The Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR) was launched in Autumn 2001 and brought together the teaching and research activities of colleagues at the University in the area of visual impairment and education.

The aims of VICTAR are to:

undertake social and educational research in the area of visual impairment;
offer training in the area of visual impairment and education through high quality and relevant professional development programmes;
disseminate our work to ensure it has positive impact.

Underlying this work is the belief that:

‘Through education, through research, and through access to appropriate resources, the barriers to learning and participation that may be experienced by people with visual impairment can be better understood and reduced’.

You can find out more about our work on the VICTAR website.

Members of VICTAR

Professor Graeme Douglas

Photo of Graeme Douglas

Graeme Douglas is a Professor of Disability and Special Educational Needs in the School of Education, University of Birmingham. He has researched and taught in the area of visual impairment and SEN since 1993.  Graeme is co-director of the Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR), and Head of the department of Disability Inclusion and Special Needs (DISN) in which the centre sits. Graeme has been principal investigator and manager on many research projects, and most recently working with Rachel Hewett on the Longitudinal Transitions Study. Central to Graeme’s work is a commitment to representing disabled people’s views and opinions, and an interest in ensuring the education system includes young people with visual impairments (including attending to broader educational outcomes such as independence). When Graeme started working at the university he had lots of curly hair. Now he doesn’t.

Professor Mike McLinden

Photo of Mike McLinden

Mike is co-director of VICTAR and has particular responsibility for the teaching strands. He is programme director for the Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of children and young people with vision impairments. With approximately 100 students registered on the programme at any time we believe it is the largest course of its type in Europe and possibly worldwide! Mike has a wide range of research interests mostly relating to promoting equality of opportunity in education. In relation to VICTAR, this includes working with Paul Lynch as co-investigator on an ESRC funded project in Malawi and with Graeme and Rachel on the Longitudinal Transitions Study . Prior to coming to the University, Mike was a teacher and worked with children in a range of different educational contexts. He enjoys sports and in the early 90’s helped to organise a cycling expedition for a group of blind students who cycled from Canada to Mexico on tandems over a summer holiday (with a detour to Disneyland en route!). Mike is a keen cyclist and has toured extensively around the world.  He finds it difficult to part with his bikes when he updates his collection – and at the last count the family total was well over fifteen!

Dr Paul Lynch


Paul is a Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education. He joined the Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs Department (DISN) at the University of Birmingham where he held a post as Research Fellow for 10 years. He has been conducting commissioned research for Sightsavers into the educational and social inclusion of children with disabilities in sub-Saharan Africa since 2006. Paul is currently running a three year ESRC/DFID funded project into early childhood development, education and disability in Malawi. Paul enjoys travelling to far flung places in the world and enjoys Celtic music.

Rachel Hewett


Rachel has worked at VICTAR since 2010 and in 2017 was appointed as a Birmingham Fellow. She primarily works on the Longitudinal Transitions Study and is particularly interested in the experiences of young people with vision impairment in Higher Education. Having worked previously in clinical trials she is also interested in the use of RCTs in social research. Rachel is a member of the University of Birmingham Inclusive Curriculum Committee. When not working Rachel can typically be found either watching or playing tennis, or sat back with a (large) mug of tea.

Jane Thistlethwaite

Jane was the first person with a vision impairment to gain entry to a teacher training programme in New Zealand. A qualified primary teacher, she has taught in mainstream and specialist schools, most recently as a specialist teacher in complex needs vision impairment in New Zealand special schools. Jane has tutored degree programmes in New Zealand’s largest indigenously-focussed university and a major technology institute. She also chaired the Board of New Zealand’s largest special school for the vision impaired, at which she was once a pupil.

Jane currently works as a lecturer for the Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of children and young people with vision impairments. Outside work Jane has over 30 years’ voluntary ambulance and events work with the Order of St John in New Zealand, and enjoys music.