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Deaf and Braille educational courses to eliminate adult training barriers

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South African adults with hearing and visual impairment are now able to access pioneering educational materials developed specifically for their needs.

About 2-million South Africans live with conditions that affect their hearing or eyesight. Frequently, their careers and lifestyle are limited because of their inability to acquire basic skills.
To help remedy this situation, Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) specialists, Media Works, today launched innovative training materials for Deaf, Blind and partially sighted adults.
“Technology allows us to overcome the challenge of developing inclusive educational solutions for adult learners who have specific training needs,” explains Jackie Carroll, MD of Media Works.
Through a strategic partnership with the Wits School of Education, the course materials are being put to the test by a group of Deaf, Blind and partially sighted adult learners.
Adult Literacy is an urgent matter of social justice and redress – and access to literacy for deaf and blind learners even more so.  The Wits School of Education is pleased to be part of this ground-breaking initiative.  We look forward to new partnerships that will assist Wits and  Media Works to take this forward.
Ranging in age from their early 30s to late 40s, learners currently on the course are all working adults who attend four hours of lessons every week at Wits.  Although largely computer based, the same material is available in the course workbooks through which the learners continue their studies at home.  At the end of each level of the course, learners can select to write an Independent Examination Board Exam for their certification.
“The English literacy and language programme for Deaf adults has proved to be a phenomenal success, with the learners making real progress with every lesson,” says Wits University’s Heidi Bresler, who is heading up the facilitation process. This programme is endorsed by the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA).
Compliant with the United English Braille Code, the Braille course material for Blind or partially sighted learners is the first such material to be launched anywhere in the world. European and North American countries are set to follow suit next year.
“Government is currently one of the main employers of Deaf and Blind adults. Our hope is that these training solutions will significantly increase employment opportunities in other sectors,” says Carroll.  
“The development of these materials went hand-in-hand with the objective to create employment opportunities, and we are thrilled that the courses can be taught and facilitated by Deaf and Blind adults.” Says Professor  Metcalfe, head of Wits School of Education.
Developed over a two-year period at a cost of more than R2-million, the programmes have been designed in consultation with community groups and organisations representing Deaf and Blind people around the country. Essentially, they enable Blind and Deaf adults to progress to NQF Level 1, which is equivalent to Grade 9 – and provide providing them with the basis from which to access further education.