POET Seamus Heaney and artist Robert Ballagh went back to school yesterday to join a group of youngsters marking a special occasion.
The pair unveiled a celebratory bench in the Sense and Grow garden of St Joseph’s Centre for the Visually Impaired in Drumcondra for the 10th anniversary of the National Braille Production Centre.
The bench, designed by Mr Ballagh, is inscribed with a poem in text and Braille by the Nobel Prize-winning poet entitled Seeing The Sky.
Education Minister Mary Coughlan commended staff at the school and production centre. She said the Braille system was still important, despite the introduction of CD, podcast, audio, and voice simulation communication systems.
“Despite the many wonderful benefits that such audio technology can bring, it still remains crucial that people can read and write down thoughts and information, and share it in written form. The written format, expressed though Braille, continues to offer privacy, independence, and permanence,” she said.
The centre, on the same site as the north Dublin school, was founded in 2000, when four staff produced 52 transcriptions in Braille and large print for 17 students.
Last year 25 staff members produced 2,800 transcriptions for 410 students, with the figure now rising to almost 500.
It has launched an online bookshelf pilot project that will explore the feasibility of delivering alternative book formats to children with a visual impairment.
Centre manager Ilka Staglin said it will continue to respond to the changing and increasing demand for textbooks in alternative formats over the next 10 years.
“While we will maintain production of the classic paper Braille and large print books, we envisage that at least half of all the books required will be produced and delivered in electronic format,” she added.
Elsewhere, Ireland’s only fully integrated creche and Montessori, The Learning Tree, opened its doors on the site to 55 children and a further 18 with additional needs. The facility, which is equipped for children of all abilities, features an indoor softplay, heated indoor swimming pool, two playgrounds, a petting zoo, horses and a horticulture project.
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