Most of us take many things for granted in our lives, such as our ability to see or to hear. But for those who are born or visually impaired, life is much more difficult, especially when they are learning to adapt to their disabilities.
They cannot take part in everyday activities that the rest of us do almost without thinking. They need extra help and guidance to enable them to lead fuller lives and to achieve their potential.
Those with sight and hearing impairments are fortunate that Northern Ireland has a facility dedicated to improving their lives. Jordanstown School in Newtownabbey is the only school for both deaf and blind pupils in the UK and Ireland and the original facility has just been replaced by a £7m state-of-the-art building designed to cater for the special needs of its 50 pupils and using the most modern technological aids.
At a time when even mainstream educational establishments are under severe financial pressure it is reassuring that this unique facility has not only been maintained but improved. The trustees who sold excess land and ploughed the profits back into the school are to be commended for their astuteness as well as their dedication to the pupils. Without this school many of the pupils would lead very different lives, isolated by their disabilities and suffering low morale.
Those who teach at the school are also deserving of the highest praise. It is obviously painstaking work, although the reward of seeing young people blossoming and undertaking tasks that previously would have been beyond them must be exhilarating. As reports in this newspaper today reveal there are many inspiring stories coming out of the school. Each one is of a life transformed and made better thanks to the facilities and the teachers at Jordanstown School. It is an educational establishment of which we should be very proud and its impact on its pupils is beyond calculation.