Saturday, October 14, 2006

The voices of the visually impaired can now be online

Students of the Erin H. Gilmour School for Blind and Visually Impaired Children now have the latest learning equipment allowing them to interact with voices online, thanks to the generosity of a corporate donor.

Citigroup Bahamas presented state of the art learning tools to the school, enabling those who are visually challenged to hear words they have written on a standard Braille machine and to listen to books through their computers.

"For years, we have followed the progress of students at the Erin H. Gilmour School for the Blind and have great respect for the role The Salvation Army plays in affording visually challenged and blind persons the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education," said Margaret Butler, Citigroup Country Officer (CCO) for The Bahamas. "We are pleased today to present the sophisticated Braille 'n Speak and Kurzweil 1000 educational systems and trust these tools will allow the students to reach their goals effectively and with greater ease and joy."

The Braille 'n Speak system, a new and immensely popular note-taker, combines speech with a standard Perkins-style keyboard. It works through a built-in synthesizer that allows the user to input and edit information that is read back to them at the press of a command.

While the Braille 'n Speak tool allows students to interact with their computers in order to manage their own writing whether for notes, an essay or exam, the second piece of equipment, a Kurzweil 1000 system, reads back to them not what they are entering, but material that is printed, scanned or electronic text.

One of its applications is similar to books on tape, allowing the user to sit back and listen to the book being read in a human voice.

"This is the first time that we've had equipment of this nature," said school Principal, Maria Deleveaux. "These educational tools will definitely facilitate the students learning process."
Despite challenges, students at the school have excelled. Alvin Forbes left The Salvation Army facility on Mackey Street a top student by any standard, completed course work at The College of The Bahamas and last fall entered Huron University in Canada where he has earned respect and a scholarship to study theology.

A young student at the school now, Rickia Arnette, recently earned high scores during the BJC exams including an A in Social Studies.

The Erin H. Gilmour School for the Blind was named after a young Canadian woman who was tragically killed in The Bahamas, where she and her family had carved touching memories. It was her father's mission to remember Erin in a way that would impact lives in years to come.

The school's mission statement is to ensure that blind and visually impaired children at every stage of life be empowered to acquire specialised skills that will enable them to participate successfully in the mainstream of society.


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