asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what improvements have taken place in rehabilitation provided by local education authorities for the newly-blind to allow them to improve their work prospects; and if he will make a statement.
The needs of both those who are newly blind and those with deteriorating partial sight centre on emotional adjustment, mobility, communication, social skills and sometimes the use of aids to maximise residual vision. Provision for their teaching and rehabilitation is well developed and supported by the local education authorities. The latter make use of two vocational assessment centres which have been established on a voluntary basis at Reigate and Birmingham. They also send pupils or students to a number of schools or colleges including the Royal National College for the Blind, Hereford, to which my Department has contributed £1 million to the cost of new buildings.Within their resources the local authorities employ peripatetic teachers and advisers for the visually-handicapped, and benefit in addition from advisers and services supplied by the Royal National Institute for the Blind. My Department has also made a research grant of about £23,000 for the development of teaching materials for a two-year course using distance learning methods and leading to the Diploma in the Education of the Visually Handicapped at Birmingham University. This has now started with an enrolment of 36 serving teachers of the blind and is in addition to the existing one year full time course.