Prison Braille unit brings 100 books to life for blind schoolgirl Eryn

Date published: 15 October 2019


Prisoners from Maghaberry are supporting a blind school-girl with her classroom studies by producing her school books in braille.

Pictured with the Fivemiletown Primary School pupil is David Kennedy, Governor of Maghaberry Prison.
Pictured with the Fivemiletown Primary School pupil is David Kennedy, Governor of Maghaberry Prison.

Eight-year-old Eryn Kirkpatrick was born with the rare condition Septo-optic dysplasia which has left her completely blind and also affects her growth.

But with the support of Maghaberry Prison’s braille unit, the plucky youngster is enjoying lessons at Fivemiletown Primary School like any other child of her age.

The prisoners have produced 100 books in braille to assist little Eryn in her schoolwork, including reading books, maths and English text and exercise books.

Darren Otley, who runs the prison braille unit, said: “When I learned about Eryn I just knew I had to support her. Straight away the men in the braille unit set to work and over the past two years we have supplied all of the books Eryn has required.

“For the men it’s about giving something back to the community. They are all passionate about the work they are doing and especially knowing that they are able to help a young child. We are just delighted to have been able to help little Eryn.”

Fivemiletown Primary School Principal Melanie Houston welcomed the support of the braille unit. 

“The quality and range of books provided by Maghaberry Prison’s braille unit has added a breadth of reading material for Eryn which span the areas of learning and which otherwise would not have been available.

“The support has meant that Eryn has brailled versions of books that are the same as those being read and used by other class members. This has made a positive impact on her progress. The Board of Governors and staff are very appreciative of all the support provided by Maghaberry Braille unit and the Education Authority.”

Eryn’s mum Evanna added: “I am delighted with the progress that Eryn has made at school and the availability of a range of books from the braille unit, including books for over the summer holidays.  The books have meant that Eryn has had access to a great range of well-presented braille reading material.”

Maghaberry Prison Governor David Kennedy said: “Eryn’s story was something which personally moved me and obviously also the men in our care who work in the braille unit. I am delighted we have been able to support Eryn.

“The braille unit at Maghaberry - one of many ongoing rehabilitative projects - has been operating very successfully for more than 30 years, supporting individuals, hospitals, schools, charities and churches. Rehabilitation is a big part of what the Prison Service is all about today, challenging and supporting those in our care to change so they might to contribute to their community when they would return to it.”

For more about Eryn’s story check out the video at

Notes to editors: 

  1. Eryn uses the ‘Take Off’ braille reading scheme provided by the Education Authority which has also provided the school with equipment to facilitate the brailling of resources as well as braillers for Eryn to use and the support of a Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired who visits the school weekly. 
  2. Maghaberry Prison is the only Category ‘A’ prison in Northern Ireland and also operates as a remand prison for all adult male prisoners in the country. It accommodates a range of sentenced prisoners such as life sentence, indeterminate and extended custody prisoners, separated prisoners, fine defaulters and civil prisoners.
  3. At 11 October 2019, there were 913 prisoners at Maghaberry Prison.
  4. For all media enquiries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.

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