Site blog

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by Learning Hub - Monday, 3 June 2019, 11:22 AM
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We will be carrying out some essential maintenance on the Royal Blind Learning Hub website tomorrow, Tues 4 June.

Access to our website will be unavailable during the maintenance window. You will still be able to sign up for our seminars by telephone or email.

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by Learning Hub - Tuesday, 14 May 2019, 9:48 AM
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Starting up a Switch Toy Library

By Karen Osterloh, Royal Blind School librarian

Our Library has recently been asked to look after a collection of switch adapted toys sourced by our Speech and Language and Occupational Health Therapists. These are toys that have been adapted to be operated by a switch: particularly useful for children and young people with complex needs.

Types of toy

So far our Switch Toy Library includes a furry monkey that plays a drum, a puppy that sits, walks, barks and performs backflips, a train that blows bubbles, an infinity tunnel, a spinning plastic globe with multi-coloured lights, and a vibrating pillow. We also have a few switch adapted CD/Cassette/Radio players.

White toy puppy with black spots, attached to a swtich

Toy furry monkey that plays a drum

Why do we use switch toys?

Switch toys are great for developing an understanding of cause and effect. With the right toy, pupils can be motivated to press a switch (in whatever way is suitable to them) in order to make something happen. When they operate a switch they are rewarded with sensory feedback in the form of sound, movement, light, vibration or other sensation. Switches can help with teaching many skills such as responding, timing, taking turns, choosing, listening and looking. They also aid social interaction as they enable them to take part in a group activity.

Storing the toys

As the switch adapted toys are expensive, we have added barcodes so that they can be signed out using our Library catalogue in the same way as Library users borrow a book. For storage, they are kept in large plastic boxes. 

Large box full of swtich toys, two monkeys, a puppy and various switches

Further information

There are many websites selling switch adapted toys such as: Inclusive Technology, Explore Your Senses, SpaceKraft and Liberator. There are also websites (Call Scotland, for example) which have instructions on how to make your own adapted toys - if you are handy with electric wiring! For more information about switches see the Call Scotland web page on Switches.

[ Modified: Thursday, 16 May 2019, 9:29 AM ]
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Lego Bricks Designed for Children with Sight Loss

Lego have designed "Braille bricks" to help blind and partially sighted pupils.

Watch the video clip from the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme to find out how pupils have been testing them out.

[ Modified: Monday, 13 May 2019, 11:56 AM ]
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by Learning Hub - Monday, 29 April 2019, 12:48 PM
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The Royal Blind Learning Hub is pleased to announce its programme of seminars for the 2019/20 year.

All events are FREE and will be held in Edinburgh at the Royal Blind School unless otherwise stated.

Please note some dates/times may change and will be confirmed when booking opens.

Seminars and Workshops 2019-20



Once booking is open for these seminars they will appear on our seminars page.

If you would like to express an interest in attending any of our future seminars please email

Or call us on 0131 446 3128

[ Modified: Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 1:00 PM ]
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Playground Environment

A boy with vision impairment wearing sunglasses and a learning assistant smile while playing outside

In this blog you’ll find guidelines for adapting the playground environment for your blind and partially sighted pupils.

The outside playground environment can be very difficult for pupils with vision impairment to navigate especially if there are large open spaces. Restrict play to smaller areas until they are familiar and also show them where play equipment is located as they will not see it from a distance. Playground area markers/colours are useful. You can teach the pupil to navigate to a certain point in the playground and encourage his sighted classmates to be aware of this. Setting up peer play opportunities in this area will encourage sighted children to stay and play.

Make sure children know what is available for them to play with. Children with VI often stick to one area/toy in a play environment because they cannot see what is available in other parts of the room, or the toys do not have good tactile interest. They also tend to stick to the activity which is safe and familiar, where they understand the ‘rules’ and know they won’t make mistakes. A lot of thought needs to go into scaffolding a play environment which is stimulating but also peer appropriate so that others will engage in play.

Learn more by watching the Let Me Play video.

Read our blog How to Adapt the Classroom for Blind and Partially Sighted Pupils.

[ Modified: Monday, 22 April 2019, 12:34 PM ]
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by Learning Hub - Monday, 18 March 2019, 11:54 AM
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Lisa Olson came all the way over from San Diego in America to attend our seminar on Tactile Graphics and Tactile Book Making, which we hosted at the Royal Blind School last month.

Lisa has kindly reflected on her experience and you can read it below:

Reflections on My Experience With the Royal Blind Learning Hub

Lisa Olson smiles at the camera with a sign pointing to the Royal Blind School in the background

I am so happy to have discovered the Royal Blind Learning Hub. In my current pursuit to learn as much as I can about best practices for supporting and empowering students who are blind or partially sighted, I have found your standout collection of resources to be of great help. Bravo to the Royal Blind team for your noble work--and with your web presence, the information you share now has a global reach! (You reached me across the Atlantic in San Diego! And it is clear your efforts can make a positive difference for students, educators, and advocates for the blind in other parts of the world as well.)

Thank you also for hosting the face-to-face teacher training seminars at the Royal Blind School campus in Edinburgh. Visiting your school in person, and participating in the Tactile Graphics seminar, was an invaluable experience for me. I am grateful for numerous worthwhile takeaways, including: new insights into tactile graphics theory and strong literacy development; new ideas for creating meaningful and effective multi-sensory learning resources collections; more exposure to state-of-the-art tactile graphics production options and technologies; and the opportunity (and privilege!) to meet and learn from Royal Blind staff and other Teachers of Vision Impairment from schools throughout Scotland.

As a college reference librarian, I currently work with post-secondary students in a large public community college system in San Diego, California. My visit to the Royal Blind School contributed greatly to my latest professional development goal of learning more about how I can most effectively advocate for our blind students' needs at the college level ... and how I can help break down barriers still encountered by blind students who are transitioning into the college experience.

[ Modified: Thursday, 28 March 2019, 1:23 PM ]
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Adapting the Classroom (Part 2)

Pupil and teacher smile as they work on a braillenote in the classroom

In the final part of this blog we complete our guidelines for adapting your classroom for your blind and partially sighted pupils.

Organised Environment

It is important to create a clutter free and organised environment around the pupil with vision impairment. It is good to have a set of drawers close to their desk with braille/tactile/large print labels for storing jotters, paper and other adapted resources. This ensures easy access to their materials and fosters a level of independence.

An organised environment also reduces their need to move unnecessarily around the classroom which takes time away from their task. It helps to keep finished work trays in the same place, making sure they have clear print/tactile labels or are different colours so the pupil can easily locate them.

There is no reason why a child with vision impairment cannot be part of the class routine of handing out the jotters, each jotter just requires a large print or braille label.


Be aware that what you put on the walls is unlikely to be seen clearly, if at all, by your pupils. If you do want them to view something on the walls it important to take them and show them where it is and make sure they know they are allowed to leave their seat when they need to use it, e.g. word wall. It is good for your pupils to have a desk copy of something they may need to refer to frequently.

For a pupil with no vision obviously it is not possible for them to access teaching information from the walls, however it is important that they know if their work has been put on the walls and how to locate that should they want to show someone. It is a good idea to make parts of any wall display tactile and have braille labelling.

Matt laminates can be purchased to eliminate glare from information on the walls. Some children who are blind may still have some light perception and it is important to have as much of an understanding of how they see as possible.

Learn how Velcro (hook and loop) boards are useful resources for blind and partially sighted students in our video How to Make Velcro Print and Braille Boards.

Read Part 1 of Adapting the Classroom.

[ Modified: Thursday, 7 March 2019, 9:50 AM ]
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Adapting the Classroom (Part 1)

A teacher helps load a brailler for a pupil in the classroom at the Royal Blind School

In the first part of this blog you’ll find guidelines for adapting your classroom for blind and partially sighted pupils.


It is important to try and keep the classroom layout as static as possible and if you do make changes to the layout that you let the children experience that change and show them where you have moved things to. Also to try and minimise the amount of moving around from table to table and teach specific routes to the carpet/blackboard etc.

Your pupil with vision impairment does need to learn to navigate unfamiliar areas but it is important that their immediate learning environment stays as unchanged as possible. This reduces their stress and allows them to learn better, it also gives them confidence to move around independently. If environments are always changing and have unexpected obstacles to negotiate all the time the pupil will become more reliant on others and ultimately less proactive in their mobility.

Be aware of the social needs of your pupil. As it is not a good idea to keep moving the pupil with vision impairment from table to table, especially if their desk has a lot of assistive equipment, you can vary the other pupils working on the table to allow for new friends to be made and a different mix of personalities.

It is also a good idea to let the pupil work in a space away from their normal seat and sometimes without all their equipment. This obviously involves devising a task where the fixed supports are less necessary but also gives them the freedom to be like everyone else for a moment.

A slant (or sloping) board helps to provide a better working angle for pupils with vision impairment, but not using their slanting board occasionally, depending on the type and duration of task, is ok.

"As a primary teacher myself, especially mostly in the infant department, it is hard not to make the classroom very visually stimulating. It is not possible to make everything perfect for the vision impaired pupil but be aware that a visually busy environment (visually or spatially) is an exhausting one. It is important to consider as much as possible ‘why’ something is going on the wall or in the room and how necessary it is."
Sally Paterson, Learning Hub manager


Don't position a pupil with vision impairment facing the windows as the glare can cause problems, and try not to teach with the windows or a main light source behind you. Be aware of the way the light coming into the room affects the board/walls etc.

Want to learn more? Try our Guidelines for Blind and Partially Sighted Pupils.

In part two of this blog we will finish off our guidelines for adapting the classroom for pupils with vision impairment.

[ Modified: Tuesday, 5 February 2019, 2:50 PM ]
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by Learning Hub - Wednesday, 30 January 2019, 3:37 PM
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Do you have a child with Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI) and are you looking for support and advice? CVI Scotland have written an informative and helpful guide for parents called Sharing & Developing Our Understanding of CVI.

What is Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI)?

CVI refers to visual problems a child or adult may experience due to damage to the parts of the brain that deal with vision. CVI can be common in children with multiple disabilities. CVI is different to Ocular Visual Impairment, which means sight problems caused by the eyes not functioning properly. If a child has CVI there is nothing wrong with their eyes.

Pages from Sharing & Developing our Understanding of CVI. The front cover has a drawing of three owls of different sizes and colours sitting on a treebranch. The second page gives examples of learning not being learnable for children with CVI.

The guide gives advice and guidance on what to expect with:

  • Doctors & Diagnosis of CVI
  • Vision Impairment Support Services
  • School
  • Habilitation
  • Therapies

The effects of CVI are unique for each child and there is currently no medical treatment. This guide details a few common reasons why CVI can make getting around difficult.

Lower visual field impairment

Children with CVI who are affected by lower visual field impairment don’t like going down stairs and slides, and they dislike uneven ground and often trip over or bump into things.


CVI can affect a child’s ability to judge distances. They can find it difficult to learn how big and far away things are. This can be even more difficult for them when they are moving, and especially moving quickly. This can lead to anxiety and can be frightening for the child. The guide uses the example of a car driving past in the opposite direction.

The main takeaway from the guide is that you, as the parent of the child, are the key person to help your child. You can make a massive difference to their life by learning to experience the world the way they do.

To learn more about CVI visit the CVI Scotland website.

To find out how to get a copy of Sharing & Developing Our Understanding of CVI you can email CVI Scotland at

You can also check out our section on Sharing and Developing our Understanding of Cerebral Vision Impairment, where we have a series of videos developed by CVI Scotland.

[ Modified: Wednesday, 30 January 2019, 3:53 PM ]
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by Learning Hub - Thursday, 20 December 2018, 1:32 PM
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Ailie Finlay smiles at the camera while sitting on a sofa in the Royal Blind School library. She holds a tactile book on her lap.

Ailie Finlay visited the Royal Blind School this week with examples of her tactile books and resources.

Ailie is a storyteller and you can find out more about her and the sensory stories she creates at

Ailie is always looking for new ways to engage learners with additional support needs and vision impairment through her storytelling and book resources.

Her website has some free downloadable story scripts and ideas for inclusive games.

Ailie holds open a tactile book showing the pages petals fall "sweep, sweep, sweep". Large tactile petals of different materials are affixed to the page

[ Modified: Thursday, 20 December 2018, 1:56 PM ]