From education to employment

Project in Carnegie Library Hosts Monthly Project for Visually Impaired

Inclusion is a buzz ““ word for many, just another in the lexicon of “pro ““ active” terms used to encourage the belief that the fight against exclusion and prejudice is being successfully carried on.

Further Education faces an awesome responsibility in this respect. The sector’s very nature as a flexible and forward ““ thinking model for education allows it to reach anyone and everyone, including those who for whatever reason found it difficult to learn what they wished and how they wished within the school system. A library in Portsmouth has taken the initiative, playing host to the meetings of both the Portsmouth Visually Impaired Writers` Group each week and to the Readers` Group once a month.

Essential Skills

The Writers` Group has been meeting for nearly two years. The group is made up of approximately ten members who are either blind or visually impaired and their four guide dogs. The group is led by Fran May, Head of Essential Skills at Portsmouth College, and is a very mixed group in terms of age, experience and ability. Some members of the group are braillists, and a couple of members of the group are experienced writers. Others are not braillists, and some others have a much lower skill set when it comes to literacy.

The weekly sessions usually split into three sections: some work on essential English, some time spent analysing a passage read aloud by Fran, and some time reading and comparing short stories, poems or other pieces of writing. The group has focused on spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, which was either a useful refresher or a new skills set for others.


The foundation of the group was not simply to offer the opportunity to develop fiction writing skills, however. The initial aim was to develop the quality of the contributions of the group to a local Newsletter called EYE2EYE which is produced in Braille, on tape and in print and contains stories, autobiographical pieces, general articles on matters of common interest and advice.

Several of the contributors were conscious of their level of ability, and felt that they needed and wanted to improve their writing skills in order to contribute more effectively to EYE2EYE. They made contact with Portsmouth College, with the help of a local Training organisation, LearningLinks, to see if support could be provided. Fran May was the individual to step up to the plate, so to speak, and the Writers` Group was born.

The confidence levels of the group members has scaled new heights. They have recently begun to work towards their adult literacy certificates at either Levels 1 or 2. This project seems set for a bright future in helping the visually impaired to make the contribution that they wish to, and those who believe that FE is simply about targets, deadlines and goals would do well to take note of this.

Jethro Marsh

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