Belle Auld has coordinated the Speech Assisted Reading And Writing (SARAW) program at Bow Valley College for the past sixteen years. Both a literacy practitioner and researcher at heart, Belle has looked for ways to improve both the SARAW program, and services for people with disabilities.
In 2003, she developed, in collaboration with Audrey Gardner, a national research project called LaDs or the Literacy and Disabilities Study. The project had dual purposes. She wanted to explore issues in adult literacy for people with disabilities and she wanted to investigate how the SARAW software is used in different settings and delivery models. The study revealed troubling information: all national surveys on either literacy or disabilities have identified that people with disabilities are disadvantaged when accessing education, employment, housing, and other community services. The LaDs study led to the development of several useful resources for adult literacy practitioners working with learners with disabilities.
Belle continued to grow and improve the SARAW program. In 2014 Belle completed a Calgary Learns funded research project called Answers May Vary (AMV) Research Report: Literacy Strategies, Resources, and Effective Practices for Adult Learners with Developmental Disabilities, designed to identify strategies, resources, and effective practices for adult literacy tutors working with learners with disabilities. Belle then used this information to propose the development of a second project, Answers May Vary Guidebook: Incorporating Literacy Strategies, Resources, and Effective Practices into Daily Life for Adults with Developmental Disabilities. This project created an easy to read guidebook and videos that gives concrete instructions about how to incorporate literacy and other skills building activities into the daily life of an adult with a developmental disability. These materials will be used by tutors both in the SARAW classroom, and in community agencies working with people with disabilities. This Calgary Learns funded project will be completed this summer.
A third AMV Calgary Learns funded project begins later this summer and focuses on the development of training modules and supplemental audio training materials designed for community support workers.
Belle’s contribution to the literacy community and the disabilities field has been quietly immense. She leaves us a legacy of community connections, knowledge and resources. We will miss her gentle presence, her ready smile and her delightful sense of humor.
Belle is transitioning into a new career. Best wishes Belle!