Vision Support Students to make Braille Bear to represent themselves within the Community

17th March 2020

Sheffield’s Vision Support Service, based within Tapton School, will be working alongside the school’s art department to create a ‘Braille Bear’ to represent positivity and inclusion within the community.

Their bear will be joining another 99 Little Bears and 60 Big Bear sculptures on The Children’s Hospital Charity’s Bears of Sheffield sculpture trail this summer.

The sculpture trail will be live for 12 weeks between July and September and is raising funds to transform the Cancer and Leukaemia Ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

The ward treats children with cancer and blood disorders from babies through to 19-year olds from South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and as far south as Northampton.

Pupils with Bear designsAll the pupils within Tapton School’s Vision Support Service have at some point in their life visited Sheffield Children’s Hospital and been treated accessed the services within Sheffield Children’s and they couldn’t praise it highly enough. One pupil said: ‘the hospital is very supportive and helps us with all our issues and cares about us a lot”.

Sheffield Vision Support Service is run by Sheffield City Council and works across the city with children from birth to 25-years-old who are partially sighted, going to lose their sight or have no sight at all – the service at Tapton helps students from Year 7 through to Year 13.

The department assists the pupils through school and prepares them for life beyond the school corridors, for example by providing training on using a white cane, mobility skills and access to assistive technology.

Donna Beale, Senior Vision Support Teaching Assistant, said: “With our bear we want it to represent the school and raise awareness of the department and the children within it. We plan on doing this by giving it futuristic and technological elements.

“For example, students like Brandon Gray who have no vision, may use a braille note and assistive technology like the talking weighing scales. Technology has made everyday objects much more accessible for these students and we want to reflect that with the bear.

“A lot of the visually impaired students say they have a ‘hidden disability’ because they may not use a cane, or have a teaching assistant in lessons with them, they just access mainstream school like everyone else. We want to make something which makes the rest of the school aware that you should just be kind to everyone because not everyone’s difficulties are obvious.

“For the braille aspect of the design we’re going to encourage this further, we’ll have a message written in braille on the bears stomach, a positive message which reflects the children’s personality and outlook on life.

“In order for people to read it, we’re going to put a backboard on the bear with the braille alphabet on it. This way we make the sculpture interactive because people will have to use the alphabet to read the message.

“Overall, I think the bear will become a patchwork picture, a community bear in essence because it will combine so many student’s ideas.”

Vision Support Service are working with the rest of the school to ensure it is a fully inclusive community project.

One pupil in year Y8, Ahmed El-Tunis, said: “At first I didn’t realise the children had so much support within the school – we want the bear to stick in people’s mind for years to come. Even once they leave Tapton and get jobs, they can think of the bear and it will remind them of the school and its values – Valuing Everyone, Caring for Each Other and Achieving Excellence.”The Vision Support Department will be fundraising throughout term and have numerous ideas on how to get the whole school involved. They are planning non-uniform days, bear bake sales and even planning a ‘best dressed bear’ for the teachers to get involved in.

With the support of the school with over 1,700 students, including a Sixth Form of around 500 – the department are confident they will go above and beyond their fundraising target of £750 and can’t wait to get their paws on a Little Bear of Sheffield.

Sarah-Louise Kelsey, Communications Assistant for the project and an ex-pupil who accessed the department, said: “It’s fantastic to now be able to support the school and the department which supported me for so many years previously.

It’s heart-warming to see that everyone within the school is helping the Vision Support Department and wanting to raise awareness of the difficulties those pupils have to overcome on a daily basis. I hope this project inspires the pupils and resonates with them for many years to come.”

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