Belfast Telegraph

Braille centre sets down benchmark

Poet Seamus Heaney and artist Robert Ballagh have unveiled a celebratory bench to mark the 10th anniversary of a specialised service at St Joseph's Centre for the Visually Impaired in north Dublin.

The Ballagh-designed bench has a poem inscribed in text and in Braille, written by Nobel Prize-winning Heaney, entitled Seeing The Sky.

The seat commemorates 10 years of the National Braille Production Centre at the site of the Drumcondra school, which was founded in 2000 when four staff produced 52 transcriptions in Braille and large print for 17 students.

Last year 25 staff members produced 2,800 transcriptions for 410 students, with the figure now rising to almost 500.

The centre has launched a pilot of an online bookshelf which will explore the delivery of alternative book formats to children with visual impairments.

Centre manager Ilka Staglin said it will continue to respond to the changing and rapidly increasing demand for textbooks in alternative formats over the next 10 years.

She said: "While we will maintain production of the classic paper Braille and large print books, we envisage that at least half of all the books required will be produced and delivered in electronic format."

Education Minister Mary Coughlan praised staff at the school and production centre.

The Braille system remains important, she pointed out, despite the introduction of CD, podcast, audio and voice-simulation communications.

She added: "Despite the many wonderful benefits that such audio technology can bring, it still remains crucial that people can read and write down thoughts and information, and share it in written form. The written format, expressed though Braille, continues to offer privacy, independence, and permanence."

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