Building Better Beginnings

Photo (left-right): VisAbility’s Chair of the Board Debbie Schaffer OAM, representative from Rio Tinto, Felicity Austin, David Templeman (Minister for Arts and Culture), VisAbility’s Dr Clare Allen, SLWA’s Elizabeth Spencer, Mayor of South Perth Sue Doherty, Grace Austin and Harry Austin.

On Tuesday 20 March, the State Library of Western Australia (SLWA) and VisAbility launched the Baby Ways Touch and Feel Backpacks in celebration of World Storytelling Day.

From 2015 to 2017, VisAbility collaborated with the SLWA on the Better Beginnings Family Literacy Program, an initiative that sees all Western Australian newborn babies receive a reading resource pack free of charge. As a result of this collaboration, the vital resource can now be enjoyed by all babies irrespective of their abilities and needs.

VisAbility’s Accessible Information Team assisted in the inclusion of tactile features into the Better Beginnings educational resource pack. This included the Baby Ways book, which now has the significant addition of braille.

Additionally, VisAbility provided two resources encouraging different ways for parents to interact with their children in story time and guidance on how to use the tactile objects included in the pack to make reading more fun and engaging.

“It was essential that this resources could be accessed and enjoyed by newborns regardless of their ability, ensuring that all have the opportunity to experience the magic of storytelling” – said VisAbility’s Chair of the Board, Debbie Schaffer OAM.

Debbie Schaffer OAM speaking at the launch event“When Grace was born we didn’t know what her vision was going to be, so we started Braille very early with her,” Felicity said. “I had to take whatever books we had bought to VisAbility’s Accessible Information team to get them brailled for us, so I feel for other parents who might not be able to do that, the Better Beginnings resources are a great start.” (Community News, 2018).

VisAbility is thrilled to have partnered with the SLWA and honoured to have played a role in ensuring that every WA newborn’s first exposure to reading is both joyous and inclusive.

The launch at Manning Library was attended by VisAbility’s CEO Dr Clare Allen, VisAbility’s Chair of the Board Debbie Schaffer OAM, the Honourable Minister Templeman, City of South Perth Mayor Sue Doherty and CEO Geoff Glass, and State Library of WA CEO Elizabeth Spencer.

We were also delighted to have VisAbility client and braille user Grace and her family attend the launch. Her mother Felicity remarked that this inclusion of Braille in the Baby Ways pack was a productive forward step.

We offer a variety of services, including early intervention for young children with low vision or assistance for school age children with low vision.