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News :: Federation for the Blind offers recommendations for Iowa vision services
· 11:36am February 14th, 2013
While the Iowa Board of Regents heard from several local families concerning the future of the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School and services for the state's blind individuals, the Regents also heard from the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.
The group made the following seven proposals to the Regents in a report presented to them earlier this month. See the complete report HERE.
1. The education of blind children in K-12 must, by July, 2014, be transferred from the Board of Regents to the Department of Education. The Board of Regents is not the best placement for K-12 education programs for the blind. Its recent activities have demonstrated a lack of commitment to a coordinated and unified system of service delivery. By contrast, the Department of Education is already providing badly-needed funding to the Iowa Department for the Blind to produce more Braille for K-12 students.
2. Iowa's educational system must distinguish between children whose primary disability is blindness and those for whom blindness is not the most significant disability. The latter should not be classified or educated as blind students, but should be educated by professionals trained better to meet the needs imposed by their primary disabilities.
3. Teachers of the blind must read and write Braille proficiently, and must believe in Braille as the critical literacy tool for the blind. Braille instruction should be provided to all students whose primary disability is blindness, regardless of current visual acuity or stability, unless 1) the partially blind student can read normal-sized print as rapidly as sighted students; 2) the partially blind student can read regular print for the same length of time as students with normal vision without experiencing painful eyes or severe headaches; and 3) the medical diagnosis provides assurance that the vision will not become unstable or deteriorate, leaving the student unable to see, and untrained to function as a blind person in adulthood.
4. Teachers of the blind must believe in and aggressively teach blind students low-tech methods of writing Braille, such as the slate and stylus. Only they can motivate their students to develop proficiency with these important writing tools.
5. Each blind child attending a local public school should receive at least one hour of specialized instruction each day from a teacher of the blind, beginning at or before entrance into kindergarten, when basic Braille reading and writing and independent travel skills must be learned.
6. The focus of teaching independent travel to blind students must change from teaching travel routes to developing self-reliance using a structured discovery model. Each student eligible for blindness services should be provided a white cane and training in independent travel beginning in kindergarten.
7. Iowa's Governor and Legislators must provide adequate funding for the education of blind children in the public school setting. Such funding must include an adequate number of teachers of the blind in each Area Education Agency, with potential for sharing teachers across AEA boundaries; provision of no less than one hour of training in Braille, independent travel, and other blindness skills to each student eligible for blindness services each school day; low-tech writing implements, Braille paper, white canes, and other basic materials incidental to the education of blind children; adequate staff at the Iowa Library for the Blind to produce, proofread, and provide accessible educational materials to each blind student, as needed; opportunities for blind students to meet and learn with each other outside school activities; accessible testing to determine educational needs and accomplishments of each blind student; and training for classroom teachers including ways to make education more accessible to blind children.
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