Today the Minister of Education, Hon Hekia Parata, officially opened the Blind and Low Vision Education Network (BLENNZ) at their Homai Campus.
Students and staff from all over the country joined with parents, members of the blindness education sector, members of parliament, and representatives from the Ministry of Education, ERO, ASC Architects, Hawkins Construction, and others who have a significant association with the school for the opening ceremonies.
The opening of the new school marks a watershed in the history of blindness education in New Zealand.
Former campus buildings, originally built in 1964, to accommodate more than 200 live-in students have been replaced by new state-of-the-art buildings, designed to provide outreach specialist teaching services and resources to nearly 1,500 blind, deaf blind and low vision children and young people from birth to 21 who are now educated in regular early childhood centres and schools and kura in their local communities.
In 2005 all of New Zealand’s education services for children and young people who are blind, deafblind or low vision were brought together as BLENNZ, an integrated network of services with a professional hub at Homai Campus and bases throughout the country for Resource Teachers Vision.
Homai Campus provides:
- a special school and
- an early childhood centre,
- a national library,
- a specialist national assessment service,
- immersion courses where students come in for short periods to consolidate aspects of their own learning, as well as
- a one year specialist course for selected students to help them move from school to work or further education and training.
- a new residential block accommodates those from out of town.
The whole environment has been designed around the mobility needs of the students and includes features such as:
- different textures and colours in floor coverings,
- directional lighting,
- hand rails,
- acoustic design to promote mobility,
- the use of strong colour contrast,
- a lack of clutter.
It also incorporates specialist teaching areas such as a special kitchen for teaching blind students daily living skills and a gym to promote fitness and the development of physical abilities. A specially designed sports field surrounded by a raised berm provides for free physical movement and recreation activities.
The design and construction of the new school has been a collaboration between ASC Architects, Hawkins Construction, the Ministry of Education and the school. The result is an aesthetically outstanding as well as a highly functional learning facility for children and young people who are blind, deaf blind or low vision.