SPECSAVERS STORES in Otley and Ilkley have funded 10 audio players to kickstart a campaign run by SENEthiopia, a charity that supports children with special educational needs in Ethiopia.
In November and December 2015, Dr. Gary Knamiller, a retired lecturer at Leeds University and Ilkley resident, and Peter Graham, a retired BBC engineer, visited students at the Mekelle School for the Blind in Ethiopia. Together with their sister charity, SENTigray, Gary and Peter trialled the new audio players loaded with biology and civics textbooks with blind students in grades eight to 10.
The specially adapted MP3 players, headphones and recharging cables allow the children to track forward and backwards to source text. The ‘talking textbooks’ assist visually impaired students to access the curriculum and become independent learners.
A word from the store director
Roger Copley, store director at Otley and Ilkley Specsavers, comments: ‘‘SENEthiopia is a fantastic charity that does so much ground-breaking work to help children with special educational needs in Ethiopia. The Specsavers teams in Ilkley and Otley were delighted to contribute £200 towards the ‘talking textbooks”.
Gary commented: “Specsavers’ donation of 10 audio players enabled us to conduct an initial trail of the audio players. And how very successful this was. During the first feedback session one of the blind boys said, “These audio players have restored our eyesight.” How humbling! How encouraging! It was an amazingly successful trip.
The charity’s next aim is to roll out the programme to all visually impaired students in mainstream schools throughout the northern province of Tigray.”
SENEthiopia was founded in 2004, aiming to improve the educational standards of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Northern Ethiopia. These children are often underrepresented and in many cases, marginalised by society. The ‘Talking Textbook’ programme will go a long way toward helping visually impaired children to participate fully in their communities.