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UWI opens visual impairment unit

Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Sir Hilary Beckles applauds after Senator Ifill, unveiled the plaque declaring the Kerryann Ifill Unit officially open.

Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Sir Hilary Beckles applauds after Senator Ifill, unveiled the plaque declaring the Kerryann Ifill Unit officially open.

As the university at Cave Hill today took a step to better facilitate students with visual impairments, Senator Kerryann Ifill, after whom a newly established unit was renamed has called for further empowerment of students with other types of disabilities.

Thanking the university library for opening the Kerryann Ifill Unit this morning, the President of the Senate told Barbados TODAY: “Personally what I would like to see is when the university has a dedicated disabilities studies programme as well as a disabilities office where students with various challenges can go.

“Right now it is handled by Students Services and that is good because they respond to your needs and so on, but it would be great if we could move to the point where we have an office that deals specificially with those because students still have challenges.”

However, even now she said there was a move to outfit the room with braille printing equipment.

She said the establishment of the unit with various apparatus to assist visually impaired students was definitely a step in the right direction and would go a long way towards making life easier for current students, compared to her time at the campus when the institution was now becoming familiar with needs of persons like her.

“We have screen magnification and screen reading on the computer. We have programmes that will scan print and give you a vocal output of what is on the document. We have the Topaz which does screen magnification of the document for persons with low vision, then we have a Braille display which can connect to the computer so you can read in Braille as opposed to just listening — so those are the devices we have access to in the unit right now,” she said.

She added too, that the unit was planning to purchase a Braille embosser, which was essentially a Braille printer to enable tutors to create exams in that format for students.

Access to materials, she said, was the greatest challenge for students with visual impairments and if the university was willing to work with the wider education system it could become a resource for not just for UWI students but others as well.

“Students with visual impairments tend to use either Braille to produce or computers to access exams. So that room is already set up for that so you can invigilate students separately in that room. So there is a lot they can do and they put a table in there that you can have group meetings as well,” Ifill noted. (LB)

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