Campaigns and activities
The Swedish Education Law (1985:1100) stipulates that all children and young people must have access to equal quality education, irrespective of gender, their geographical place of residence and their social and financial situations. Sweden has nine years of compulsory schooling from the age of seven, and education throughout the state school system is free of charge. Alongside the state school system are independent schools, open to all. Independent schools must be approved by the National Agency for Education. Education at independent schools must have the same objectives as municipal schools but may, for example, have a religious or educational profile that differs from that of municipal schools.
All children who are blind or visually impaired without severe additional disabilities are taught in mainstream compulsory schools. The Swedish Education Act stipulates that children have the right to special support in order to develop and receive an education based on equality, participation, accessibility and companionship.
The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools offers support to school managements in matters relating to special needs education, promote access to teaching materials, run special needs schools and allocate government funding to pupils with disabilities in education and to education providers. Overall aim is to help pupils fulfil their educational goals. Two national resource centres offer assessments of children and young people in addition to further training for school staff and parents.
Staff from the local low vision clinic support schools in matters relating to adaptation in the environment.
In primary schools children with visual impairment have the right to special support. The support consists for example of one assistant or a second teacher during classes, adapted text books and tests, technical devices and adaptation in the environment. According to the Swedish Education Act, teachers can use a special paragraph in order to adapt some of the goals in connection with grades. Students have the right to additional time if needed in order to complete national tests.
Students with visual impairment can attend one extra year at a national boarding school in order to complete their basic education and to train in daily living skills. There are about 5 students every year who follow this education.
All municipalities in Sweden are obliged by law (1985:1100) to offer all young people who have completed compulsory schooling the chance to begin an upper secondary education no later than during the first six months of the year in which they turn 20. Almost all pupils continue from compulsory school to upper secondary school.
Students with visual impairment have access to special support: for example, adapted materials (text books, tests etc), personal assistance and technological equipment. According to the Swedish Education Act, teachers can use a special paragraph in order to adapt some of the goals in connection with grades. Students have the right to additional time if needed in order to complete national tests.
Support from regional advisors at the National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools is available free of charge for teachers.
Students with visually impairment attending universities can turn to advisors who are responsible for advice and support. Problems can occur when it comes to get adapted literature on time. There are no national standards that force institutions to plan for courses in time to avoid this problem. Students can have access to another student that can take notes during sessions.
There is no special vocational training for visually impaired persons nowadays in Sweden. Persons with visual impairment are welcome to attend different educations and vocational trainings according to their interests and abilities.
Special needs schools are available for visually impaired children with intellectual disability. The compulsory special needs school consists of nine grades, either at primary and lower secondary special needs schools or training schools. Children with minor intellectual disabilities go to primary and secondary special needs schools. They can either be included in an ordinary group or form a special group that is often placed in the ordinary school. Training schools are for students who are so intellectually disabled that they are unable to benefit from education at special needs schools at primary and lower secondary level. Students at special needs schools are entitled to a tenth school year.
Special education in a special boarding institution is available for pupils with visual impairment in combination with additional disabilities who cannot attend a mainstream school. There are two educational levels; compulsory education between 7 and 16. The period can be extended by one year if necessary. Pupils follow a secondary level latest until they are 21 year. The aim with the second period is to prepare pupils for transition to adult life and a daily occupation. A close cooperation with the pupils' home municipalities is necessary.
Students with visual impairment and intellectual disability can attend upper secondary special schools who prepare them for an occupation. The programme at an upper secondary special school lasts for four years.
The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools offers advice and support to teaching staff in Swedish schools under state supervision in matters related to the impact of disabilities on education. This involves:
• organising and participating in competence improvement,
• distributing information to school management and parents,
• running and participating in special needs education development,
• promoting and informing about special teaching materials for children, young people and adults with disabilities.
In schools, the teachers are responsible for students training in braille. Blind children have an extra teacher or an assistant in the classroom who are responsible for training in mobility and computer. Blind children attend training once a year at the national resource center. The low vision clinic is responsible for daily-living skills training.
According to the Swedish Law for Health and Social Care (1982:763), the low vision clinic is responsible for basic orientation, mobility and visual stimulation.
Teachers with visual impairment obtain technical devices and equipment.
It is of utmost importance that visually impaired children have teachers that are trained for teaching braille and teaching in braille.
There are no special educations for pupils with visual impairment.
The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools develops and produces special needs education teaching materials, primarily for pupils with functional disabilities who require pedagogical materials based upon the pupil's capabilities and needs. Commercial publishers' products are adapted to give students with different forms of reading disabilities the opportunity to make use of the materials. For pupils unable to utilise the codes of written language, alternative communications materials are developed. Moreover, we allocate grants for the external production of educational materials for students with disabilities.
The national library is responsible for the adaptation of books for university students.
Teachers and assistants in schools adapt and transcript documents for daily use. The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools provides support to teachers and also produces materials in order to make materials as accessible as possible.
Children and students have access to assistive technology. In primary and secondary school equipments such as computers are paid for by the school. Adapted programs and technical devices are provided by the low vision clinic. Training is also provided by the low vision clinic.