With less than two weeks to go until the start of the new school year most
parents are only now starting to think about purchasing the required textbooks
for their children, but for Ramat Yishai resident Orna Shalmon that daunting
task was started months ago.
“Usually, immediately after Passover I go
find the teacher in the school who is responsible for drafting the list of
required books for each class, and I have to hope that based on goodwill, they
will give me the list of books needed for the following year,” said Shalmon,
whose 13-year-old daughter, Ori, is blind but insists on learning in a regular
According to Shalmon, in order to provide Ori with
books that she can read in braille, she must either buy or borrow a copy of each
printed textbook and then turn them all over to an organization that, throughout
the years, has been kind enough to transform the texts for her
While Shalmon continued this year to take on the lengthy
process alone, her hard work could soon become a thing of the past. Two months
ago, the Education Ministry decided that from now on it will take over the
responsibility of providing textbooks and other teaching materials to thousands
of blind and visually impaired pupils who, like Ori Shalmon, study in mainstream
“The ministry really does seem to be making an effort to get the
books ready for children like Ori,” said Shalmon, adding that despite this she
still decided this year to do it her way in case it did not work out.
am very happy that the ministry has decided to do this now,” commented
“While I have the ability to ensure my daughter has the books
she needs, there are some families that are simply not able to take on this
The ministry’s decision to help the thousands of blind
or visually impaired pupils who study in mainstream schools comes following a
legal petition submitted to the Supreme Court last November by disabled rights
organization Bizchut and non-profit organization Ofek Liyladenu (Our Children’s
“We have been fighting this for many years,” said Bizchut
spokesman Oren Ganor.
“While blind children are accepted into the
mainstream school system, they cannot fully participate in it without specially
adapted books in braille, large text or audio format.”
Ganor said that
Shalmon is only one of thousands of parents of blind or visually impaired
children who until now had no choice but to turn to charities to get the books
transformed into a suitable format or foot the bill for the expensive books
“Non-profit organizations helped to pay for it or, in some
cases, it was the parents who had to pay out of their own pocket,” he said,
adding that it is encouraging to see that after pressure from the petition, the
ministry is now willing to cover the costs.
Following the submission of
the petition, the ministry issued a nationwide tender to have many of the
required textbooks transformed into braille for the blind, large text for the
visually impaired and audio form. Now parents of blind or visually impaired
children will merely be asked to pay the price of a regular
In addition, during the previous academic year the ministry
undertook to address the needs of blind and sight-impaired students taking
matriculation examinations, providing them with the necessary learning materials
and allowing them to sit the exams at the same time as their peers.
spokeswoman for the ministry said Thursday that as well as providing textbooks
and exam conditions for blind and visually impaired students, it was waiting
approval on a program that would allow them to work on specially adapted
“The goal is to make sure everything is ready for them
this coming academic year,” she said.
While Shalmon and Ori said they
welcome all the practical steps, both said it was more the fact that these
changes will break down social barriers, allowing greater inclusion for blind
and visually impaired students.
“All these steps will help children with
such disabilities to finally become part of society,” said Shalmon. “It will not
only help them learn better but it will also help their social standing in
school because they will no longer need to have a permanent aide by their side
to help them, and that means they can finally feel the same as everyone else.”
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