The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) is Australia’s largest non-government provider of services supporting thousands of adults, children and their families with hearing loss or vision impairment. Established by an Act of Parliament in Australia in 1860, it now operates via a number of Centres, promoting the rights of all persons with vision impairment to inclusion in education, employment and society on the same basis as sighted persons – leaving no-one behind. Of particular note for this podcast is the Renwick Centre which, in partnership with the Macquarie University, is Australia’s leading centre for the provision of high quality teaching and learning opportunities for professionals in the area of Special Education for students with hearing or vision impairment, research in these same areas, and related community service.
In September 2014, the Renwick Centre launched UEB Online, an interactive website offering free training in the Unified English Braille code. An Accessible version followed in September 2016 and, since then, the website has reached over 15,000 people in 197 countries. Most recently, in 2020, it received an Award for Innovative Practice on Inclusive Education and ICT from the Zero Project. It is being continuously updated with new features and new content and now boasts a 2-part Literacy course based on the UEB Australian Training Manual (in turn edited from the RNIB Braille Primer) and two purpose-written Mathematics courses (Introductory and Advanced), with a further Extension Mathematics course due to be launched by the end of 2020.
To find out more, we’re joined by three members of the team behind the UEB Online website:
- Frances Gentle is the Team Leader for the UEB Online project. She’s also a Conjoint Lecturer at the RIDBC Renwick Centre, President of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and Co-President of the South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment (SPEVI).
- Trudy Smith is Manager of the Continuing Professional Education program at the RIDBC Renwick Centre and is responsible for the day to day management of the UEB Online courses.
- Josie Howse was editor of the original UEB Primer published in 2006, is co-editor of the UEB Australian Training Manual and is the author of the UEB Mathematics Training materials on UEB Online. She has worked in vision impairment for more than 40 years and, prior to her retirement in 2019, was the manager of the Braille, Large Print and E-Text Production Department of the New South Wales Department of Education. She has represented the Australian Braille Authority at all six of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) General Assemblies held every 4 years and had a strong input into UEB discussions from the developmental years. Josie has conducted extensive workshops throughout Australia on numerous braille related topics and has presented papers in Thailand, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and Austria.