Title: Too Little, Too Late: Provision of school text books for blind and partially sighted pupils.

Author: Sue Keil, Delyth Parris, Rory Cobb, Angela Edwards and Richard McAllister, Publisher: RNIB, Year of publication: 2006.


In response to reports indicating that blind and partially sighted pupils did not have the same access to school textbooks in braille and large print formats as their sighted peers did to standard print texts the aims of this study were to:   

  • Establish the methods used by Visual Impairment (VI), or in Northern Ireland, Vision Support (VS) services and schools to obtain textbooks in accessible formats.    
  • Identify issues related to the sourcing, funding and local production of school textbooks in accessible formats. A national postal questionnaire survey of Visual Impairment (VI) services and schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was carried out. 120 questionnaires were returned, giving an overall response rate of 59 per cent. Case studies of 4 VI services in England and 2 in Wales also took place, and face to face interviews with 16 blind and partially sighted young people in the case study services, and with a further 5 young people in Northern Ireland.

Key findings    

  • A diversity of approaches to organising and funding textbook provision were identified. Within all models, in many schools the day to day responsibility for obtaining and / or producing accessible textbooks was handed over to Teaching Assistants (TAs).    
  • While many services and schools were still obtaining at least some of their accessible textbooks from external sources, most also had in-house production arrangements.    
  • The majority of respondents experienced difficulties in obtaining 'off the shelf' Braille and large print text books.    
  • More than half said that the most significant barrier to ensuring that blind and partially sighted pupils received their textbooks at the same time as their classmates using standard print copies, was simply that an accessible version of the book was not available to buy.    
  • Delays by subject teachers in providing book lists was said by over a quarter of respondents to be the most significant barrier to providing accessible books on time.    
  • There appeared to be fewer delays when books were produced locally compared to those obtained from external providers. However, disadvantages to in-house modification included the amount of staff time involved and difficulties in ensuring that quality standards are maintained.   
  • Respondents also felt that delays in receiving their textbooks on time had a significant effect on pupils' educational progress.    Several of the pupils interviewed said they did not like having their textbooks reproduced by enlarging onto A3 paper. The main reasons were that the photocopied pages were unclear and difficult to read, they were cumbersome and heavy to carry, or they made the pupil feel different.    
  • Overall the preferred solution was for electronic versions of textbooks to be easily obtained, either from the publisher or from an intermediary agency. A third of respondents would prefer central or regional production of accessible textbooks.