Visually impaired left without a centre

WE are dismayed that the Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey has rejected plans for a National Centre for the Visually Impaired.

It is almost inconceivable that in this Year of the Disabled, the minister should turn down a resource for the visually impaired and blind children of this country.

It is incredible that the Department of Education and Science rejects plans to improve the educational and support services provided to blind and visually-impaired children, despite the inadequacy of current and planned future services for many of our children, especially girls of primary school age.

It is also disquieting that consideration does not appear to be given by this Government, or by the Department of Education, to the increasingly evident complex educational needs of the growing number of visually impaired/blind children with additional disabilities.

We are parents and guardians of children/youngsters with very special and individual needs.

The numbers, though increasing, and their geographic spread, should not mitigate against the rights of each and every one of them.

We believe that this country is quite capable of providing state-of-the-art facilities for the assessment, early intervention, education, therapeutic support, multi-disciplinary management and care and vocational training of our children.

This could be achieved in Dublin and countrywide through outreach and residential visits.

All that appears to be lacking is the will to divert funds to the marginalised few.

We request most sincerely that consideration of plans for a National Centre for the Visually Impaired be re-opened and that our children be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential through the provision of an all-encompassing centre of excellence.

Helen McDonnell,

18, Grange Park Crescent,

Raheny,

Dublin 5. Sarah McGowan,

Caltragh,

Sligo.

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