Cape Town – Visually impaired learners at two schools in the Western Cape received technological devices that will contribute to improve access and the quality of their learning. The Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South and the Pioneer School in Worcester each received e-braille portable computers, a device for scanning and reading printed text and a portable MP3 player designed for blind users, Bronagh Casey, spokesperson for Education MEC Donald Grant, said.The Western Cape Education Department has invested more than R1m in the new technology to support blind learners at the two schools. The Athlone School for the Blind received 10 BrailleNote Apex computers and the Pioneer School, five. The computers will make it possible for blind learners to read electronic text using an electro-mechanical display that raises dots against a flat surface. The device also allows learners to type text in braille and to listen to the text via computer-generated speech. Learners can read and listen to electronic text in various formats, including PDF and Word files. They can also browse the internet via Wi-Fi and connect to other devices via Bluetooth. The department will make use of electronic versions of relevant teaching and learning materials available, including textbooks to support the implementation of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (Caps).According to Casey, the WCED is currently deciding on which electronic learner support materials to transfer. Teachers will monitor how learners are using the device via an external computer monitor in alphanumeric text. "Orientation and teacher training began in January and will continue in February. Once this process is complete the learners will begin using them," Casey said. The portable MP3 players, called the Victor Reader Stratus 12M, have 12 keys that blind users can easily navigate to listen to e-books and to music. Casey said the devices, which will first be introduced to high school learners, are insured and are protected against theft and breakage. She said the schools will make use of their existing internet connection, however the Western Cape government is in the process of rolling out broadband across the province. Therefore the devices will be able to use their Wi-Fi connection. Casey said the devices have a battery that can be recharged and it will not present any significant electricity costs. – Follow Chantelle on Twitter.