[blindkid] overseas teaching

Arielle Silverman nabs.president at gmail.com
Sun Feb 6 20:34:19 UTC 2011

Hi Joy,

I am sorry you are dealing with this situation. Is the organization
based in the United States? If so, then it sounds like there are
potential ADA violations going on here. Re-reading the letter they
sent you, it looks to me like they are less concerned about
educational accommodations than they are about your daughter's basic
care and mobility. I too wonder what they mean about public
transportation. Quite frankly, based on the ignorance expressed here,
I wouldn't be surprised if they think blind children don't attend
school at all; I don't think school or education are ever mentioned in
their letter. Additionally, I just have to point out that their
statement about "foreign countries are no friend to people with
disabilities" is a bit of an oversimplification. It's true that other
countries aren't legally obligated to provide educational
accommodations, and in some cultures blindness is incredibly
stigmatized, but it's not the same in all countries. Relatively
"westernized" countries like England and Australia do provide
accommodations (O&M and alternative format accommodations, at least
for college students) that are quite comparable to what we have in the
U.S. I also know blind students who have successfully studied in
Mexico, Japan, and South America and found professors who were more
than willing to email assignments to them as an accommodation, even if
they were not required to do so. If you want to fight for this job,
then Renee's advice seems very good and reasonable. But, I have to say
this organization strikes me as not only ignorant about blindness, but
also a bit disrespectful of other countries and their customs, and I'm
not sure if you would want to work with them anyway, especially since
the author strikes me as pretty confident in his/her views and not
very persuadable. I would like to think there are other organizations
out there that are more open to people who are different and more
willing to cooperate with you rather than pushing you away.


On 2/6/11, Rene Harrell <rjharrell at gmail.com> wrote:
> Joy---
> This is classic butt-covering. What they are trying to tell you is that they
> have no idea how to meet the needs of a blind child, and they don't want to
> be made responsible for doing so. If you were truly interested in pursuing
> this job, your response would need to indicate that you are fully aware of
> the challenges, and you are willing to assume the full and complete
> responsibility for doing so yourself. Essentially, someone in your family
> would need to be willing to function as her TVI, ensuring she got
> appropriate materials, Braille, and whatever else she'd need, without asking
> them to assist in the process. They are correct that overseas schools
> legally do not have to accommodate special needs children, period (except
> for DoD schools through the military, and even they are allowed to
> re-station a child/family if they feel they cannot meet their needs).
> So, my response would be geared towards those concerns. They're coming from
> a place of ignorance of the needs of an otherwise typical blind child and
> their needs. They understand how brutal the rest of the world can be towards
> those with disabilities. They have no idea how her needs could be met in a
> different setting. So, I would outline very specifically her transition from
> China to the U.S., a brief summary of what her needs would be, and I would
> spend the bulk of my letter focused on how we, as her parents, would assume
> full responsibility for meeting those needs, and then outline a specific
> plan on how we would do so (i.e., I would be ordered her braille textbooks
> from ________ company; I would be bringing XYZ equipment with us from the
> United States and I will be translating all her printed materials to Braille
> at home as necessary; we would arrange for adequate O&M lessons throughout
> our new neighborhood so that she will have full familiarity of her
> surroundings etc. etc.). Basically, figure out what your plan of action
> would be to meet her needs, and then share that will them, down to the most
> minute details. The more it looks like you have thought this through and
> come to a careful, considered opinion, the more they will see your
> confidence and planning and realize that not only are you serious, you are
> actually prepared. Then, I would make it crystal clear that you don't expect
> them to do *anything* for your daughter that they would not do for sighted
> children. Nothing. They don't need to worry about her, or assume any
> responsibility beyond what they do for each of their "typical" families. See
> if that doesn't placate their concerns and move things forward.
> If it doesn't, what you will be doing with this is setting it up to a valid
> a legal claim of discrimination (if you were to pursue it to that point).
> Legally, they are allowed to say they are not equipped to educate a blind
> child. If you were asking them to do so, they could legally refuse you. When
> you take that responsibility away from them and remove that obligation, then
> all they are left with is that they just don't feel comfortable having a
> blind child in their organization. They don't have the legal right to say
> that--- that is the discrimination, and that is what for which you could
> pursue legal re-dress.
> Good luck! They may really want to work with you, and just not understand
> how. I will hope that is the case!
> Rene
> On Sat, Feb 5, 2011 at 9:20 PM, Joy Orton <ortonsmom at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear friends,
>> We are looking at possibilities for teaching in another country next
>> year. In contacting one group that has schools throughout the world,
>> we received this response:
>> "We so appreciate that you would like to serve with us but I remember
>> that we talked last year about the issue of one of your children being
>> blind.  That must be such a challenging situation but one that you
>> indicated you have successfully dealt with in the States.
>> "However, with a move overseas and placing a young child in a country
>> she is not familiar with, a language she does not understand and the
>> enormous issues of public transportation with a blind child, this
>> would be beyond traumatic for her.  This is not something that
>> directors could entertain with the many demands on their schedules as
>> this would become a very time consuming thing for the director too.
>> We just don’t have the staff for special needs like this and foreign
>> countries are no friends to anyone with disabilities.  They do not
>> have special accommodations at all and often have a very negative, non
>> supportive stance on anyone who they consider, not perfect.  It’s very
>> sad, but true.
>> "So, I regret to say that this is not a situation we’ll be able to
>> address.  I do appreciate the interest, so much.  If anything changes
>> concerning this situation, I’ll be sure to contact you."
>> That was the email I received this evening. Help me with how to
>> respond to this, please, friends.
>> Our 10 year old daughter is blind. She has no other disabilities and
>> no health issues. Her ethnicity is different from ours, because we
>> adopted her, at age 4, from another country. She successfully made the
>> transition to the US and learned English. Currrently she is one of the
>> top three readers in her school, and last year she was our local
>> Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year. Her mobility skills are
>> excellent and on par with sighted ten year olds.
>> What do I say and do in response to this?
>> Joy
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Arielle Silverman
President, National Association of Blind Students
Phone:  602-502-2255
nabs.president at gmail.com

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