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Northern Ireland's Mighty Mouse

eagleeyes project
1 April 2004

Disabled schoolchildren have been given a new tool to improve their learning potential

Named the CameraMouse, it was launched by Jane Kennedy, minister for education in Northern Ireland, on 29 March 2004. It has been developed especially for children who are non-verbal and severely physically disabled.

It enables children to move the computer cursor via movement of their eyes or any other part of the body over which they have voluntary control. The project is being made available in 22 special schools for children with severe learning difficulties and four schools for children with physical disabilities.

Pilot schemes were run across the Education and Library Boards in 2002. These finished in early 2003 and the new system was installed during the 2003 summer term, with appropriate staff training.

The system was originally developed at Boston College in the US, and has been made available to Northern Ireland schools with £200,000 from Executive Programme Funds.

Speaking at the launch, which was held at Parkview School in Lisburn, Jane Kennedy said: "This system opens up access to the same high tech opportunities for children in special schools that are available, and taken for granted today, in all mainstream schools.

"CameraMouse is a valuable resource, not just for education but also for communication, enabling children with severe special needs to communicate, in some cases for the first time, between themselves and with their peers.

"It is a practical and imaginative example of our commitment to meeting the needs of children with special needs and is the result of the department working in partnership with the boards and the schools themselves. Today only gives us a glimpse of what the possibilities are, and I know from meeting the children here today, that the only limitation will be our imagination. It is evident that CameraMouse will be put to hard work across the 26 special schools involved."

During the visit, the minister also presented the children with a certificate to mark their achievements. She paid tribute to the teachers who worked on the pilot schemes to ensure that Camera Mouse matched local needs.

"Their contribution to the success of this project cannot be underestimated," she said.