To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills
(1) what strategies are in place to increase the availability of approved educational materials that are accessible for the visually impaired;
(2) what assistance his Department (a) provides and (b) plans to provide to increase the availability of educational materials to the visually impaired;
(3) what funding his Department provides for educational resources that are accessible to visually impaired schoolchildren;
(4) what discussions he has had with educational publishers on increasing the availability of educational materials available in formats more accessible by those with disabilities.
The Department's SEN Strategy "Removing Barriers to Achievement" sets out our vision for giving children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities the opportunity to succeed. Provision for children with SEN and disabilities, including support for those with a visual impairment is made by schools and local authorities through the SEN and disability frameworks.
In particular Part 4 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires schools and local authorities to plan to improve access to the curriculum and written materials for disabled pupils over time. Additionally the new Disability Equality Duty introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 requires all public bodies including schools and local authorities to promote disability equality more widely. We also continue to invest significant resources to support the education of children with SEN and disabilities, some £4.5 billion in 2006/07.
To assist the provision of materials in accessible alternative formats for children with a visual impairment, the Government supported the Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 which reduces delays in gaining copyright clearance to produce books and other printed materials in formats accessible to visually impaired people. The Department of Trade and Industry is also working on a feasibility study to look at opportunities for publishers to provide education material in accessible formats more quickly and the Department for Education and Skills is involved in the process.