG IIIA, North West Rural Development (NWRD)
Partners: Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) and North West Institute of Further and Higher Education (NWIFHE)
Duration: 30/04/05 – 30/04/07
The aim of the VICBAT Project is to develop and deliver a cross-border training programme to professionals working in the field of blindness and vision impairment, and also provide group learning activities to people who are blind or have vision impairments, their families, peers and other contacts who are located in the northwest region of Ireland. VICBAT builds on a previous project called Opportunity To Introduce Mobility (OTIM).
The partners recognised and agreed that the training of professionals in the area of visual impairment needed to be accredited. NCBI researched possible accreditation routes and investigated similar accredited courses delivered elsewhere in the EU. After a number of meetings with LYIT and NWIFHE, it was agreed to form a partnership to work together and seek accreditation at Higher Certificate Level 6 through HETAC, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, via LYIT. The NWIFHE will follow a parallel accreditation process in Northern Ireland to ensure the course is recognised academically on an all Ireland basis. Thus LYIT and NWIFHE have been brought on board as Strategic Partners, for the development and accreditation of this course.
Action Area 1 – Rehabilitation Officer training package
The study revealed a need for a formal and validated training package for professionals working with those who are blind or vision impaired. The strongest area of need is for the training of rehabilitation officers, whereby training offered is flexible and does not require long periods away from home as the majority of professionals in this area are third level graduates, most with family and work commitments that prevent long absences from home.
Much of the training of rehabilitation officers for this service is provided through an in-house training programme at NCBI, which is not accredited. The consequence of this is that there is a dearth of accredited personnel in the Republic. There is also a market shortage of Rehabilitation officers in Northern Ireland, particular in the Statutory Sector, where there is also a need for training of these professionals.
Overall there is a shortage of formally qualified rehabilitation officers on the island of Ireland, particularly in the target areas. The lack of applications from suitably qualified personnel for the Rehabilitation Officer post on the project team is testament to the greater need for trained personnel in this area.
Developing a rehabilitation course with many stand alone certifiable sub modules and associated short courses and training seminars on an all Ireland basis is a historical first step in bridging the barriers of partition and has widespread support of the service providers in the field of vision impairment, north and south of the border.
This project has developed a Rehabilitation Officer training package, which is compatible with local needs and has been submitted for validation and accreditation.
This training will be delivered in a modular format, with ongoing refresher courses. Each module is designed so that it can be delivered as a separate course for professionals interested in particular areas of vision rehabilitation, but who are not interested in training as rehabilitation officers.
Action Area 2 – Training of service users and their families, peers and other contacts
In tandem with the training of rehabilitation officers and other associated professionals the project will offer training to clients, training for their families and peers to assist in all manner of ways with daily living skills, mobility and any additional needs. There is also a strong need for the delivery of training for employment, particularly in the general area of IT.
These training courses will include some or all of the following subjects: – Adaptive Technology Training, Orientation and mobility training, Independent Living skills, Return to employment skills,Low vision training, Personal development, Disability Awareness Training, Braille training
Action Area 3 – Educational Residential Respite Breaks
We envisage that much of the training for people with vision impairments, their families, peers and other contacts will be provided via short educational residential respite breaks. This will facilitate cross border, cross community integration on both educational and social levels.
We intend that such respite breaks will incorporate activities such as Leisure and Recreation, Social Activities, Support and Exercise, Arts & Crafts, Alternative Therapies, Gardening, together with courses such as Group support, Daily Living Skills and Mobility Training, IT training, Personal Development and Counselling.
DIME – Developing a Model of Inclusive Evaluation
Funded with the support of: Directorate General for Employment and Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities’ European Employment Strategy.
- Partners: Swedish Employment Service
- Duration: 12 months
The NCBI is developing a new way of evaluating how well government employment programmes in both Sweden and Ireland are working to help people with disabilities get into and retain employment.
Many evaluations of employment programmes focus upon statistics. The method of evaluation being developed looks at statistics, but focuses instead on the experiences and perceptions of the people involved in a programme. We want to talk to the people running programmes, the people taking part in programmes and to employers to hear about individuals’ experiences.
Once we have spoken to everyone taking part in the project in Ireland and Sweden, we will look at the information we have been given and from that, suggest ways in which we believe improvements can be made to employment programmes. We will then arrange to talk to people again to get their feedback on our suggestions.
Developing peer support networks among vision impaired young people
Funded with the support of: Directorate General Justice, Freedom and Security’s DAPHNE II Programme.
- Partners: Estonian Federation of the Blind
- Duration: 12 months
The aim of this project was to train a group of vision impaired people as peer counsellors and match them with vulnerable vision impaired people who are socially isolated to act as volunteer counsellors on a one-to-one basis.
In the second year a further cohort of counsellors were trained.
This has resulted in a group of 20 peer counsellors and a process that makes it possible for individuals to progress from receiving counselling to providing counselling and then becoming co-tutors for training sessions.
EATT – Equal Access to Technology Training
Funded with the support of: Directorate General for Education and Training’s Leonardo da Vinci programme.
- Partners: County Resource Center for the Visually Impaired Aarhus (Denmark), Interregional Support Service for Visually Impaired Adults (France), the Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation (Italy) and the Royal National Institute for the Blind Scotland (UK).
- Duration: 2 years and 3 months
The overall aim of this project was to increase computer literacy among blind and partially sighted people aged over 35. This was done by developing and piloting the following products: a specialist introductory package to encourage IT literacy among the target group; a good practice guide focused on supporting IT training service providers; a website for disseminating information and possibly as a means of continuing the IT education of project participants. All products were developed in response to identified needs. The project included ongoing evaluation and dissemination. To this end the project was granted a three-month extension up to the end of March 2004.
EATT had reached its goals in 2003 with the publication in the five partner countries of an introductory IT training course for people with vision impairments and a Good Practice Guide for mainstream IT trainers with blind or partially sighted people on their courses.
The extension period was used for gathering feedback on the validity and usefulness of the EATT products and developing strategies to put the results into practice in each of the partner countries and to develop an introductory brochure for people who have little or no knowledge of the benefits of assistive technology for everyday tasks: ‘NCBI Makes Everyday Easy with Technology’.
The EATT materials are freely available for public use and can be downloaded from the website www.eatt.org.
ESP – Employment Support Practices for Vision Impaired People Project
Funded with the support of: EU Structural Funds Horizon Employment Initiative.
- Partners: County Resource Center for the Visually Impaired Aarhus (Denmark), Interregional Support Service for Visually Impaired Adults France, the Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation (Italy) and the Royal National Institute for the Blind Scotland (UK).
- Duration: 2 years
The aim of this project was to engage in a transnational exploration of employment support practices for visually impaired people to suggest best practice for the creation of new support systems for their social and professional integration into the labour market.
The transnational working group produced a report on employment support practices for visually impaired people in the five member states. Research and exploration of five themes in relation to employment support practice took place in partner countries. These themes were:
- Job creation and support
- Job retention
- Vocational guidance practices
- Rehabilitation and assessment
- Professional training and development
During the two years of the project each partner hosted a conference for the transnational group on one of these themes culminating with a discussion on the way forward. These conferences gave the group plenty of space to discuss and debate the issues, which arose during national research. A number of prominent guest speakers outside of the partnership were invited to address the meetings to add to the transnational exchange of information.
The partnership also established a web page, maintained by our Danish partners. The web page gives details of both the national and the transnational projects. The full text of each partner’s research in relation to the key themes on a national basis can be found on the webpage www.aaa.dk/jobvision
TeDUB – Technical Drawings Understanding for the Blind
Funded with the support of: Information Society Technologies programme, Fifth framework.
- Partners: Technologie-Zentrum Informatik (Germany), FNB, accessible information for people with a print impairment (Netherlands), City University London (UK), Department of Computation, UMIST (UK), Unione Italiana Ciechi di Verona (Italy), F.H. Papenmeier GmbH & Co. KG, (Germany), Laboratory for Semantic Information Technology, Bamberg University (Germany.)
- Duration: 2000
This project developed a computer-based tool for automatically analysing, handling and presenting the visual data contained in digitised technical drawings to blind users. It is intended that an image-processing module will be created which will analyse arbitrary images for contents that match technical drawings as well as an appropriate interface for blind computer users to handle the extracted data. The proposed system will have platform independence.
NCBI’s main role is one of establishing user requirements, advising on interface design, evaluation and validation of the prototype. NCBI will contribute its knowledge and experience as user representatives to all other workpackages by ensuring the needs of users are been met at all stages of the development of the haptic device and the applications.
NCBI completed the development and testing of a number of applications allowing vision-impaired people to read technical drawings using a computer, a joystick and speech output. Applications were developed for reading electronic circuit diagrams, software engineering diagrams in UML (Unified Modelling Language), building floor plans and simple “box and pointer” type diagrams such as process flow diagrams and organisation charts. A great deal was learned about the requirements of blind people for accessing the information in all these diagram types. The UML application was particularly successful and is now being used by blind software engineering professionals and students across Europe. This has opened up a new area for many of them and will lead to increased job prospects and job retention. The TeDUB diagram reading software is freely available from for public use and can be downloaded from the website www.tedub.net
GRAB – Computer Graphics Access for Blind people
Funded with the support of: Information Society Technologies programme, Fifth framework.
- Partners: Labein (Spain), CIDAT-ONCE (Spain), Royal National Institute for the Blind RNIB (England), Scuola Superiore S. Anna -PERCRO PERCRO (Italy) Haptica Ltd. (Ireland).
- Duration: 2001
The main aim of the project was to allow blind people access to the 3D graphic computer world through the sense of touch and with audio help, by means of a new Haptic & Audio Virtual Environment (HAVE). The proposed HAVE would allow the user to move his fingers over the virtual object and recognise its geometric features (corners, edges,..), as if he was manipulating a real mock-up of the object. This would be achieved with a new two-finger haptic interface specifically developed to touch 3D virtual objects. The new HAVE could serve to develop multiple applications in different fields, although the project will focus on three specific utilities for blind people. Initially the project will develop a “searching and adventure game” application. According to the results of the testing of this application and the tool, two new applications will be defined and developed.
NCBI undertook research activities for a feasibility study, user requirements study, evaluation and validation of the prototype. NCBI contributed its knowledge and experience as user representatives to all other workpackages by ensuring the needs of users were met at all stages of the development of the haptic device and the applications.
The project was granted an extension until the end of March 2004 to allow for the full evaluation by vision impaired people of three applications providing access to graphical information using the sense of touch. The applications were graphs and charts, city maps and a search and adventure game. All were successfully evaluated and, whilst it may be some time before technology such as GRAB becomes commercially available at an affordable price, the project has made a significant research contribution towards this goal.
For more information please go to: www.grab-eu.com
ACE – Accessible Community for eBusiness
Funded with the support of: European Union Structural Funds-Regional Programme of Innovative Actions.
- Partners: Inishnet
- Duration: 2002
This project developed and piloted an online community for vision impaired people. It rolled out accessible ECDL and e-business courses by providing training and seminars in more than six different locations. The project was also presented at a number of international conferences and disability awareness seminars. A lively multi-media facet was introduced to the project through the provision of dynamic online audio, which added greatly to the learning experience.
For more information please go to: www.inishnet.ie/index.php?p=projects/index.php
LiLeBP – Lifelong Learning for Blind People
Funded with the support of: Directorate General for Education and Training’s Socrates Programme, Grundtvig.
- Partners: Vocational Promotion Institute Styria (Austria) Institute For Blind and Partially Sighted (Denmark).
- Duration: October 2001-2003
This project developed a European model for adult educational guidance and counselling especially for blind and visually disabled people. This model consisted of two parts:
1. Individual aptitude testing and
2. Classical educational guidance and counselling for blind and visually disabled persons.
A short curriculum for a 2 day guidance training was developed and implemented together with a special handbook containing checklists and recommendations for working with the guidance model and people with a visual impairment.
NCBI was involved in the majority of activities of the project and leads on five activities. It successfully completed its work on the creation of an Action-Centred Consultation Tool to assist career guidance counsellors in working with vision impaired clients. This will be used by NCBI’s Employment Advisor.
The Employment Continuum Project, 2002
Funded with the support of: Directorate General for Employment & Social Affairs.
- Partners: Royal National Institute of the Blind (Scotland), Swedish Employment Service.
This project ran a series of seminars in Scotland, Ireland and Sweden which identified and examined successful models of intermediary (supported) labour markets in each country and issues surrounding progression, rehabilitation and training of people with a vision impairment.
For more information please go to: www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_eccreport.hcsp#P8_1131
MATE – Multidisciplinary Approach to Training and Education.
Funded with the support of: EU Structural Funds Horizon Employment Initiative.
- Duration: 1997-1999, 2000
In 1999, this project completed the research with both visually impaired people and employers looking at the barriers to employment for visually impaired people. An employment support unit was established to work directly with services users in conjunction with the community based staff, the technology support unit, and the information support unit. Community based staff in pilot areas received training from the employment support unit in providing employment support at a local level. A small emergency low and high tech equipment resource pool was made available to visually impaired service users in employment or training who were awaiting equipment grants from elsewhere.
The project developed an employment support structure to assist those with a visual impairment into training and/or employment.
This service was to provide the following:
- A personalised assessment of the individual’s skills / abilities and interests.
- An assessment of functional vision and provision of training/aids, as appropriate.
- Guidance and assistance in setting realistic goals based on abilities and interests.
- Information on further training and/or employment options.
- Training in the use of specially adapted technology such as speech, large print and Braille displays to assist within the workplace.
- Guidance and support in developing sound job-seeking and interview skills.
- Assistance with the sourcing of placements and adaptation to the new work environment.
- Raising awareness of the abilities of vision impaired employees
A conference –Supporting the Transition of Young People with Disabilities from Education into Employment – was held at the Gresham Hotel, Dublin in October 2004 The aim of the conference was to bring together examples of good practice that will raise awareness of what can be achieved in supporting young people with disabilities to enter the labour market and to agree priorities about the issues that need to be tackled through future research and development activity.
Consultancy and host visit
The EU Projects department provided consultancy to another EU funded project which is looking at providing IT training to blind University Students in Poland, Bulgaria, Austria and Ireland. The EATT course will be used as the foundation level. The department also hosted a team of consultants from KAFIRA, an organisation from the Czech Republic which provides training and employment services to blind residents in the area of Opava.
NCBI’s main work in this project took involved an extensive evaluation and validation of the final prototype; a robotic Zimmer frame suitable for to help the mobility of frail older vision impaired people.
For more information please go to www.cs.tcd.ie/PAMAID/pamaid-intro.html
OTIM – Opportunity to Introduce Mobility
Funded by: EU Fund for Peace and Reconciliation.
This project was a collaboration between Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Northern Ireland and NCBI. It provided daily living skills, low vision training, and mobility service to the blind and visually impaired population in the border counties, focusing in particular on the counties of Donegal, Derry, and Tyrone. It has also provided a number of residential courses to children and adults from the region. The project has developed and delivered an information service and an awareness training service to blind and visually impaired people, their parents, guardians, family and friends, the general public, professionals dealing with blind and visually impaired people, employers, etc.