Inside This Issue

Here's what you'll find:
  • From SVRC: SVRC Review Update by Matt Trotter, Dates for Your Diary, New Request Forms and Alternative Format Catalogue, Dot Power, Expo 2017, Writing Competition Results
  • Sport and Activities: Focus on (dis)Ability Competition, Inclusion Videos, Olivia – Young Inventor
  • Technology: NVDA – New Version and Changing the Voice, PDF/PPT/Word documents for BrailleNote Apex and JAWS, Magnification – Screen & with VR Glasses, Putting Paper in the Perkins
  • From the Field: Feel the Fireworks at Disneyland, Braille Graffiti in Russia, Free SPEVI Membership
Check updated The Bulletin archive for back issues!

Dates for Your Diary – 2017-2018

Here is a list of our planned PD for next year.
    6 DECEMBER – all welcome – hope to see you here!!!
  • Educational Support for Students who are Blind: 13 February 2018
  • New (and newish) VT Day: 19 February 2018
  • Educational Support for Students who have Low Vision: 27 February OR 6 March OR 14 August 2018
  • PE PD Day: 14 March 2018
  • Educational Support for Students with Vision Impairments and Additional Impairments: 22 March 2018
  • Braille Music (half day) 24 April 2018
  • Art4Kids with VI: 2 May 2018 (date to be confirmed)
  • VT Master Class: 5 June 2018
  • Technology Expo: 27 November 2018
Programs and registration will be available on the SVRC website soon!

SVRC Review - Update

By Matt Trotter – 29/11/2017

As many of you may have heard, in July this year a Strategic Leadership and Governance Group was established to review the operations and governance of SVRC. Over the past few months we have been listening to the views of staff, students, parents and teachers, considering how SVRC can strengthen its services in the future.

The review group has been chaired by Todd Macbeth – Director of the Department of Education and Training’s Inclusive Education Professional Practice Branch. Members have included Marion Blazé (Manager, SVRC) and seven other individuals with experience and expertise in blind and low vision education. Of particular note, Gillian Gale (an ex-Visiting Teacher and author, specialising in vision impairment) and Daniel Pritchard (an ex-SVRC student) joined this group to provide an important external perspective.

The review has been extensive, including a wide-ranging stakeholder consultation with five different surveys and 178 individual respondents, an analysis of attendance, participation and staffing records held by SVRC, a review of the blindness and low vision educational services provided in other Australian states and territories, and a summary of recent Australian and international research on system-wide educational approaches to supporting students who are blind or partially sighted. All of this work has informed a series of recommendations that are soon being provided to Bruce Armstrong, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education and Training’s Regional Service Group, for consideration.

It is expected that following this process, a strategic plan for 2018-19 will be developed in order to outline a clear, positive vision for SVRC. This plan will be developed in consultation with a range of stakeholders, including parents, teachers and SVRC staff. It will be a public document, available for everyone to download and read.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this process so far, especially for the SVRC staff who have been so welcoming and helpful. I look forward to be able to share SVRC’s exciting future plans with you all in the near future.

Matt Trotter | Senior Policy and Project Officer | SVRC Strategic Leadership and Governance Group
Inclusive Education Professional Practice Branch
Professional Practice and Leadership Division
Department of Education and Training
2 Treasury Place, East Melbourne, VIC, 3002

Dot Power Day Feedback

From Lea Nagel, Education Programs, SVRC
This term, fourteen lovely Dot Power students worked in the area of Daily Living Skills, combining this focus with the goals of reading braille and interpreting tactual images. The children began as usual with songs that reminded them of previous learning for example Echolocation and Paralympics. They then combined music with a braille worksheet to discover and practise braille words and contractions that they would be reading today. We call these our Do-braille sheets. Because we sing the rows of braille, this encourages repetition and confidence!

An example can be found here:
The children read a procedural text: The pizza recipe. They noticed the contractions that they had practised, found the page numbers and identified the tactual images (ingredients for our pizza toppings). They then followed the recipe to make dough from scratch. As the dough was proving, the children explored the topping ingredients and related them to the tactual images and braille words. For example, they touched, smelled and tasted a whole pineapple, a slice of a pineapple, a can of pineapple and pineapple pieces. This process hopefully expanded their knowledge of where food comes from and how pineapple can often be illustrated as a textural oval with spikes at the top, but when you eat it on pizza it is a small sweet tasting blob.

Once the children had touched, smelled and tasted the 8 ingredients for their pizza, they added flour to their dough and pressed it into a pizza base and added their choice of ingredients. They cleaned up their own work spaces, checking whether they had missed any spots. They wrote their recipe on the Perkins braillewriter either independently or with help, perhaps by putting their hands over the hands of an adult who brailled as the child dictated.

After lunch, the children played some games that might be played in their schools and listened to a story. They revised their learning about ingredients by using the ingredients cards to play "Go Fish".

Families, school staff and Visiting Teachers appreciated the opportunity to see how curriculum materials are presented, and how the environment and teaching methods are adjusted for the needs of children who use braille. We were very grateful for the help provided by school staff and Visiting Teachers in this very hands-on activity.
Our next Dot Power Day will be in term 2 2018 – please check our website as our calendar is still under construction! Information can be found at

Photos show children exploring trays of fruit and vegetables

SVRC Writing Competition 2017 – Winners Announced at Expo

From Marion Blazé

The theme for this year’s competition was "You Can’t Ask That!". After the popular ABC program, one episode of which featured people with vision impairments, we asked students to write about their experiences of being asked or told strange or funny things about their vision. We had some amazing entries.
Dakota brailled a story about turning orange after eating lots of carrots when her Mum was told that carrots were good for eyes.
Ben wrote a "Guide to Silly Questions".

Question: "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Answer: "999,999 Oh and two thumbs".

Rory told us some of the advantages of being blind like being able to read braille under the blankets when your parents think you are asleep!

Our overall winner was Sammy McCombe in Year 7 at Sacred Heart College Geelong who wrote a very witty poem about having albinism (see following page). Well done Sammy!!

Prizes and certificates were presented to those entrants who came to our Expo this week. Thank you to Bolinda Audio who donated some wonderful audio books for prizes!!

You Can’t Ask That

In 17,000 people, only one
"Are you allergic to the sun?"
People ask and it’s not fun,
One more time, and I’m done.

Hair and skin, are often light,
"Why are you so very white?"
I’m not a ghost, I do not fright,
People can be so impolite!

Pigmentation it may take,
"Why do your eyes usually shake?"
Nothing as bad as an earthquake,
Oh please just give me a break!

"Woah, you’re white!"
Yeah, I know
Can’t you see, I’m Albino!

Get Your Kids Reading Over the Holidays (or all year round)!!

Do you know about Borrow Box? Borrow Box is a free way to get audio and eBooks from your local library. All you need is a local library membership. All public libraries in Victoria have Borrow Box and some school libraries do too. Go to the library website, log in to Borrow Box using your library card ID/barcode, install the Borrow Box app and browse books. You can download books to your device or reserve them for later.

The Borrow Box collection are all quality books from Bolinda and include many junior titles by authors such as Andy Griffiths, Emily Rodda, Morris Glietzman, Alison Lester, John Flanagan, Ruth Park, Garth Nix and more!

Braille Graffiti in Russia


During the enormous street art festival Stenograffia in Ekaterinburg, Russia, Possible Moscow and non-commercial organization "Belaya Trost" launched the Braille Art project – the first graffiti designed for the blind.

The creators of the project decided to inspire people who have vision impairments with the help of a gallery of unusual street art objects.

The Braille-Art gallery includes three objects that consist of visual symbols and text written in braille. Each of the objects talk about the achievements of people with vision impairments who have become successful in different areas of life despite the challenges their blindness presents.

Braille-Art gallery tells the story of Mikhail Pozhidaev, a scientist from Tomsk who, having lost his eyesight, invented an operating system for the blind. Other heroes are Ray Charles, who has 17 Grammies, and Marla Runyan, a runner who has beaten a national record for the 5k.


Finding Your Way – Another Day, Another Expo

From Glen Morrow

SVRC’s annual technology Expo is a highlight on our calendar. This year, our theme was Finding Your Way, inspired by new navigation technology but also because of the possibilities and potential for students who are blind or have low vision through innovations in technology and service provision.

We had 10 exhibitors this year, including a few new faces! Stephanie from Inside Vision showed us new tactile Braille Technology, SensiLab from Monash University exhibited and ran a seminar on new 3D printing technology and what it means for our students.

We also had seminars on NVDA, what the free screen reader is, how it works and how to get it. Guide Dogs Victoria also popped in to show us the latest in beacon technology, how Bluetooth beacons and QR codes are the future for navigation in wide open and indoor spaces.

It was a great opportunity for our community to engage with organisations and companies who provide assistive technology and services for students. There was a great atmosphere on the day and all our 10 exhibitors reported having a great day – as did our community.

Our Writing Competition theme this year was "You Can’t Ask That!" which generated some great material. Congratulations to our two winners who were there on the day to receive their prizes – Rory and Ben.

Focus On (dis)Ability Film Festival

The 10th Annual Focus On (dis)Ability Film Festival is on again! It's time to begin working on your submissions to this competition. The theme is Ability/Disability.

One of our past Support Skills students was a finalist last year and really enjoyed the experience.!

Prizes: over $150,000 available
Due date: 1st June 2018
Submit: a short film (less than 5 minutes) with an ability/disability theme
Contact: Ryan Goodwin (02) 8886 5606

For more information and to watch the entries from 2017 visit:

Inclusion Videos by Students

Source: SPEVI list

In school term 2 of 2017, Ability Links NSW invited public schools from across the Hunter and Central Coast regions to take part in the inaugural "Smart Art Includes You" Challenge. More than one in five schools answered that call, supporting almost 1000 students to participate and go in the draw to win their school up to $9000 to build their capacity to be inclusive of people with disabilities. They asked for artwork that was interesting and original and which would inspire audiences to think about the value of inclusion.

Under the expert guidance of Debra Goodsir, Specialist Teacher (Vision), students from Kotara High School created and submitted two great videos:

Inclusion Food:
Inclusion Dance:

Tech, Tech and More Tech.

NVDA – 2017.4 Due Out In December

Our friends over at NV Access are working away on the latest version of NVDA. It’ll be out in December. Version 2017.4 includes new features such as being able to find form fields and buttons on web pages via the Elements List. NVDA will also report screen orientation (landscape or portrait) and announce when a charging cable has been connected or disconnected. Users can also now use O and SHIFT+O to find embedded video and audio – which is a nice touch.
But ... if you are a Windows XP or Vista user, you need to know that support for these two versions of Windows will end in version 2017.4. So if you do use either version of Windows, you will either need to upgrade Windows or leave NVDA at version 2017.3 which is the last version of NVDA that will support Windows XP and Vista.

NVDA – Changing the Voice

It’s no real surprise that over time the sound of speech synthesizers is getting more human sounding and less robotic. If you’re an NVDA user you will be familiar with the eSpeak voice the screen reader uses. It’s free and open source which is why it ships with NVDA. The advantage of this voice is it can sustain clarity at high speeds. If, however, you would like to change the voice to something a little more "human", then there are now options in Windows 10. OneCore is a new set of inbuilt voices that ships with Windows 10 and can offer greater clarity than eSpeak.
To change the NVDA default synthesizer – do the following:
  1. Choose Synthesizer from NVDA’s Preferences menu or press NVDA+CTRL+S.
  2. TAB or move to the Synthesizer option and choose the voice you want.
  3. You can also change other options like the rate, pitch and language here as well.
  4. Some options in this box will change depending on the version of NVDA you have and the synthesizer you choose.
In Process is a regular newsletter from NV Access – the makers of NVDA. It’s a great way to stay up to date with all the latest in NVDA news. A link to the current issue is here:

Glassbrick Screen Magnifier – Updated!


Glassbrick 2.2 is now available for download – and it's free! It's compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8 and can be downloaded from the link above. You can leave messages for the developer and send suggestions.

Magnifier App with VR Glasses


Samsung Electronics has announced the launch of Relúmĭno — a visual aid app for people with low vision. The app works in conjunction with the Gear VR headset to provide enlargement via the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S8 and S8+. Key features include magnifying and minimising images; highlighting the image outline; adjusting colour contrast and brightness; reversing colour; and screen colour filtering. These features enable people with low vision to see images clearer when they are reading a book or viewing an object.

Q&A: Word/PDF/PowerPoints for BrailleNote/JAWS

What is the difference between a PDF document and Word file? What is the best file type for BrailleNote and JAWS? Can students access PowerPoints?

Word docs (.doc) are what we send for use on the BrailleNote Apex (and other devices). They are editable and therefore the BrailleNote Apex and JAWS can read them. We take out the photographs and transcribe the text that is really an image so they can be read by BrailleNote and JAWS. The resulting file looks very different to the original document. It has no photos or diagrams, though in some cases, the photos and diagrams may be described or the information presented as text. The Word documents are saved with a file name that reflects either the teacher’s file name or the heading of the document. So the student and the teacher should be able to find the document they are using very quickly.

PDFs are a common format for text and photos/diagrams etc and can be read by MORE devices (eg your iPhone) but are often not fully accessible (or accessible at all). For example, if you run a document through the scanner (or photocopier) you can get a pdf of a document on paper. This kind of PDF behaves more like a photograph – BrailleNote Apex and JAWS can’t read it. You can make a PDF from a Word document and these are more (though often not fully) accessible via JAWS and BrailleNote Apex.

PPTs are a great way to present information to a class of sighted students, but again, the document is generally not fully accessible. To ensure that the student has access to the text, these files are also transcribed into a Word document which can be read by BrailleNote Apex and JAWS.
In answer to your question – Word (.doc NOT .docx) is currently the best for BrailleNote Apex and JAWS.

Disneyland: Feeling Fireworks!


Fireworks provide dazzling night displays that people all around the world continue to enjoy. Although a number of technical improvements have been introduced to pyrotechnics over the years, the result remains the same: a magical and intense light display that awes outdoor audiences. And no one does fireworks like Disney parks and resorts.

For this reason, Disney Research is currently developing a kind of tactile pyrotechnic display called "Feeling Fireworks", which is designed specifically for visitors with vision impairments, the idea being to offer "an aesthetic technology for the blind and visually impaired community," explains lead research scientist Paul Beardsley. The prototype works with haptic feedback, which essentially involves a series of tactile vibrations that translate the experience.

Maybe Space Campers 2018 can check this out when they’re there!

SPEVI: Free Membership

From Shane Doepel, SPEVI Membership Secretary,
Free membership is now on offer for all categories of SPEVI membership. Join SPEVI (South Pacific Educators in Vision Impairment) by 30 May 2018 to receive free membership to 30 May 2019.

The aim of the free membership promotion is also to strengthen SPEVI membership numbers. Important SPEVI aims can only be fulfilled with strong SPEVI membership.

Putting Paper in a Perkins Brailler

One issue that became apparent at our recent Dot Power Day is the difficulty for children in independently putting paper in their Perkins – it’s tricky and no two Perkins braillers seem to behave the same! There are some tricks that can help!
We have a Youtube clip about putting paper in the Perkins brailler. Take a look and share your ideas:

Young Inventor

From Lisa Zarb – Learning Consultant – Vision

Olivia had an interesting assignment in her class. Students were asked to choose a problem to solve. Olivia’s problem was that her glasses kept falling off her bedside table, an issue I’m sure many of us can relate to. She cleverly invented a prototype of a glasses holder that could hold her glasses, sunglasses and even her hat which could be hung up in her room. Have a look at her great invention, a project that you could do over the holidays.

Great idea Olivia!

We now have over 550 requests for alternative format materials for 2018 – it's going to be a busy summer!!!
Deb Lewis (Ed)
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