Liverpool’s Open Awards partners with charity to launch new braille qualifications

Chris Tattersall of Braille IT with Annette Summers and Rachel Newman of Open Awards

Liverpool qualification awarding body Open Awards worked with an East Lancashire charity to develop distance-learning braille courses which have now been launched nationwide.

Braille IT worked with Open Awards to launch three innovative new qualifications based around learning and teaching braille.

The charity was founded by Chris Tattersall, who began learning braille in 1997 after being registered blind at the age of 40.

He said: “Braille has opened so many doors for me. It’s been a chain reaction, and lots of steps forward that have led to working with Open Awards and launching these qualifications.

“This opens up opportunities for more people to access the qualifications and puts them on a national level.

“Once you start with braille it doesn’t end – you can carry on learning and improving forever.”

Formal accreditation by Open Awards gives the qualifications Ofqual recognition, meaning they can be delivered by other charities and educational establishments around the country.

Open Awards Chief Executive Heather Akehurst OBE said: “Open Awards is delighted to have worked with Chris and the team at Braille IT to launch these qualifications.

“The charity has done so much to support visually impaired people and their families in East Lancashire, and this partnership means their expertise in braille can be accessed by a nationwide audience.”

Launched in 2006, Braille IT offers free braille classes in Blackburn, Clitheroe, Burnley and Accrington. Classes are accessed by people who wish to learn braille due their own visual impairments, or sighted people including family members and teachers learning braille to support others.

Design of the three new courses is based on programmes developed by the charity in collaboration with Open Awards.

Two qualifications cover the production and use of braille content, while the third programme qualifies students to support the teaching of braille.

Students can complete the qualifications in person, or receive materials by post to study via distance learning.

Open Awards administrator Annette Summers was among a group from the awarding body who attended a taster session for the new courses.

She said: “As someone with a visual impairment, I was excited to hear about this new qualification.

“I had an amazing time learning all about braille and having a go at learning the alphabet in braille. I was so fascinated by it that I have now become a learner too. It really was such an inspirational and informative time.”

Development of the courses has also been supported by St Vincent’s School in Liverpool, which specialises in supporting students with sensory impairment and other needs.

Deputy Principal David Swanston said: “Open Awards approached us and asked if our braille team could have a look at the programme developed by Braille IT and verify the suitability of the course content and how it is delivered. 

“It’s nice to have another provider making braille more accessible, and we’ll continue to support Braille IT to ensure that the course is robust. 

“Where we can lend expertise we will do in the best interests of learners and staff – ultimately it’s about allowing more people to have more access to braille.”

The work of Braille IT is assisted by volunteers and Alison Hargreaves – a volunteer of 20 years and now Project Manager – who supports the day-to-day running of the charity and successfully secured Lottery funding to sustain its activities.

Alison said: “Everything that Braille IT has achieved so far is down to Chris, with his teaching skills and enthusiasm.

“Chris has worked really hard for 20 years to make these qualifications possible.”

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