[nfbmi-talk] wish all districts would remember this
joe harcz Comcast
joeharcz at comcast.net
Thu Apr 28 14:53:35 UTC 2011
Michigan's Assistive Technology Resource
IDEA Reauthorization Brings Braille into
Core Curriculum of Schools
Reprinted with permission: HumanAwareness. HumanWare Inc,
This article presents some ways to provide access and assistance to students with
mild disabilities through the use of assistive technology.
Braille is on the threshold of a renaissance in America, as a result of groundbreaking legislation
expected to usher in a surge in literacy among primary and secondary school students who are
blind or have significant visual impairments. During the first half of this century blind youngsters
and those with limited sight were typically educated in residential schools that were equipped to
accommodate their needs and to teach them the use of braille.
Following World War II, as the young "baby boom" generation began to exceed the capacities of
the residential schools for the blind, public school educators began to preach the doctrine of print
literacy for partially sighted children. They were shunted into public schools and asked to keep
up with curricula using large print, regardless of the progression of their visual disabilities.
The manifestations of that approach quickly became apparent, and the National Federation for
the Blind (NFB) captured the attention of Congressman James Traficant of Ohio. On Feb. 24,
1994, Traficant announced to his colleagues in the House of Representatives, "The numbers of
the blind who can read at all are declining. In 1968, out of 19,902 blind students enrolled in
elementary and secondary education, 40 percent read braille, 45 percent read large type or regular
print, and 4 percent read both. In January 1993, out of 50,204 blind students, fewer than 9
percent could read braille, 27 percent could read print, and 40 percent could not read at all." In
sharp contrast to the ability of 95 percent of public school blind students to read in 1968, only
30 percent of blind students could read in 1993. Educational planners had created an educational
Access to braille
A significant change in federal law has recognized the tragedy of braille illiteracy, and now assigns
primary and secondary school districts the responsibility of incorporating instructional materials
in braille and embracing assistive technologies, including, for example, braille displays, embossers,
speech synthesizers and tactile graphics printers such as those available through HumanWare.
Officially designated public law 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Amendments of 1997 reauthorized and extended the IDEA law that was first enacted in 1975.
The IDEA Amendments of 1997, which President Bill Clinton signed into law on June 4, 1997,
mandate provision of braille instruction for blind and visually impaired children who need such
instruction, unless the team developing the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) of each blind or
visually impaired child determines otherwise. Such a decision could be made only after an
evaluation that includes consideration of the child's present and future needs for instruction in
Michigan's Assistive Technology Resource
1023 S. U.S. 27, St. Johns, MI 48879-2423
Voice phone: (800) 274-7426; (989) 224-0333; TTY: (989) 224-0346; Fax: (989) 224-0330;
E-mail: matr at match.org; Web site: www.matr.org
This document was produced through an IDEA State Discretionary Grant for Michigan's Assistive Technology Resource awarded by the
Michigan State Board of Education. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Michigan State
Board of Education or the U.S. Department of Education, and no endorsement is inferred. This document is in the public domain and may
be copied for further distribution when proper credit is given. If copied, we recommend copying the document in its entirety. For further
information or inquiries about this project contact Roxanne Balfour at the Office of Special Education and Early Intervention Services, P.O.
Box 30008, Lansing, Michigan 48909.
and use of braille. Every student with a qualifying disability is entitled to (and required to have) a
written IEP that specifies the accommodations that must be provided to the student.
"Under the new law, the basis of braille education has changed," observed Judy Seiler,
HumanWares director of marketing. "Now, the IEP for each blind student assumes that braille
will be taught unless substantive reasons can be offered for exception. This will have tremendous
impact on braille literacy," she beamed.
IDEA is designed to remove financial incentives for placing children in separate settings when
they could attend regular classes, according to an overview document on the Web site of the
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in the U.S. Department of
Education, at http:www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/. "A critically important feature of the new law
specifies that regular teachers will be part of the team that develops each child's IEP That is
especially important since the law removes barriers to placing disabled children in regular
classroom settings and ties the education of children with disabilities more closely to the regular
education curriculum," the document explains.
IDEA'97 channels additional federal funding to school districts to meet the needs of children with
disabilities. The new law already has begun to exert significant influence, from the perspective of
one national observer of education. Barbara Cheadle, president of the National Organization of
Parents of Blind Children, says she believes that the strengthened IDEA legislation has altered
the approach teachers are taking with blind and low-vision students.
"Before the reauthorization of IDEA, children who should be braille readers or dual print-braille
readers would have been regarded as print readers only, I see movement in attitudes directly
linked to training of teachers of visually impaired students," Cheadle told HumanAwareness.
"Each school district has a legal obligation to provide braille unless the IEP team for a particular
student decides, based upon an evaluation that considers the child's future literacy needs for
braille, that braille is not needed. Consequently, determination of the best teaching approach is no
longer a matter of subjective opinion. Students are evaluated on the basis of measurable criteria,
such as fatigue after 30 minutes of print reading," notes Cheadle, who works at the National
Center for the Blind in Baltimore, where she is editor of Future Reflections magazine published
for parents of blind children. "The NFB took the lead role in exposing the problem of braille
literacy, and initiated braille legislation state by state when it became clear that dramatic action
was necessary to turn this dangerous trend around," she declared.
In addition to the braille requirement, Cheadle says that two key provisions of the strengthened
law involving technology and progress evaluation are significant.
"The new law declares that each IEP team shall consider assistive technology and determine
whether each student needs equipment at home to achieve their educational goals. That
determination is part of the process of negotiation within individual IEP teams, which must be
composed of a school administrator, a special education teacher familiar with the individual
child's disability, at least one regular classroom teacher, parents, and a professional trained to
interpret evaluations and assessments," observes Cheadle.
"Additionally, the new regulations require each child's IEP to track progress in the regular school
curriculum, not merely the progress in special education. So what does that mean for braille? If a
student is given braille instruction only once a week, that will limit his or her ability to advance
with other students. If a student gets books in braille three months after sighted students read the
same material, that would compromise a student's ability to keep up. Because the new law
provides a mechanism through which parents and other advocates can monitor provision of equal
opportunity for learning, my impression is that IDEA is going be wonderful for blind and
visually impaired students."
Braille language provision in IDEA
Here is the section from the IDEA Amendments of 1997 mandating braille instruction as a
component of IEPs.
Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 Section 614
Braille in Schools MATR Page 2 of 2
(B) Consideration of Special Factors. The IEP Team shall: (i) in the case of a child whose behavior impedes his or her learning or that of others, consider; (ii) in the case of a child with limited English proficiency, consider; (iii) in the case of a child who is blind or visually impaired, provide for instruction
in Braille and the use of Braille unless the IEP Team determines, after an evaluation
of the child's reading and writing skills, needs, and appropriate reading and writing
media (including an evaluation of the child's future needs for instruction in Braille
or the use of Braille), that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for the
child; (iv) consider the communication needs; (v) consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services. Braille in Schools MATR Page 3 of 3
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