Future Reflections Fall 1992, Vol. 11 No. 4


BRAILLE BILL AND BEYOND: A Report from South Dakota

by Marjorie Kaizer, Superintendent South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped

It all began with a bill introduced to the 1991 South Dakota legislature on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Now, one year later, the rules are in place to ensure Braille will receive full consideration as a reading medium for blind students and that it will be taught by people who have appropriate knowledge and skills.

Under the Braille bill all students whose vision is 20/200 or less as corrected (the definition of legal blindness) must be evaluated to determine whether Braille instruction should be started or continued. The evaluation must look at such things as reading readiness, functional reading skills, reading rate and stamina, functional writing skills, communication skills, eye condition and prognosis, functional vision, and tactile discrimination skills. The South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped was given a grant by the state office of special education to develop a Braille assessment. These assessment elements have been included in the evaluations done at the SDSVH since last fall.

The information from the evaluation must be considered by the child's IEP team to determine whether Braille instruction would begin or continue. The SDSVH evaluation team will help interpret the data and make recommendations for reading medium, but the decision rests with the IEP team.

When a placement committee determines that a student's instruction in reading and writing must be accomplished through use of Braille, the district is required to provide instruction by a certified Braille teacher. A Braille teacher endorsement my be issued to someone with less than a bachelor's degree who meets the following requirements: certification as a Braillist, completion of six semester hours of course work including an introduction to working with students who are blind, reading methods, introduction to educational aids and appliances, and proficiency at reading Braille.

The rules distinguish between a Braillist who produces materials in Braille by the use of a manual Braillewriter, slate and stylus, or computer, and a Braille teacher who may work directly teaching a student to read and write Braille.

Both the Braillist and Braille teacher will make application through the SDSVH for certification from the division of education. Certification must be in place by July, 1993. Reaccreditation will be required every five years.

Throughout the process there was ongoing support for and involvement from the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, South Dakota Association of the Blind, State Board of Education, Office of Special Education, State Library, Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Northern State University, and the South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped as well as input from local school districts, parents, and Braillists.

The SDSVH and Northern State will be involved with the Office of Special Education to ensure that the required course work will be available to those who need certification.