Vol. 15, No. 2
Barbara Cheadle, Editor
A Promise of Hope: My First NFB Convention 1
by Susan Walker
Walking Alone and Marching Together: California, Here We Come!
Hotel Reservations 6
Kids Trips 7
1996 NFB Camp 9
by Carla McQuillan
Blindness, The NFB, and Me 10
by Wayne Pearcy, Angela Sasser, and John E. Cheadle
Blindness■What it Means in the Mind of a Blind Child 13
by Ramona Walhof
Report on Parent Activities at the 1995 NFB Convention 20
by Barbara Cheadle
The Children of the 1995 Convention 25
Keepin' Up With Cindy 28
by Sue Bennett
Looking Ahead 29
by Lois Luecke
Little Things Mean a Lot: A Skit 31
by Jerry Whittle
OSERS Issues Policy Letter on Educating Blind and Visually
Impaired Students 36
A PROMISE OF HOPE: MY FIRST NFB CONVENTION
by Susan Walker
Editor's note: Reprinted from the December, 1995, Braille
Monitor, the monthy publication of the National Federation of
the Blind. For subscription information write to: Braille
Monitor Subscriptions, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore,
From the [Braille Monitor] Editor: What is the impact of one's
first convention of the National Federation of the Blind? How
can one measure the benefit of meeting thousands of competent
blind people and hundreds of focused, optimistic parents of
blind children? There are no exact answers to these questions.
But the impact of the experience changes lives and sows hope
every July when the National Federation of the Blind gathers
for its annual convention. Here is what one mother reports
about her experience:
Last July in Chicago I attended my first NFB convention
with my infant daughter Moriah, who is cortically visually
impaired (CVI). Since I had been introduced to the NFB only
weeks before, I really didn't know what to expect. However, I
was primed for the convention by the contagious enthusiasm of
Dawn Neddo, Barbara Cheadle, and Loretta White, all of whom I
had met just days before at the June Lilli Nielsen Conference
in Novi, Michigan.
Just a couple of months previously, my daughter Moriah
had been diagnosed with CVI, and I was still battling shock
and hopelessness and struggling for answers. Quite frankly I
needed help. How do you teach a blind infant to crawl, walk,
talk, or be potty trained? How will I cope? My husband and I
are both firm believers that attitude affects 90 percent of
what happens in one's life. Therefore, I knew it was crucial
for me to regain a conviction of hope for my daughter's future
and confidence in my ability to raise her.
When my funding for the NFB convention fell through at
the last moment, I called Dawn Neddo to explain that I
wouldn't be going after all and to thank her for her
encouragement and help. It was then that I learned my first
lesson in parent empowerment from the guru Neddo. The lesson
is entitled "Never Give Up." Our conversation ended with Dawn
saying, "Let me make a few phone calls, and I'll get back with
you." Within minutes the phone rang, and Dawn told me to pack
my bags. A scholarship had been granted to me.
Saturday, the first morning in Chicago, I was spellbound
as I listened to Marc Maurer and Kenneth Jernigan speak. I
could feel the promise of hope welling up within me as I
listened to numerous parents and blind children give speeches
and perform skits with confidence and ease. I watched in awe
as graceful, confident people wove their way through crowded
lobbies and hallways using their canes effortlessly. (I was
greatly tempted to follow them as I tried to grope my own way
through the wall of people.)
I had planned on attending only the parents'
pre-convention weekend this year, so I really needed to return
home the following Monday. My heart, however, was yearning
insatiably for more of this thirst-quenching hope I had
received. Deep down I knew that the key to keeping a hopeful
perspective is continuing to meet with other parents of blind
children. In watching others walk the path that now lies
before my family, I see that many of the rough places have
been made smooth by these heroic pioneers. I returned home
with a feeling of peace and the promise of hope.
Are you considering coming to the 1996 convention of the
National Federation of the Blind? Chances are that it will
change your life for the better. If you can handle an infusion
of optimism, hope, and resolve to change the world, join us
for the single most important gathering of blind people to
occur in 1996. Read the following article for details.
WALKING ALONE AND MARCHING TOGETHER:
CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME!
1996 National Federation of the Blind Convention
June 29 ■ July 5
Anaheim Hilton Hotel
Picture yourself in this scene: You have just arrived at
the Anaheim Hilton Hotel with your family for a much needed
vacation. You called months in advance but it was still tough
getting a room. The reservation clerk mentioned something
about a convention going on this week. You thought she said it
was an organization of blind people, but no, you must have
misunderstood. Why in the world would that many blind people
want to get together for a convention? What would they say?
What would they do? Besides, you can't imagine how they could
get there in the first place. And how would they get around in
the hotel? Surely the hotel couldn't afford to provide guides
for that many blind people! But as you walk into the hotel
lobby your jaw drops■there are at least fifty blind people
with white canes in the lobby and more are coming in from a
You pick your jaw up off the floor, gulp, and head for
the hotel registration line. Just then your small daughter, in
that piercing tone that small children reserve for the express
purpose of asking embarrassing questions in public, calls out,
"What are those white sticks all those people are carrying,
Daddy?" Horrified, you start to hush her when you hear a deep
chuckle behind you. "That's all right", the voice says, "We
don't mind talking about our canes. We're not embarrassed or
ashamed of them, or our blindness. Besides, how can a kid
learn if she doesn't ask questions?" You turn around and watch
as a pleasant looking man in a business suit bends down to
show your daughter his cane. As he talks about how the cane
allows him to go places independently you notice how the blind
people around you are moving about. Some are walking by
themselves, many are laughing and talking in groups, and you
see some families with small children. You notice that many of
those who are guiding or directing others are carrying canes,
too. There is even a little boy with a cane walking around and
exploring the lobby by himself while his parents check in. The
scene isn't what you had imagined at all. These people are
clearly capable of getting about without a lot of fuss or
special help. But you still wonder■capable or not■why all
these blind people want to get together. What will they talk
Your attention swings back to your daughter's
conversation just in time to hear your daughter ask that very
question. Curious, you listen as the man explains. The
explanation is short. (You wonder if the man has children.
Maybe your daughter will ask.) But your mind is whirling with
new ideas when he finishes. You now know that this is the
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention, and these
people have come here to "change what it means to be blind."
Well, they have already changed some notions in your mind
about blindness! And there was something else he said, too,
that caught your imagination. Something about "Walking Alone
and Marching Together." He said it was the title of a book
about the history of the organized blind movement■the NFB.
It's all about how blind people organized over 50 years ago to
change attitudes, beliefs, and even laws so blind people can
achieve true independence and equal integration into society.
What an ambition! Yet, from the scene in the lobby it looks
like the NFB is well on the way to achieving this goal.
Thinking of the lobby you decide it's time to stop musing
and get into the registration line before it gets any longer.
As you move into the line you notice a girl about your
daughter's age just ahead of you. She's carrying a cane, too.
You wonder if your daughter will ask the girl about her cane.
But, no, that's already old hat to your daughter. She is more
interested in comparing their respective Barbie dolls. A blind
couple with a baby move into the line behind you. Your wife
turns around and begins to coo over the baby. Soon both
mothers are involved in an animated conversation about
teething, finger foods, and other baby matters. This, you
reflect with an unexpected surge of anticipation, will not be
an ordinary vacation!
That's the scene at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel on Friday,
June 28, 1996, as you might experience it as an onlooker. Now
imagine the same scene but from the perspective of a
convention participant, not an outsider. Think of the
possibilities for learning, networking, and personal growth!
If you are the parent, relative, or teacher of a blind
child■or if you are a blind youth■the Anaheim Hilton Hotel is
THE place to be between Saturday June 29, 1996, and Friday,
July 5. Some 2,500 blind people and hundreds of parents of
blind children will be converging at this one point in space
and time. They will be there to learn, to share, to network,
to celebrate victories, to applaud progress, but most of all
they will be there to make history. For it is during this week
that dreams will be shared about what we■blind people and
parents of the blind■want the future to hold for the blind,
and it is at this convention that plans and strategies will be
laid to make those dreams come true. We invite you to come and
be a part of this tremendous, history-making experience!
The week of activities will begin on Saturday, June 29
with a day-long seminar for parents and educators of blind
children. The theme for this year's seminar is borrowed from
Dr. Matson's book about the history of the NFB■Walking Alone
and Marching Together. The seminar will begin with a general
session in the morning and conclude with concurrent workshops
in the afternoon following lunch.
The powerful imagery evoked by this year's theme carries
over into every topic on this year's agenda. For example,
topics on the morning agenda will include:
* Marching Together: The NFB Convention■What's in it for Me?;
* Walking Alone: How Blind Kids Develop Self-Reliance;
* Marching Together: A panel of parents of deaf-blind children
and parents of blind multiply handicapped children; and
* Walking Alone: Resisting the Helping Hand Syndrome.
In the afternoon participants may choose from a wide
range of workshop topics. We are especially thrilled and
honored to have Dr. Fred Schroeder, Commissioner of the
Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of
Education, as a guest presenter at our seminar. Dr. Schroeder
will conduct an afternoon workshop on the topic Getting Ready
for the World of Work■Blind Youth in Transition. Dr.
Schroeder, who was appointed to his position as Commissioner
by President Bill Clinton, is a long-time leader in the
organized blind movement.
Dr. Schroeder began his career as a cane-travel
(mobility) instructor with the Nebraska Services for the
Visually Impaired in 1978. He later moved to New Mexico where
he became the administrator of the low-incident programs
(services to the blind and to the deaf) in the Albuquerque
schools. It was there that he became known nationwide for his
innovative approach to providing canes and orientation and
mobility instruction to blind and visually impaired children
as soon as they entered the school system at age 5. Now, of
course, it is becoming common practice to provide canes to
children even younger. But in the 1980's this was an unusual
practice. In 1986 Dr. Schroeder was selected to head up the
newly formed New Mexico Commission for the Blind, the agency
responsible for providing rehabilitation services to that
state's blind and visually impaired population. During these
years Dr. Schroeder also served on numerous national and
international boards of organizations for and of the blind,
including the National Federation of the Blind, the Braille
Authority of North America, the International Council on
English Braille, and the National Association of Blind
In addition to his professional expertise and commitment
to the consumer viewpoint, Dr. Schroeder brings to the topic
of transition a personal perspective. He was once a blind
teen-ager himself. Parents, teachers, school counselors,
rehabilitation transition counselors, and anyone else
interested in the problems and progress of blind youth in
transition will want to make this workshop a priority.
The three-hour Beginning Braille For Parents workshop
will once again be conducted by Claudell Stocker, a nationally
known Braille expert. Mrs. Stocker has voluntarily conducted
these workshops for the National Organization of Parents of
Blind Children for several years now. They are extremely
popular. Since there is a limit on the number of persons who
may participate in this workshop we urge readers who want to
attend this workshop to fill out and send in the
pre-registration form on page 8.
The Blind Kids, Friendships, and Fitting In workshop is
an outgrowth of last year's workshop about social skills. We
had many requests to repeat and/or expand that workshop this
year. Parents can do many things for their children, but they
cannot force social acceptance or create friends for them.
Children must do this for themselves. However, there are ways
parents can make the pathway to social acceptance and
friendships smoother and less difficult. And this is
important. One component of the "Marching Together" theme is
learning how to work and play harmoniously with sighted peers
in a broad range of social settings.
Last year, through the efforts of Sally Ruemmler,
chairperson of the NOPBC's Parents in Partnership for
Deaf-Blind Children committee, we had an explosion of interest
in the workshop "Meeting the Needs of Deaf-Blind Children."
The committee is once again hard at work to make this year's
workshop another outstanding success. The committee is
especially interested in focusing on early childhood needs and
The workshops described above are less than half of the
workshop topics offered this year. Other topics for the
afternoon of Saturday, June 29 include Parent Power; Resources
for Blind Multiply Handicapped Children; Self-Reliance and the
White Cane; Self-Reliance and Braille in the Classroom; and
several segments on Tips on Alternative Techniques.
Registration for the seminar will begin at 8:00 a.m. and
the session will begin at 9:30 a.m. Fees are $10.00 per family
or $8.00 per person. You may also pre-register for the seminar
using the form on page 10. If you do not pre-register please
plan to arrive early Saturday morning for registration. There
is an additional fee for the Braille Workshop (see the
pre-registration form). The afternoon workshops will conclude
at 5:00 p.m.
Concurrent with the seminar will be two exciting field
trips for children ages 4 to 18. NFB Camp will also be open on
Saturday to provide child care for babies and children up to
age 12. More details about the trips and the NFB Camp is given
later in this article.
Saturday evening the California affiliate of the NOPBC
is hosting a Family Hospitality from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
in one of the NFB Camp rooms. Our California parent group has
some wonderful plans in store for the evening. For example,
there will be a fabulous door prize (must be present to win)
offered that evening, and other surprises, too. But the
highlight of the night will be a talent show. This is NOT a
contest! The purpose is to have fun, and give the kids a
chance to experience performing in front of a friendly,
receptive audience. Blind children and families of blind
children may enter the talent show. To sign up, or to get more
details contact Donna Sexton, 8689 Galindo Court, Dublin,
California 94568; (510) 833-1863. But don't sign up your
teen-ager, yet■we have special plans for him or her!
Karen Mayry, president of the NFB of South Dakota and
former high school teacher, is in charge of our
NOPBC-sponsored Convention Orientation Session for Youth. This
year's session will take place concurrently with our Family
Hospitality event on Saturday night, June 29. The session will
be a combination of party activities■ice-breakers, games,
music, and door prizes■and practical convention orientation
activities. For example, blind volunteers will take the kids
out to show them the physical layout of the hotel. They will
discuss how the convention is organized, what to expect from
it, what meetings they might want to attend, and how to have
fun at the convention in a safe and appropriate manner. The
session will be a great chance for youth to get to know each
other and to meet some neat blind adults.
As exciting and as informative as Saturday is going to
be, it is only the beginning of a week of exceptional
opportunities for parents to learn about blindness. A huge
exhibit hall, a tour of a nearby local educational summer
program for blind children, an IEP Advocacy Workshop, the
Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of
Blind Children, a play performance by blind students, a talent
show, a musical contest, a Sensory Safari exhibit,
miscellaneous technology workshops, and much, much more is on
the docket for the 1996 NFB convention. Here are the various
details and, where appropriate, pre-registration forms so you
can make your plans and reservations for the convention.
As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who hear
about them. For the 1996 convention they are: one in a room,
$45; two in a room, $47; three in a room, $54; and four in a
room, $57. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax.
At the time the arrangements were made with the hotel, that
tax was just under 15 percent. There will be no charge for
children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is
required. If you want to come a few days early or stay a few
days late, convention rates will apply.
You may make reservations in one of two ways. You may
write directly to the Anaheim Hilton, 777 Convention Way,
Anaheim, California 92802-3497, Attention: Reservations; or
call (714) 750-4321. DO NOT CALL THE HILTON TOLL-FREE NUMBER
TO MAKE YOUR RESERVATION! They make take your call and promise
you a reservation, but the reservation will NOT be valid!
Reservations must be made directly with the Anaheim Hilton in
Airports and Ground Transportation
There are two major airports one can use when flying into
the Anaheim area. They are Los Angeles International Airport
and John Wayne Orange County Airport. It may be easier to
find a flight into Los Angeles International, but John Wayne
is closer to the Anaheim Hilton. A shuttle is available from
the Los Angeles International Airport to the Anaheim Hilton
Convention Dates and Schedule
Here is the general outline of convention activities:
* Saturday, June 29■seminar/workshop for parents of blind
children, Job Opportunities for the Blind workshop,
miscellaneous workshops, Kids' Trips, Family Hospitality,
Convention Hospitality, Youth Convention Orientation.
* Sunday, June 30■convention registration ($10 per person),
exhibit hall open for business, first meeting of the
Resolutions Committee (open to observers), Youth Convention
Orientation and Meeting, miscellaneous committee and division
* Monday, July 1■exhibit hall open all day, meeting of the
Board of Directors (open to all), tour of a local summer
program for blind kids, Annual Meeting of the National
Organization of Parents of Blind Children, and various
division and committee meetings.
* Tuesday, July 2■opening general session, exhibit hall open
before session and at noon, evening gala event, and evening
IEP Advocacy Workshop.
* Wednesday, July 3■general morning session, afternoon open
for tours, exhibit hall open before session and all afternoon.
* Thursday, July 4■general sessions, exhibit hall open before
session and at noon, banquet, after-banquet party.
* Friday, July 5■general sessions, exhibit hall open before
NFB information tables will be set up in the hotel
(usually near the hotel registration area). Details about the
locations of Saturday, June 29 events (such as the parents
seminar, Kids Trips, and NFB Camp) will be available at these
The complete NFB convention agenda, in print or Braille,
is available only to those who register for the NFB
convention. Convention registration opens about 10:00 a.m.
(maybe earlier) on Sunday, June 30. The registration fee is
$10 per person. There is no pre-registration for the
convention. Each person must be present to register for him-
or herself. Anyone who fails to register for the convention is
not eligible for the convention hotel room rates.
Banquet tickets generally do not exceed $25 and should be
purchased at the time you register. We have a system called
the Banquet Ticket Exchange which gives you the option of
selecting in advance the people with whom you wish to sit at
the banquet. The procedure is explained at registration and
again early in the convention session.
Hospitality and convention information will be available
at the Presidential Suite and the NFB of California Suite
throughout the convention. The locations and phone numbers of
these suites will be listed in both the pre-convention agenda
(available at the NFB information table) and the convention
The NFB of California is putting together some wonderful
tour packages for convention. Details will be in the Braille
Monitor and at the NFB information table when you arrive. If
you do not get the Monitor and would like some information in
advance, write or call National Organization of Parents of
Blind Children, Convention Information, 1800 Johnson Street,
Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314.
Editor's Note: For the past three years Carla McQuillan,
President of the NFB of Oregon, the blind mother of two
children, and owner/director of a Montessori preschool, has
organized and directed special field trips for children and
youth during the day-long seminar held for parents. Mrs.
McQuillan brings to this task outstanding administrative
skills, high standards, and an intuitive understanding of
children and their needs. Needless to say, the trips are
always a huge success. Here is what Mrs. McQuillan has to say
about what she has organized for this year:
The smell of the ocean and the thrill of the Giggle Wheel
Ride are just around the corner! Wondering what we are talking
about? Well, here at the National Federation of the Blind of
Oregon, we've been working long and hard at getting ready for
the Kid's Trip that takes place during Parent's Seminar on
June 29th during National Convention in Anaheim, California.
After many phone calls and a few last minute schedule changes,
here it is at last, the KIDS TRIP agenda!
Ages 4 - 10<R> Cost: $16 <R>Includes: bus fare, lunch,
and unlimited use of rides and attractions.
For our trip to Adventure City, a new theme park designed
specifically for young children, the excitement begins on the
city bus that leads straight to the thrills. Our day at
Adventure City will begin with an interactive and educational
puppet show that will be for us alone to enjoy before the park
opens to the general public. During the shows we will learn
about "What you should do if you get lost," "Being kind to
others," and will feature a special visit from Dandy McRandy
the Mystery Caper. Excitement and entertainment await with
roller-coasters and other pulse-quickening rides. If you're
the kind of kid that prefers to keep your feet a little closer
to the ground, there's a petting zoo, shows, and a 20 horse
carousel! There will also be game areas and concession stands
for which you may want to bring some extra spending money.
TRAIN TRIP TO THE BEACH
Ages 10 - 18<R>Cost: $16<R>Includes: train and bus fare
admission to Scripps
What a day at the beach we have planned for you! All
Aboard! We'll begin the day by traveling Southwest on Amtrak's
San Diego commuter train. We'll experience the thrill of the
railroad as we begin our trek to enjoy the wonder of the
Pacific Coast. Next we'll spend some time letting the warm
sand sift through our toes as we beachcomb, chase the waves,
or build a sandcastle. Then we'll take the city bus to the
internationally known Scripps Institute of Oceanography for a
hands-on guided tour of the aquarium. Please bring money for
lunch and any snacks or souvenirs you wish to buy.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn't if you make
sure your reservations are made by May 15, 1996. Space is
limited so make your reservations as soon as possible! Mail
the following pre-registration form to Kids Convention Trips,
3988 Main Street, Springfield Oregon 97478. For more
information phone (503) 726-6924.
1996 NFB CAMP
Carla McQuillan, Director
Editor's Note: In addition to coordinating the kids' trips
this year, Carla McQuillan is also director of NFB Camp. This
volunteer task is a major undertaking. It takes a tremendous
amount of time, energy, ingenuity, and commitment to make the
NFB Camp an enjoyable and enriching experience for every
member of the family who attends. This is what Carla McQuillan
has to say about NFB Camp.
NFB Camp is not an ordinary child care service. Children
who are blind or who have a family member who is blind will
have a special opportunity to interact with each other and
with blind adults. As director it is my task to organize
activities which will maximize the benefits of this
interaction. Some of the activities scheduled for 1996
include: daily art projects planned and conducted by Corinne
Vieville, a member of our California NFB affiliate; nature
walks through the hotel gardens; a variety of performances by
blind musicians, vocalists, and theater artists; and soccer,
basketball, and other recreational games led by blind sports
enthusiasts. These are only a few of the adventures planned
for our NFB Campers!
The rooms reserved for NFB Camp at the Anaheim Hilton
will enable us to divide the children into groups for
age-appropriate activities and programs. The following
schedule is tentative. For a complete and accurate breakdown
of hours of operation pick up a schedule at the information
desk when you arrive at the hotel. NFB Camp will be open from
8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. on Saturday; closed on Sunday; and open
Monday through Friday during general convention activities
with these exceptions: Camp will close immediately after
morning sessions on Wednesday (tour day), and Camp will be
open during the evening during the Parental Concerns Committee
meeting and the annual banquet. Parents are responsible for
arranging child care at all other times during the convention.
However, I will help parents who need sitters and teens
seeking babysitting jobs locate each other. Please contact me
Two experienced staff members of my Montessori preschool
are coming to Anaheim to supervise the child care workers and
counselors at NFB Camp. These child care professionals, along
with many other members of the Federation who work in NFB
Camp, will volunteer their time, energy, and talent in an
effort to make our National Convention an enjoyable and
enriching experience for the entire family.
Parents are asked to make the following donations for NFB
Camp: weekly (including banquet)■$60 for the first child and
$30 for each additional child; daily (per child) $15; banquet
(per child) $10. There will be a fine for late pick-ups from
the Camp rooms at closing. Parents who cannot contribute the
suggested amount may make other arrangements with me. Please
contact me at (503) 726-6924 or write to NFB CAMP, NFB of
Oregon, P.O. Box 320, Thurston, Oregon 97482.
We anticipate a full house this year so advance registration
is advised to ensure that our planning is adequate to meet the
demands. Make checks payable to NFB of Oregon (NFB Camp). Mail
check and the following registration form to: NFB CAMP, NFB of
Oregon, P.O. Box 320, Thurston, Oregon 97482. Again, contact
me at (503) 726-6924 if you need further information or want
to make special arrangements for donations, etc.
BLINDNESS, THE NFB, AND ME
Editor's Note: Of all the speakers and panels at the 1995
Parents Seminar, there was probably not one as well received
as this panel. Made up mostly of children and youth, parents
heard first-hand from the kids themselves what they have
learned about blindness from the NFB. Here are the
presentations of three of those youngsters; Wayne Percy, age
8, of Louisiana; Angela Sasser, a blind teen also from
Louisiana; and John E. Cheadle, a sighted sibling from
Maryland (yes, he is related to this editor■he's my son).
The great things that can happen when you live with a
blind family in the NFB.
I am Wayne Pearcy. My mother is Zena Pearcy. My dad is
Jeff Pearcy. My parents are blind. They have been members of
the NFB for twenty years. I attended my first convention when
I was five years old. I attended my first state convention
when I was five months old. I learned to use a cane when I was
two years old. I learned to write and read Braille when I was
four. I think that all people should use Braille at an early
age. It's swell to be in the NFB cause there's a lot of blind
people around you. I like going to conventions. I like playing
with blind kids. I like the NFB film about Braille.
When I go to school, I use Braille in all my classes.
Sometimes, my teachers don't understand that I need to use my
cane. My parents make them understand about my cane.
Thanks to all of you for listening to my speech. I hope
you enjoyed it. Good bye.
Fire is a symbol of eternity; so strong that a single
flame can burn down an entire forest, yet so gentle that it
can warm the hearts of friends and family on a cold winter's
It symbolizes hope for those who are looking for light at
the end of their tunnel. Such as for a lost little boy who
sees a flickering candle in a window and knows that he is no
longer alone. Each one of us has a flame in our soul that
burns forever and is never blown out, not even when we die.
Take Dr. tenBroek for example, the flame that burned so
brightly in his soul is now burning in the souls of us, the
newer generations of blind people. He was the one that struck
the match that lit the candle of Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer,
who passed the candle on to people like Joanne Wilson and
Ramona Walhof, who taught my generation about the ideas and
philosophy behind the National Federation of the Blind.
When I went blind four year ago, I had a spark that
wanted so badly to become a raging fire of ideas and
ambitions. But I couldn't fan the fire on my own. I needed
encouragement and education, and guess where I found it■the
National Federation of the Blind.
In a way I was like that lost little boy. I was lost too.
I had no idea how to use alternative techniques to do things.
But the Louisiana Center for the Blind was the candle in the
window for me. They gave me the hope and encouragement that
I needed to live my life as a normal kid. They taught me
Braille so I can read out loud with the rest of my classmates.
They taught me cane travel skills so I can keep up with my
friends when I'm out and can go on a date without having to
ask the guy to take me to the bathroom.
Having been taught these little things, I know I can take
on the bigger things in life. Through the past four years I
have not only done the usual growing, but the spark inside has
also grown into a fire that I wish to use to light the candle
of hope for others as past generations of blind people have
done for me. I thank the NFB for making growing up a little
JOHN EARL CHEADLE
One spring afternoon as I lay relaxing in my room the
phone rang. I picked up the receiver and started talking to
the lady on the other end of the line. The conversation, a
fairly typical exchange relating each of our adventures over
the course of the day, took an unexpected turn when she asked
me to give a speech on the benefits of growing up in the NFB,
and give it at the NFB's National Convention, no less.
After thinking of a number of answers I could have given
this woman I finally responded, "Sure, Mom. I'd be happy to."
Sitting down to write this speech, I first felt
absolutely overwhelmed at the enormous nature of the task at
hand. How was I supposed to put into words the positive
effects of eighteen years, my entire lifetime of experience
with the NFB. Then a revelation of divine proportions struck
me. All my life the NFB had provided me with the essential
ingredient necessary to lead a happy and productive life, lots
and lots of good food.
Now, while it's true that excellent refreshments and
meals are served at NFB picnics, cookouts, chapter meetings,
state conventions, and of course here at the National
Convention, I'm not talking about just that kind of food. I'm
talking about, for instance, brain food.
Through the NFB I have come in contact with some of the
leading minds in areas as diverse as statistical mathematics
and social justice. I can't count how many times I've quoted
Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, or President Maurer to create a
more intellectual term paper or class discussion.
Barbara Pierce and her thorough knowledge of
post-secondary institutions was invaluable to me as I embarked
upon my college search last year. I helped read for Scott
LaBarre as he studied for his Legal Bar exam and learned more
than I ever wanted to know about Tort legislation.
The vast literature of the NFB has helped me complete
more than a few school projects, and the people of this
organization have been to me teachers and mentors as excellent
as those in any school.
And so I am exceedingly thankful for the brain food of
Additionally, the NFB has raised me on a healthy diet of
justice ever since I was born. As an infant, I was protesting
unfair treatment of the blind. I'm sure my parents will be
happy to show you pictures of my days picketing in a stroller.
For most people my age, justice is simply another
assignment in a philosophy or literature class. Probably
given to them about the time they are sleeping off last
night's party. But for me, it is alive! My parents work for
it day in and day out. My sister and my brother and I have to
educate our peers at every turn that the blind deserve to be
treated justly because they are normal people and therefore
should be given all the normal human rights to which everyone
in this nation is entitled.
I've watched and on occasion helped the NFB correct
injustices of every sort: small injustices and large ones;
those that are swiftly defeated and those that require years
of fighting before they are finally trampled into dust; those
injustices derived from ignorance and those that are brutally
intentional. The NFB has given me energy, philosophy, and
strategy to fight injustice.
And so I count justice food as one of the best benefits
of growing up in the NFB.
Finally, I could not talk about the benefits of being an
NFB kid without mentioning my brother Charles, who's blind.
Known to many of you as Chaz. Please allow me a moment to brag
on my brother.
He is enrolled in the high school from which I graduated
a month ago, earning A's and B's in college level courses
offered there. He's active in his Boy Scout troop and is
working on his Eagle project. He plays guitar, harmonica, and
a little piano.
He was recently appointed to the Governor's Committee on
Service for the State of Maryland and has put in countless
hours of volunteer work at the National Center for the Blind
Chaz has given me quite a bit of first-hand experience
with a blind person although I rarely think of him that way
anymore. He's my brother. He helps me out when I need it; he
makes me laugh, even when I don't feel like laughing. And he
finishes off the food on my plate when I am too stuffed to
The NFB has given me one of the best foods of all.
However these foods in and of themselves, are not the
most wonderful gifts I have received. The food of the National
Federation of the Blind has provided me with a second family.
In most cultures and religions food holds the status of
importance beyond the alleviation of physical hunger. It
represents community; community with nature or God or other
people. This is the greatest benefit of growing up in the
NFB■being an integral part of a community to which I give some
of my energy but from which I derive a power so much greater
than my own that who I am is no longer defined solely by my
personal achievements but increasingly by the achievements of
the community in which I function. The great benefits of
growing up in the NFB have included such rich varieties and
enormous volumes of food that it is with a proud and thankful
heart that I say...I am fed up to here with the NFB!
BLINDNESS■WHAT IT MEANS IN THE MIND OF A BLIND CHILD
by Ramona Walhof
Editor's Note: The following article is an edited and expanded
version of a speech given at the Parents Seminar at the 1995
Perhaps you have heard the story about Johnny, who came
running in from play to ask, "Mommy, Mommy, where did I come
from?" Mommy thought four years old was a little young to be
asking about the birds and the bees, but she supposed she was
up to it. She explained about growing for nine months in the
uterus inside her tummy and then being born. Johnny was
impatient to go back outside, but on the way he called over
his shoulder, "I came from a uterus, but Michael came from
We cannot read our children's minds. If we could, there
would be many surprises. This is true of blindness, just as it
is regarding other things. But there are some general things
we do know.
A child who is born blind does not know what it is like
to see. Until he or she is old enough to begin to understand
how other people do things, blindness seems normal. Therefore,
a small child will not feel bad about blindness until someone
teaches him or her (directly or indirectly) to feel bad.
When my sighted children were little, they treated me in
some ways that were different. If they showed me something,
they put my hand on it. I did not teach them to do this; it
was obvious. They knew what worked, but that didn't mean they
understood blindness■they didn't, not at that age, anyway. A
blind child is the same. They learn what works, and they do
it. But that doesn't mean they understand what blindness is
Blindness is something we explain little by little as a
child progresses toward school. Because nobody knows when a
blind child really understands what blindness is, it should be
discussed in a positive manner. Anything associated with
blindness should also be approached positively. Learning to
use a white cane or being able to read Braille can be an
opportunity and a privilege, not a last resort. Braille is a
special way to read with your fingers. These positive
approaches convey the attitude, "It's okay to be blind."
We must not lament the fact that a child cannot see. It
isn't helpful to make comments such as: "I wish you could see
the birds out the window," Or "I wish you could see the
pictures in this book." But we can say, "Do you hear the birds
singing? They sound nice. They have pretty colored feathers
which look nice, too." or "This is a funny picture. It shows
an elephant in a dress! Isn't that silly? Do you remember the
elephant you rode on at the zoo? Can you imagine it in a
In other words we must share what we see with a blind
child as a pleasant and normal part of communicating, not as
a constant sad reminder of something a child is lacking. It is
impossible to guard blind children from all excessive
admiring, crying, and gushing about blindness, but parents can
begin by setting an example. This means getting your own grief
and frustration about blindness out of your system as early as
possible. You have a good peer support group right here to
help you through that.
I recommend you don't spend a lot of time talking about
how much your child can see. Neighbors, other family members,
friends, and even strangers will want to do that. They are
curious and being friendly when they say to your child: How
much can you see? Can you count my fingers? Can you see that
color? Can you see across the street? Sometimes the child
tries to cooperate, and sometimes he doesn't. Either way too
much talk about what he can see will be boring and confusing
to him. Why does it matter so much? Is the amount a child can
see really the most interesting and important part of him? Of
course the doctor must do eye tests, and as a parent you want
to have some idea of what your child can use vision to do, but
this is enough.
Blind people can tell you about the different reactions
they had as children to all this discussion about seeing. I
learned to lie about it. I tried to make people happy so they
would leave me alone and I could go on to other things.
Pretending sometimes got me special privileges and prestige at
the school for the blind; and I knew I made my family members
happy if I said I could see things. Nobody meant to teach me
to lie, but they did.
And what about using the word, "blind?" Does it make you
uncomfortable? It might be hard for you, but it could be a
relief for your child to be able to name the difference he
senses, but no one will talk about. I can remember feeling
that something was wrong with me before anyone used the word
blind. When I was in kindergarten in public school, the
teacher guided my hand to teach me to print. I couldn't see
the large letters she put on the paper. I learned to print,
but the whole thing was embarrassing and confusing to me. Some
explanation about what was happening might have been helpful,
although I know that the adults involved were as unsure about
what to do as I was.
An even bigger concern for me in kindergarten, though,
was the bathroom. From the kindergarten room you had to go
across a big hallway, down a flight of stairs, around a few
corners, and there was the bathroom right next to the door
that led to the playground. My class always went to the
bathroom just before recess, and I found it very hard to wait.
It was all right to go earlier, and I know that other children
did, but I was sure I could not see well enough to find my
way. I did not dare admit this to anyone. One day when the
teacher asked me why my dress was wet, I told her I didn't
know. I did not associate this problem with blindness, but I
now do. I am not aware that the teacher or my mother ever
figured it out.
Your child needs reassurance that blindness is okay even
before he or she really understands what blindness is. This is
true because of what others say about it, and because a blind
youngster may have fears (as I did) that are associated with
their lack of vision.
If you have created an atmosphere where it's okay to talk
about blindness, your child will have the language, and the
"permission" he needs to express some of the things he or she
is thinking or experiencing about it.
When a blind child is little he or she may not have much
interest in what you see. You may drive along the road and
describe beautiful scenery, and your child may totally ignore
you. Because children express no interest, that doesn't mean
you should quit talking about what you see. But do it in small
doses. You know that you get information from all directions
through your eyes, both close up and far away. Your child
doesn't know what you see. Gradually, he or she will learn■if
you keep talking. It is important that a blind child learn how
to interact with people who are getting information visually.
In one sense your child may borrow your eyes to read a story,
learn about colors, identify a noise, and so forth.
Sight is convenient and blind people rely on sighted
people for certain things. This is not bad, but good and
proper. Blind children need to learn how eyesight works and
how to interact with sighted people. It's a part of learning
about blindness. But, too much reliance upon someone else's
sight deprives the child of skill and confidence. Thus, a
blind child must learn how to balance trusting their blind
techniques and understanding the uses of vision. It is part of
growing up for a blind child. It is not a disaster if we don't
understand it all immediately.
Several parents have mentioned to me lately that their
blind children seem to have trouble understanding humor. I
would not hesitate to describe some humor to your children,
but I wouldn't worry if they miss some jokes. It's good to
describe some cartoons so that your child comes to understand
that humor is often based on weird impressions shown in
pictures. My mother used to read the comic papers to me, and
I am sure this was helpful, but I was often slow to understand
Blind children must learn to get information from sighted
people for many different purposes. This is part of a
We keep learning about eyesight, just as we keep learning
about many things. When I was 40 or so I was driving down the
street with my two sighted teen-agers, and I wanted to get
some information about street signs. I said, "I want you to
read to me every sign you see." That was a mistake.
They thought this was a wonderful opportunity. They
couldn't talk fast enough to read all the signs out loud. They
were deliberately taking advantage of the situation to read
things they knew I didn't want to know (not an unusual
attitude for a teen-ager), but I learned something new from
this experience. I knew that in a business district there are
signs on practically every building, but I really had no
concept of how many signs you could read while driving down
one street. I tell you this just to show how a blind person
continues to learn about seeing. The process needs to start
young. Your awareness of this process will help you help your
child build a better grasp of how vision is used.
When my son was three years old he taught me something I
found instructive. He was a sighted child. I already knew how
blind children learn about color for I was a blind child and
grew up with other blind children. We learned by listening to
what people said about color. As we grew older, we learned to
do things with color based on what others were doing and
saying. What I didn't know is that this is the very same way
sighted children learn about color, too. My son had a pair of
comfortable, striped, knit pants, and he had a nice
comfortable T-shirt that was absolutely the wrong color to
wear with those pants! In typical three-year-old style, he
wanted to wear them together. He liked them, so they must look
good together. I had to teach him that other people said they
didn't look good together. We had similar experiences when
matching other things he liked, too.
This is the same lesson you teach a blind child. A
sighted child sees the colors and a blind child doesn't. But
both must learn what the culture agrees is okay in using
colors. Think about it.
You have heard statistics about how much learning is
visual. These are often used to indicate that blind children
don't learn as much or as fast as other children. This is not
necessarily so, unless we don't use the alternative techniques
that are available to the blind.
If a blind infant drops a set of keys on the floor, and
you lean down to pick them up, that can be a fun game. If you
lower the baby down and put his or her hand on the keys, it
might be even more fun. If you encourage the little one to
move his hand back and forth on the floor to find the keys,
that's another kind of game, and that's learning. As the baby
becomes a toddler, a little talk about where things go when
they get thrown and dropped increases learning gradually.
Sometimes the child will cooperate and enjoy the games, and
sometimes not. But you keep playing them and making them more
challenging and complex as he learns.
My friend, Ali was three years old when she first came to
my house. She is blind and has mild cerebral palsy, so is slow
to walk. However, she covers a lot of ground in her crawling.
Within minutes after arriving at my house Ali was sitting in
front of the refrigerator in the middle of a crowd of people
in the kitchen and was in danger of being stepped on. Her
father rescued her and explained that Ali often heads for the
fridge in new houses. She must find that big metal box with a
motor humming and air blowing out very interesting.
Later I learned from Ali's mother that she also likes to
get things out of the fridge (if she can reach them) when the
door is open. I have no idea when Ali made the connection
between the fan in the fridge and the food, but I know she
did, and that's learning. It may not be exactly the same
pattern that another child would follow, but that doesn't
matter. Ali learned about the fridge, and that's what is
We reduce blindness to the level of a nuisance by using
our own imaginations to figure out what techniques are best
suited to specific experiences. Just because you never saw
someone who is blind doing a thing doesn't mean it can't be
It can be helpful, as you raise a blind child, to observe
how sighted children learn. Here is an example.
When I was visiting my daughter's Sunday school class of
three-year-olds, one little boy, Thomas, arrived early. My
daughter gave him colors to keep him busy until she and the
other children were ready for class. After coloring for a
while, Thomas reached for the scotch tape which was nearby. It
was clear to me that he did not know how to get the end loose
from the dispenser, so I showed him how to do it.
If Thomas had been blind, he might not have noticed the
tape an arm's reach away■I would have had to tell him it was
there, or prompt him to explore until he found it. Also, I
would have used different techniques to show him what to do
with it. But using tape should be as normal and typical for
the blind three-year-old as it is for the sighted
three-year-old. If we watch a sighted child doing something
like this, it prods us to offer the same opportunity to our
blind child. It is a simple matter to say, "Oh, look at this.
What do you suppose we can do with it? Here, let me show you."
So what if the child makes a big mess with the tape? That's
the way kids learn.
Paying attention to children in general can help us be on
our toes in offering new learning experiences to blind
children. It is really just as simple as that■not anything to
worry about, just a guide which can be useful.
Like other children, blind children need to learn about
appropriate and inappropriate behavior. This gets a little
complicated sometimes because blind children should do some
things differently. For example, it is okay for a blind baby
to feel your face, and they often do. But this becomes
socially unacceptable at a very young age. Before school age
a blind child needs to learn that it is not a good idea to put
their hands all over other people. It is better for a young
boy to be slapped and learn a lesson about getting along with
his peers than be branded "to be avoided" by his classmates.
Unfortunately, most young girls would not slap the "blind
boy." This means parents have an extra responsibility in
teaching social skills to their blind youngsters. They need
information even when they don't ask for it and don't take it.
We must keep reminding them when we see inappropriate
When my children were small, I grew very tired of having
to fuss at them for doing the same thing over and over. I
tried to be creative in finding ways not to nag. This spring
my youngest graduated from college, a real milestone for both
of us. He is selling books this summer as he has done
throughout college. He said to me "Don't let me stay with the
company beyond the summer." Amazed, I asked what he wanted me
to do about it if he did. "Nag me" he answered. I told him I
didn't like to nag, and I thought he didn't like it either.
What do you suppose he said? "Sometimes it works." Well, I
found that most interesting and pass it on for what it is
Many blind children feel no need to hold their heads
erect. Not only does this look funny, it also causes
underdevelopment of the muscles in the neck and back. Constant
reminders and creative motivators must be tried. There is no
simple solution, but it's worth working on. When they get to
be 16 or 20 they will be very glad if they've developed the
practice of holding their heads up and looking at other
One evening I was talking with a blind eight-year-old who
was jumping up and down and flopping his body around. Thinking
I could subtly change this behavior, I suggested we sit down.
We did and continued our conversation, and he continued to
jump around. By and by I mentioned that most eight-year-olds
don't jump around all the time. "Oh," he said, "I do that all
"Yes," I said, "that's why I brought it up. It makes you
I still did not get much response, but repetition of the
same message in different ways will get through. Sometimes we
just have to figure out how to make the message matter, and
there may be some value in using a blend of shock techniques
and repetition. It reminds me of a story I once heard about an
old man named Pat. The priest wanted Pat to support the
building of a new church, but Pat was resisting. Pat said, "I
give my dime every Sunday, and that's all you're going to get
out of me." Just then a big piece of plaster fell and hit Pat
on the head. This changed his mind. After Pat offered a large
sum, Father said, "Pat, let us pray." They knelt in front of
the altar, and Father prayed, "Heavenly Father, hit him
again." I cannot provide a big piece of plaster when you need
it, but there are times when you can be too gentle. No
technique is right for every situation, and frequently a
change of emphasis from day-to-day is desirable.
Today most blind children have far less contact with one
another than when most of us were young and went to schools
for the blind or resource classrooms. Being one blind person
among hundreds of sighted children in public schools and in
the neighborhood can be lonely. There is a void in learning
about blindness. In fact children learn, to their detriment,
to take advantage of other people's attitudes about blindness.
Public attitudes about blindness may be the most difficult
part of raising a blind child, both for you and your child.
Some of you may know better examples than I do, but let me
share just one.
Nine-year-old Melissa lived in a house about 200 yards
from the road where the school bus picked her up. There was a
dry creek bed with a bridge across it between her door and
where she caught the school bus. Melissa was still learning
when to use her cane and when not to. She resisted taking it
when she should. Her mother explained to her what could happen
if she didn't use her cane, but Melissa continued to resist
taking it when she should. Sure enough, one morning Melissa
went racing out the door to catch the bus■without her cane■and
fell in the creek bed. Melissa was not seriously hurt, but the
neighbors were angry. They felt mom should not let Melissa out
of her sight. They didn't think Melissa could be safe even
with the cane. Even though mom had the right attitude, it was
difficult to stand her ground when all the neighbors were mad
at her. I reassured mom that she was right on target.
Sometimes it is hard not to fall into traps formed by public
Without realizing what they are doing, blind children
often learn to depend on sighted people more than they need to
or should. Elementary school is not too soon for a blind child
to begin traveling independently, keeping track of print
papers, looking for things that are lost or dropped, keeping
track of clothes that match, etc. As a child matures, he or
she needs to develop more self-reliance in all these areas.
This spring Kathryn was a model in a fashion show. She
had less time than I wished to practice her route across the
stage, down the steps, around a couple of corners, and down
the aisle through the audience. Still she did just fine and
looked good. As she came down the steps someone could not
resist the need to tell her where she should go. A lipreader
at a nearby table reports that Kathryn said in a whisper
without looking around, "I can do it myself." Kathryn handled
the situation, but it must have been demoralizing and
Still, how many times in a day or a week do children like
Kathryn have to face somebody who does not really believe in
them? What does it do to their confidence? Their self-esteem?
We cannot quickly change these attitudes but what we have to
offer is valuable. We can reassure blind children that
somebody does understand. We can offer the opportunity to talk
about blindness and to learn the skills that help to reduce it
to the level of a nuisance. We can share with these children
the successes, frustrations, grief, and excitement of growing
up as a blind person. Blindness is a characteristic these
children do not share with most of their peers. To talk about
it when they can is important, and we must find a way to give
them this opportunity.
A child needs to be encouraged to understand how he or
she is affected by blindness. I have been asked many questions
by blind youngsters which demonstrate they want to talk about
it. They ask me: When should I use my cane, and when should I
walk with someone else? How do I decide when I really need
Braille? If a lot of other people seem to know what is going
on and I don't, what can I do about it? In a group I don't
always like to ask for help or information, but if I am quiet,
often I get left out or forgotten, and I don't like that
either. I know I can be noticed by calling attention to
blindness, but sometimes that isn't much fun. What will my
life be like when I grow up? All the adults I know can see.
How will I learn to put make-up on? What will happen if I
don't drive a car?
Whether you hear these questions in so many words or not,
you need to realize that blind children are thinking about
these things. Both you and your children need to talk about
matters like these and work out answers. One of the resources
available to you through the National Federation of the Blind
(NFB) comes in the form of people who have answers to these
The other day I visited a one-week camp for blind
children who attend public school in Idaho. I was introduced
to a group of about ten teen-agers. Most had returned to the
camp for at least the second year. After telling them who I
was, I asked why they liked the camp and came back. No
answers. I told them I thought I knew. It gives them an
opportunity to share experiences with others who are blind.
Immediately, the room was abuzz with chatter and questions.
My few minutes grew into a whole class period. These
youngsters wanted to talk about jobs; careers;
discrimination■what it is and what to do about it; attitudes
of parents, teachers, and peers about blindness; and all the
topics we have touched on this morning. At that camp there
were counselors who would discuss blindness in the evenings,
but they were not themselves blind. It seems to make a
difference. I don't have all the answers to their questions,
but that did not seem to matter. They were eager to share with
me and to have my thoughts to ponder.
The NFB Training Centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and
Minnesota sponsor summer programs for blind children. Their
staff members■most of whom are blind like me■will tell you the
same thing. Children are eager to learn about blindness from
those they know have had real experiences. They are glad for
the opportunity to experiment with the skills and attitudes
about blindness that they are learning.
Kathryn is ten years old, and I have known her for five
or six years. When I see her, Kathryn always wants to take
hold of my cane. At first she wanted to talk about it and
compare its size to her own. Now she just wants to grasp it
for a moment and go on with whatever she is doing and saying.
I think this is her way of saying, "I'm glad you and I have
canes in common."
The National Federation of the Blind provides the rhythm
and the melody for us all to march forward together to change
public attitudes about blindness. We have a young, energetic
leader who depends on all of us to make the music and move
ahead. Our children are learning to play the instruments that
broadcast our message to the world.
One or a few persons cannot make the band move forward or
sound good. The fullness of sound and the impressiveness of
configurations on the field come from planning and rehearsals.
Each individual must play a part and coordinate with the
others. Because of our togetherness, we are all more
successful than any could be alone.
We meet at this convention to renew our spirits and
improve our skills and our understanding. As adults, both
blind and sighted, we need what we came here to partake of.
And we bring our children, for they need it, too. They need
what they will find this week, and they depend on us
throughout the year to improve their skills and grow in their
When our children become the section leaders, one day our
band will be welcomed by society as a leading part of the
parade, not merely with sympathy because the blind are doing
better than expected, but with honor because the high quality
of our performance can no longer be denied.
This is what we hope and plan for our children, and this
is what they dream. We must do what we can to facilitate their
dreams. We are, and we will continue to do so. This is our
goal today for ourselves, and this is our pledge to the next
REPORT ON PARENT ACTIVITIES AT THE 1995 NFB CONVENTION
by Barbara Cheadle
Although there is only one blind member in our family of
five■Charles, our seventeen-year-old son■the National
Federation of the Blind became, early on, a family affair. We
quickly discovered that each of us was welcome, and each of us
had a contribution to make. All three of our children have
sold NFB candy, attended monthly Federation chapter meetings,
held a picket sign, and cheered the presidential report at NFB
National Conventions. They've had lots of company in these
endeavors, too. Hundreds of sighted children of blind members,
blind kids, and sighted siblings participate in Federation
functions with their families.
The theme of the 1995 Parents Seminar, "The Benefits of
Growing Up in the National Federation of the Blind," focused
on this unique characteristic of the NFB. Blind adults,
sighted parents, blind kids, sighted kids of blind parents,
and sighted siblings came together during the morning session
to talk about the significant impact the National Federation
of the Blind has had in their lives.
The seminar got off to an inspirational start with
remarks by NFB President Marc Maurer and President Emeritus,
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. They challenged parents to stay for the
entire convention. They described how the actions taken at
this year's convention, and the years that follow, will
determine much of what their children's future opportunities
will be. Therefore, they explained, it behooves parents to
become active in the NFB so they, too, can help shape the
future for the next generation.
Ramona Walhof led the formal agenda with a presentation
called, "Blindness■What it Means in the Mind of a Blind Child"
(see page 13 in this issue). In her speech, Mrs. Walhof
examined the natural process by which a blind child comes to
understand blindness and, ultimately, how they learn to feel
about themselves as blind people.
Next were two panels, "But I'm not Blind...What can the
NFB Mean to Me?" and "Blindness, the NFB, and Me." On the
first panel Charles Brown, President of the NFB of Virginia,
described the value of the NFB in his life as a partially
sighted individual. Joanne Wilson, Director of the Louisiana
Center for the Blind and the blind mother of five sighted
children gave a lively account of the many values and skills
her sighted children learned through their intimate
association with the NFB.
The final panel of the day featured children and youth
and was (as might be expected) enthusiastically received by
the audience. Wayne Pearcy, an eight-year-old blind boy, gave
a delightful speech. Angela Sasser, a blind teen from
Louisiana, and Maria Wurtzel, the sighted daughter of blind
Federationists Fred and Mary Wurtzel, expressed themselves
with clarity and sincerity. The last youth on the panel, John
Earl Cheadle, sighted sibling to blind Federationist Charles
(Chaz), "spiced" his presentation with humor and a "wry"
twist. Bill Cucco, the only adult on the panel, held his own
with the youth as he described the role the NFB has played in
life as the sighted father of a blind daughter.
The last item on the general session agenda was a skit
performed by blind students and staff members of the Louisiana
Center for the Blind. Written by Braille instructor Jerry
Whittle, "Little Things Mean a Lot" (see page 31) gave parents
a lot of not-so-little things to think about concerning the
ways they might be stifling their children's needs for
blindness skills and independence.
During the lunch break parents had the option of buying
a box lunch and attending a Toy Workshop moderated by Margie
Watson, president of the Wisconsin Parents of Blind Children,
and presented by Kathy Austin, a Discovery Toy dealer from
Virginia. Both women are parents of blind daughters and are
active in the National Organization of Parents of Blind
Following lunch parents were presented with a choice of
twelve different concurrent workshops. The three-hour
"Beginning Braille for Parents" workshop was, as usual,
conducted by Claudell Stocker, Braille expert and former
director of the Braille Unit of the Library for the Blind and
Physically Handicapped. There was also a "Questions and
Concerns About Braille" session moderated by NOPBC First Vice
President and 1992 winner of the Outstanding Educator of Blind
Children award, Ruby Ryles. Dr. Hilda Caton, the 1995 winner
of the award, was also on hand to answer questions about her
"Patterns" reading series.
Blind Federationists Barbara Pierce and Gary Wunder
handled the sensitive topic of "Social Skills, Personal Care,
and Independence of Blind Youth" to a standing-room-only
crowd. Loretta White, parent leader from Maryland and chairman
of the NOPBC Committee on Blind Multiply Handicapped Children,
also spoke to a record number of parents about techniques and
resources for parents of blind multiply handicapped children.
Two sessions of "Parent Power" was so well received that the
workshop will undoubtedly be repeated in 1996. These sessions
were conducted by parent leaders Carol Castellano, New Jersey;
Barbara Freeman, Washington; Keri Stockton, West Virginia;
Kathy Arthurs, Ohio; Dawn Neddo, Michigan; and Joe Larson,
Three different sessions were held on different aspects
of cane travel and mobility for blind kids. Joe Cutter, a
pediatric mobility specialist from New Jersey, and Doug Boone,
an independent mobility consultant from Nebraska, gave
generously of their time not only during these workshops
(which they conducted) but throughout the convention in
private appointments with parents. One of the most exciting
events of the afternoon was the session for parents of
deaf-blind children. Moderated by Sally Ruemmler, chairman of
the NOPBC committee Parents in Partnership for Deaf-Blind
Children, the workshop featured presentations by Sandra
Andrews, a deaf-blind services consultant in Kansas; and Dr.
Douglas Geenens, an adult and child psychiatrist with
experience in the identification and assessment of psychiatric
needs of individuals with dual sensory loss.
Throughout the afternoon parents also had the option of
dropping into the "Show Time" room to view videos on a variety
of blindness topics. Especially popular was the new NFB video
about Braille literacy, "That the Blind May Read."
Blind teens had an opportunity to get together Saturday
afternoon for a Convention Orientation session. Adult blind
members of the NFB took the youth out in small groups to
explore the hotel. The experience also gave the kids a chance
to get to know each other and to meet blind adults.
While moms, dads, and older brothers and sisters were
busy with these activities, youngsters from age 5 to 12 were
having a great time on a field trip to a nearby kids amusement
park. Carla McQuillan, who owns and operates a Montessori
preschool in Oregon, organized dozens of other blind
volunteers to chaperone some eighty children on this trip.
After a long day, parents and children were ready to
relax and socialize that evening at the informal Family
Hospitality night sponsored by the NOPBC. Children gathered
around the piano, played games, and looked at books while
parents chatted, compared notes, and exchanged ideas along
with addresses and phone numbers. One exciting high point of
the evening was a drawing for a $50 bill.
The next large gathering for parents was at the Annual
Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind
Children on Monday afternoon, July 3, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
As usual, the agenda was packed with a combination of
business, reports, presentations, panels, and election of
officers. Dr. Hilda Caton, the 1995 recipient of the
Outstanding Educator of Blind Children Award, described the
background and development of the Patterns reading series,
which she edited some years ago. Other speakers included Laura
Felty and Dr. Christopher Craig. Laura was the top
Print-to-Braille winner in the first annual National Braille
Readers are Leaders contest about twelve years ago. She is now
a certified teacher of blind children. Laura gave a compelling
talk about how important and beneficial Braille has been in
her life. Following this theme, Dr. Craig talked about the
survey he conducted on the emerging literacy of blind
children. Interspersed between speakers were drawings for new
and used toys donated by members. This was so popular that a
committee was formed to solicit toys and other items for next
The last item on the agenda was a panel of parent leaders
who talked about the challenges of organizing local parent
support groups. Joe Larson, Nebraska; Pat Jones, Tennessee;
Margie Watson, Wisconsin; Lisa Mattioli, Pennsylvania; and
Michael Wolk, also of Pennsylvania described different
experiences and problems. All, however, persevered and
succeeded in creating a stable organization where parents can
work together to better the lives for blind children in their
A report from the nominating committee followed by
elections concluded the meeting. NOPBC officers and board
members for 1995-1996 are: Barbara Cheadle, President; Ruby
Ryles, First Vice President; Carol Castellano, Second Vice
President; Marty Greiser, Secretary; Julie Hunter, Treasurer;
Michael Wolk, Board; Joe Larson, Board; Pat Jones, Board; and
Kathy Arthurs, Board.
On Wednesday evening NOPBC conducted an Individualized
Education Program (IEP) workshop. Led by Ruby Ryles and
Barbara Cheadle, the program explored the nuts and bolts of
how the IEP works, what blind kids should have on their IEPs,
and strategies for increasing the chances of getting a good
IEP. One segment of the workshop specifically addressed the
role of the parents' advocate in the IEP meeting. Following
the pattern set at the workshops earlier in the week, the room
was packed with enthusiastic parents and NFB members eager to
The convention general sessions, which began Wednesday
morning and concluded on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. (3-1/2
days■Thursday afternoon was left open for tours), was packed
with speakers and topics of the utmost interest to parents.
Parents who stayed for the entire convention had the
opportunity to hear nationally known professionals from the
National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion,
Dr. Alan Gartner and Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky speak on
"Inclusion for all: Building on the Tools of Blindness." They
also got to be part of an important dialogue with
representatives from the publishing firms and associations
regarding "Braille Literacy, Braille Texts, and Braille
Bills." Dr. Sally Mangold, well-known for the materials she
developed for use in teaching children fast, efficient Braille
reading, was also on the convention agenda to talk about "The
Importance of Braille Literacy in the Education of Blind
Learning continued after sessions and meetings as parents
gathered together in rooms, restaurants, and even in the halls
or outside the elevator. Professionals such as Joe Cutter,
Doris Willoughby, and Ruby Ryles volunteered their time and
made appointments with parents and their children to give of
The 1995 NFB convention will be remembered for many
reasons. Not the least of them will be the burgeoning group of
enthusiastic parents and children who came to soak up
knowledge about blindness from thousands of blind people who
are committed to the positive philosophy and message of the
National Federation of the Blind.
THE CHILDREN OF THE 1995 CONVENTION
Editor's Note: The paragraphs below are reprinted from the
much longer "1995 Convention Roundup" article by Barbara
Pierce which appeared in the December 1995 issue of the
Braille Monitor. The photographs on the following pages depict
children and parents engaged in the broad spectrum of
Those who attended the 1995 convention of the National
Federation of the Blind are still talking about the
unforgettable experiences we shared during the first week of
July. The Chicago Hilton and Towers provided an almost perfect
setting for a National Federation of the Blind convention:
friendly and competent staff, an elegant but uncomplicated
facility, and a stimulating host city in the nation's
heartland. As each convention closes and fades into memory,
one is left with a few indelible memories that forever after
spring to mind each time that convention is remembered■the
skirling of bag pipes on the convention floor, half a hundred
blind children and their families taking their rightful place
in the Federation clan, the hotel's television channel
broadcasting Federation programming all day every day, and a
deaf-blind two-year-old showing off for his parents and other
adults by running in circles and signing "funny!" These are a
few of the pictures that will always color my own memories of
the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
In many ways this was the convention of the children.
Ninety of them registered during the week at NFB Camp, the day
camp for kids conducted by Mary Willows and her crew of child
care workers■most of them volunteers. A number of other
youngsters remained with their parents or other care givers
during convention activities. But wherever the children were,
learning was taking place. A deaf-blind teen who had always
been told that bouncing on beds was "against the rules" was
taught the joyful art by an adult who recognized the
importance of such harmless pleasures. Sighted children begged
for and sometimes got (for the week at least) their own canes
so they could be like everybody else. Parents saw blind adults
and even other blind children engaging in independent activity
that they had only dreamed of for their own youngsters. And
throughout the week blind adults talked with parents, played
and worked with their blind children, and redoubled their
determination to change what it will mean to be blind for this
generation of children.
KEEPIN' UP WITH CINDY
by Sue Bennett
Editor's note: It started with a phone call. Somehow Sue
Bennett got the name and number of a local member of the NFB,
who in turn gave her my name and the number of the national
office of the NFB. That was over three years ago. Sue's
daughter, Cindy (yes, she's blind), was no more than two at
the time. Sue was anxious to learn all she could about
blindness, blindness skills, and services that would (or
should) be available to her daughter. Within a year, Sue (with
the help of her NFB state affiliate■Alabama) attended a
national NFB seminar in Washington, D.C.
Her excitement and enthusiasm for all that she was
learning from the NFB about blindness encouraged her to keep
her expectations high for her daughter. It also prompted her
to join her local affiliate of the NFB. In the short time that
she was a member she spearheaded a local effort to raise funds
and set up a "Cane Bank" from which parents could get free
long white canes for their blind children. But no sooner than
she had this up and running, Sue and her family moved out of
state to North Carolina.
Busy as she has been in adjusting to a new home in a new
state, Sue was so excited about Cindy's achievement of a very
important milestone that she sent me the following letter and
article, "Keepin' Up with Cindy."
At the end of the letter you will notice that Sue says
there are no NFB members in her area. That's not quite
accurate, Sue■there's you and your family! Considering Sue's
energy and the commitment the NFB of North Carolina has to
blind children and their parents, I wouldn't be surprised at
all if in a year or two I get an article from Wayne Shevlin,
President of the NFB of North Carolina, entitled "Keepin' Up
January 31, 1996
It has been a while since I talked to you. We moved from
Alabama last June. I am glad for the move now, although I was
not so happy a year ago. The biggest reason is the great
program here. Mrs. Shorkey has been teaching the blind for 15
years, and her experience and excitement is just what Cindy
As much as I loved [our local] Montessori Preschool,
there was not a strong effort to begin Braille instruction.
Funds were also limited. The resources here in Buncombe County
are tremendous. They have the ability to produce Braille at
the T.C. Roberson High School. I'm volunteering in this area.
I am finding out that there is always the need for someone to
Braille books, tests, etc.
There is another group, Blue Ridge Braillers, who are
senior citizens who learned Braille and they volunteer
hundreds of hours a year to produce Braille. I do have a goal
of becoming a certified transcriber, even if it takes me two
years (I just started the Library of Congress course).
I am in the early stages of beginning a "Braille Club"
with the five Braille readers (ages 6-16) in this area. It
will be informal. We plan to meet weekly at the library during
the summer to discuss the books they are reading. It will give
the younger ones a chance to see the older ones reading
Braille. Cindy was so excited when she met the 9th grader (and
fascinated by her Braille n' Speak). She has also met a 6th
grader. I want to keep the momentum going because it is quite
a lot of work to keep at grade level. I'll send a report later
on the Braille Club with more details.
All in all, I wrote the enclosed article to encourage
other parents. I can't tell you how much the parents magazine
[Future Reflections] means to me.
P.S. I have not found any NFB members here yet.
KEEPIN' UP WITH CINDY
It has been five years since we were told that our
daughter was blind. I was determined to learn Braille. I
couldn't imagine being asked, "What is this word?" and having
to say to my child, "I don't know." So I ordered the course
Just Enough to Know Better and plunged in. I hung up the
alphabet card over my kitchen sink. I finished the first
lesson. Only a short time later I felt discouraged. It seemed
like I couldn't remember anything. At the ripe old age of 33,
I thought my memory was shot. Cindy was two years old then,
and there seemed to be so many other things about her
development which occupied my time. Learning Braille seemed
impossible. I was so frantic!
Fortunately, I expressed my frustrations to her preschool
teacher, Jayne McDaniel, at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and
Blind. She wisely told me, "You have some time now, just wait
and see how much you'll learn along with Cindy." This is
exactly what has happened since September of '95.
Cindy began kindergarten at Estes Elementary in Buncombe
County School District, Asheville, North Carolina. Under the
fantastic instruction of the Braille teacher, Mrs. Carolyn
Shorkey, we have both been extremely busy! They are using
Patterns curriculum and modifying it somewhat to fit into the
whole language approach. I can tell you that we work hard
together. Cindy began reading words by the second month of
kindergarten. I wish you could have seen the huge smiles on
both our faces this January after spending 45 minutes reading
Green Eggs and Ham. What fun!
One night I was sitting next to Cindy on the sofa, and I
thought of practicing the Braille alphabet on her leg using my
fingertips. Letter by letter I gently pressed the Braille
shape onto her leg. Cindy loves this game. It was especially
exciting for me, that night, because I realized that I knew
them all by heart! All this time I had kept the "cheat sheet"
close at hand for reference, but now I didn't need it anymore.
At least, not for letters and numbers. (Will I ever learn all
those contractions and rules?) Later I practiced over and over
on the Perkins Brailler, so proud that my memory was still in
good working order!
Cindy has been very bold about telling me what I don't
know. Recently, she corrected me that an f was from. I thanked
her, of course. In early October she stated in an exaggerated
tone to Mrs. Shorkey, "My mother doesn't even know Braille!"
She doesn't say that anymore. She assures me, "I'll keep
teaching you some more, Mom." And she has been pleasantly
surprised to find out that I know a little more Braille than
she does at this point and can actually teach her a thing or
two! She's bound to catch up, however, and zoom ahead. I'll be
right on her heels!
by Lois Luecke
Editor's Note: The Times Record News is publishing a story
each day written especially for younger readers.
Caleb Elliott is blind. That means he cannot see. But
Caleb is a busy boy. He enjoys gymnastics and playing T-ball.
He also loves music. He plays the piano and the guitar. Being
blind has not kept Caleb from having fun and learning
Editor's Note: The story above and the following article are
reprinted from the Times Record News, January 20, 1995, of
Wichita Falls, Texas.
I'm not sure what the author of the article wished to
convey by the title "Looking Ahead" but, in respect to
blindness, that's what Dale and Ann Elliott did. They took a
"look ahead" into the potential future for Caleb by getting to
know blind adults through the NFB. They discovered that if
Caleb was to grow up to be a confident, competent adult, he
had to have a solid foundation in blindness skills. They also
learned how important it was to hold high expectations for
Caleb in all areas of life■academic, social, family,
recreational, and community.
So, what impact has their foresight had on Caleb so far?
The following news story tells much, but Ann Elliott (who
sent me the clipping along with some photographs) had more to
"Caleb," she wrote, "is quite busy. In addition to gymnastics
and T-ball he rides a bicycle, roller skates, swims, and loves
bowling. I do not have any good pictures of all this because
Dale and I are usually running along behind (ha!). Caleb is a
good cane traveler, but he could do better. He is the only
blind student in his school and the kids all love doing
sighted guide. He is a very good Braille reader, and also the
best speller in the class. He is always called on to help the
other students (he loves that)."
That's what mom had to add to the following article:
Six-year-old Caleb Elliott was eager to show what he had
learned in gymnastics at the Family YMCA. With seeming ease
and a bit of coaching by teacher Claire Bishop, he went
through his routine, doing cartwheels and forward rolls,
working the rings and parallel bars and jumping on the
trampoline. What's unusual about Caleb's performance is that
the boy is blind.
Ann Elliott, Caleb's mother, said she had checked into
several other places to try to start him in gymnastics and no
one would take him. The YMCA just signed him up and didn't
even question his blindness.
"It has been just wonderful. He has benefited so much,"
she said. "We put him in the gymnastics program more than a
year ago for the physical activity, and he loves it."
"But then Caleb", she said, "is pretty enthusiastic about
anything he gets into, whether it's gymnastics, playing
T-ball, playing the piano, or the guitar."
"When he was playing T-ball, he could hardly wait for
practice. He will play T-ball, another `Y' program, this year,
too," his mother said. With a runner who ran all the bases
with him, he played all of last year with the Cunningham Blue
Now a kindergarten student at Ben Milam Elementary
School, Caleb won awards in piano in recent Wichita Falls
Independent School District cultural arts competition.
Submitting tapes of his original compositions, he placed first
in the primary division and won overall honors in the school
in the music category. He has taken piano lessons for the last
five or six months, his mother said, and has had almost a year
of instruction on the guitar.
Young Caleb has been blind since birth. Ann and her
husband Dale Elliott adopted him when he was one day old. They
didn't know that Caleb was blind until he was about five
months old. Physicians found a fatty build-up and a "pseudo
cherry spot" on his retina. "No name was given to his
condition at that time and no one knows why," Mrs. Elliott
said. The youngster does have light perception and that helps
him with balance and mobility.
Caleb's mother and father are older parents in their 40s.
They have become active in the National Federation of the
Blind and are involved with the Parents of Blind Children
Support Group. They have studied Braille and have encouraged
Caleb to learn Braille since he was about three years old. At
Ben Milam, where he is in a full-day developmental
kindergarten, he is learning how to read and write in Braille.
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT: A Skit
by Jerry Whittle
Editor's Note: The following skit was performed by students
and staff members of the Louisiana Center for the Blind at the
1995 parents seminar in Chicago. These amateur blind actors
have been enlightening (through the guise of entertainment)
audiences at NFB conventions for a number of years. They
frequently perform original plays written by Jerry Whittle,
Braille teacher at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. An
outstanding teacher, Jerry is also an excellent role model for
his students. He did not let blindness prevent him from
pursuing his love of acting and directing in theater (he has
performed in numerous community play productions). Because of
Jerry, play productions at the Louisiana Center for the Blind
have become an integral part of its unique training program;
a program which promotes a positive attitude about blindness
as aggressively as it teaches Braille and other blindness
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
Cast of Characters
Norma Benfield, mother of Lori
Rodney Benfield, father of Lori
Dr. Spooner, evaluator
Jessica Franklin, sighted friend of Lori
Geneva, Braille instructor
Narrator: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome
to our show■Little Things Mean A Lot. We are indeed privileged
to have with us the Benfields■Lori (who is visually impaired),
Mrs. Benfield, and Mr. Benfield. Today we will have the
opportunity to view their struggles to cope with visual
impairment up close and personal. Our cameras have been
following Lori and her family around for several days, and we
believe that you will enjoy their story. It is the stuff that
the American dream is made of. So sit back, get some microwave
popcorn, a soda pop, and enjoy the next episode of Little
Things Mean A Lot.
Norma: Oh, Lori, I don't think you should wear that
outfit to school. The colors just aren't right for you. They
make you look so pale and sickly.
Lori: You bought them for me, Mother. I thought they
would look nice.
Norma: Take them off and try this navy skirt and blouse.
We want you to look your best. You must form the habit of
looking your best, so when you become a professional
businesswoman, your clothes will be appropriate.
Lori: Yes, ma'am. I sure would like to go shopping some
time all by myself and select my own wardrobe.
Norma: Nonsense, Lori, how can you pick colors; and
besides, you wouldn't want to trust your appearance to some
tasteless store clerk. They will have you looking like
Lori: Other kids my age pick their own clothes.
Norma: Have you ever noticed how some of them look? Holes
in their pants. Flip-flops. Disgusting. Like something the
cats dragged in. What's gotten into you lately? You always
have worn the clothes I picked for you.
Lori: I guess so.
Norma: Now come over here and eat your breakfast. Here,
let me pour you that cup of coffee. Just sit down there. Here
is your knife and fork. I went ahead and cut up your sausage.
No sense in making a mess. A good businesswoman should not be
a messy eater.
Lori: You know, Mother, I don't think I have ever seen a
sausage before it was cut into pieces.
Norma: It is usually round.
Lori: I know. I know.
Norma: The cream pitcher is just past your coffee cup.
Don't knock over the cup. Here, let me pour it for you.
Lori: Honestly, Mother.
Norma: You only have ten minutes before your father takes
you to school.
Lori: That's another thing. I don't see why I can't ride
the school bus like everyone else.
Norma: Have you taken leave of your senses? I won't have
you riding that bus with all of those nasty-mouthed heathens.
Besides, your father enjoys taking you to school. You have
time to visit.
Lori: The other children tease me. They say I am a
weirdo. I hardly know any of them.
Norma: Count it all a blessing. Children are so cruel,
and I won't have them teasing you about your eye condition.
Now here is your toast. I buttered it for you and put some
honey on it. Don't get it all over your blouse, for goodness
sake. A professional businesswoman should not form the habit
of dripping food all over her. Let me put this napkin around
your neck. There, sweetie, that should make it better. Now eat
up. Dad will be here before you know it.
Narrator: Wasn't it just a delight to observe the
interaction between Lori and her mother? Just wait till you
see the next scene.
Lori: Jessica, I am sure glad that you asked me to go
with you to the school dance. Maybe I can meet some boys there
and learn to dance.
Jessica: Lori, I remember hearing you say that you would
love to dance sometime. We can walk down to the school gym and
maybe go out afterward for an ice cream.
Lori: That would be great. I feel so cooped up here in
this house. Don't tell anyone, but I feel absolutely smothered
by my family.
(Enter Mr. and Mrs. Benfield)
Norma: Lori, who is your little friend? How do you do, I
am Lori's mother, and this is her father.
Lori: Mother and Dad, this is Jessica. She and I were
planning to go to school for a dance and then go for ice cream
Norma: Oh, really. Lori, have you completed your lessons
for tomorrow? A good businesswoman always puts business before
Lori: I finished my homework at school during study hall.
What kind of a dance is this?
Jessica: It is sponsored by our high school spirit
committee. It is a way for all of us to get to know one
Norma: Yes, I bet that is so. Do you turn the lights down
Jessica: Yes, we do for the dance.
Norma: Then, Lori, I don't think you should go. You know
how difficult it is for you to find your way around in the
dark. Suppose you fall down and hurt yourself?
Lori: Please, Mother, don't embarrass me in front of my
new friend. The dance is on the gym floor. It is level,
Rodney: I don't see why Lori couldn't go to the dance,
Norma: Because boys will be there. Nasty minded little
hooligans who would like nothing better than to have a little
visually challenged girl there in the dark to prey upon like
a bunch of vultures. Putting their hands all over her. I won't
stand for it. She should not be subjected to such hideous
Jessica: Well, I guess I better be going. I'm sorry,
Lori; I didn't mean to upset the family structure by
suggesting a dance.
Lori: Just a minute, Jessica. Mother, I really want to go
to this dance. I feel so isolated from my friends, so
different. Do you realize that I have never danced with a boy
before? I don't like being an odd duck. Just because my eyes
don't work properly doesn't mean that my feet can't move.
Norma: You know yourself that you have balance problems.
All visually impaired children do. I read that in a magazine.
Rodney: Lori, don't argue with your mother. Maybe you had
better stay home.
Lori: I suppose you will teach me to dance, Mother?
Norma: Certainly. Your father and I do a mean fox trot
and samba. I could show you a few steps and perhaps someday
when you are working or married, you can put them to good use.
Jessica: Well, I must go. Good luck to you, Lori. I'll
see you tomorrow in study hall.
Lori: Bye, Jessica. I think I will go to my room.
Norma: Be careful on the staircase, Dear. Use the rail.
Narrator: Is this drama, or what? Family crises and
resolution. What a family! That Mrs. Benfield is surely a
champion for the optically precluded■a truly caring and
compassionate woman. Let's go up close and personal once
again. This time, Lori and her parents are talking with Dr.
Spooner at Lori's annual IEP evaluation meeting. IEP means
Individual Education Plan. Lori's future is on the line.
Dr.Spooner: Mr. and Mrs Benfield, for the past five years
the evaluators have concluded that Lori should be taught
Braille. They base their conclusions on the fact that Lori has
a degenerative eye disease with a prognosis of steady
deterioration. Secondly, Lori must hold print material
extremely close to her face. And finally, Lori can only read
with optimum lighting conditions and then only for a short
duration of time. It seems clear to us that Lori needs and
would benefit greatly from Braille.
Norma: I will not accept your conclusions. Lori may have
a so-called degenerative eye disease, but no one knows for
certain that Lori will lose more sight. She can function just
fine with print.
Rodney: Norma, maybe we should listen to Dr. Spooner this
time. Lori cannot read print as well this year as she did even
a year ago.
Norma: Nonsense. Lori's eyesight is fine. She can use a
magnifier and her CCTV.
Lori: Mother, it hurts my eyes. I get headaches.
Norma: I have been reading extensively on this matter.
Dr. Spooner, you are not the only expert on this subject. I
found an article by a renowned educator in the field of visual
impairment, and she stated that a child with visual
impairment like Lori should work on visual efficiency. It is
damaging to a person's psyche to have to use Braille instead
of print. Lori could try some eye exercises and work on moving
her eyes faster. This authority stated that if a child can
read print at ten words a minute or more, she should not have
to learn Braille.
Dr. Spooner: Mrs. B. is an advocate for visual
efficiency■that is true; but, each IEP must be determined on
the personal need of the client. Lori definitely could benefit
from Braille instruction.
Rodney: We should sign the IEP, Norma.
Lori: Please sign it, Mother.
Norma: Not in a heartbeat. I will never stand for Lori to
be condemned to Braille. Lori, you can still see. You are not
blind. According to Mrs. B., Braille is complex and slow and
extremely cumbersome. I get the feeling from her that Braille
is almost obsolete and only for the totally blind, not someone
like my daughter who can still see.
Dr. Spooner: I wish that you would reconsider. Lori may
lose all of her functional vision in the near future.
Norma: I am betting that will never happen to my
Dr. Spooner: Then our hands are tied. Good day to all of
Norma: Come on, Sweetie, let's go and make an appointment
with a good low vision clinic. Here, take my elbow. Watch out
for the coffee table.
Lori: I am fine, Mother. You are embarrassing me again.
Norma: Nonsense. I am only trying to help you. Someday
when I am gone, you will realize how much I have fought for
your rights to have dignity. What do you say we go and get
some ice cream at Baskin-Robbins?
Lori: I would rather have Braille.
Norma: Now that's enough of that foolish talk. The low
vision clinic will probably have a new magnifier that will
work miracles. Here is the door. Stay behind me. We are
Narrator: Isn't that a touching spectacle. One mother's
battle to save her daughter from the throes of an obsolete
system. We have just one more intimate glimpse into the lives
of the Benfield family. Lori has courageously entered into
competition with her classmates, and she is working on a
project for school honors.
Norma: It is so nice to meet you, Geneva. My name is
Norma Benfield, and this is my visually challenged daughter
Lori. Lori wants to do a presentation on Braille for her
Geneva: It's very nice to meet you, Lori. I have some
materials you could use. Here is a slate and stylus that blind
persons use to write Braille. I also have a Twin Vision(tm)
Braille book you could use.
Norma: Isn't that just amazing how they can write print
and Braille in one book like that. Lori, come and see this.
Give me your hand. This is what blind children are suppose to
read. Isn't that just amazing.
Geneva: It's not amazing at all. Braille is not that
difficult to learn. Lori, have you never had Braille
Norma: Certainly not. Lori does fine with her CCTV.
Geneva: Lori, would you like to learn Braille?
Norma: Lori does not need Braille. She wants to go to
college at Fairmont University next year and major in
marketing. She wants to manage her own business some day, and
we are working hard to obtain her a scholarship. If we could
win the school competition this year, Lori would have an
excellent chance to win a scholarship to Fairmont. I felt like
Lori should use Braille as her topic since she has a little
vision loss herself.
Geneva: I have some alphabet cards with the letters of
the alphabet in both print and Braille. Lori, do you need any
Norma: We would like a photograph of you reading Braille,
wouldn't we, Dear?
Lori: Whatever you say, Mother. We want to do well on our
project. We are going to win the competition.
Norma: Now, Lori, you stand here, behind Geneva while I
take your picture. Be looking down at the Braille book while
Geneva: Can you even see the Braille book, Lori?
Norma: Of course she can see the book. Now, smile, Lori.
Say cheese. There, I have it. Now we need just one more
photograph. Would you be willing to write Braille with your
Geneva: It is called a slate and stylus.
Norma: Whatever. Lori, you come and sit beside Geneva.
Take that frown off your face. You look like a rat has just
stolen your lunch. There, we have two nice pictures of Geneva.
That should do the trick. Thanks so much for allowing us to
interrupt your busy schedule.
Geneva: No problem at all. Lori, if you ever want to
learn Braille, come and talk with me about it.
Lori: I want to learn...
Norma: We need to be going. Here, Dear, let me carry the
materials. You might drop them. Grab a wing.
Geneva: Lori needs to be using a white cane instead of
relying on you so much.
Norma: I can take care of her. She doesn't need a cane.
Geneva: Good bye, Lori. Give me a call some time. I want
to tell you about an organization I belong to called the
National Federation of the Blind.
Lori: Okay, I will call you tomorrow.
Norma: Lori, you don't have time to join any organization
like that. You will need to devote all your time to becoming
the world's greatest independent businesswoman.
Narrator: Lori will surely be a successful businesswoman
as her mother has determined. I hope this program has been a
lesson for all visually challenged persons and their family
members. Behind every successful optically precluded child is
a determined family. Lori's future is virtually sealed. Thank
you for watching another episode of Little Things Mean A Lot.
OSERS ISSUES POLICY LETTER ON EDUCATING
BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENTS
Editor's Note: Parents who have been around the block a time
or two in trying to get services (such as Braille) for a blind
child know first-hand the frustration of figuring out how the
provisions and regulations of the special education law
(IDEA■the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) apply
to blind kids. Part of the problem, no doubt, is that once the
law defines "blind" and "visually impaired," there is no
further reference to the distinctive needs of these students.
This lack of specificity has often been used to distort the
intent of the law. For example, one parent was told that her
child couldn't get Braille because it would violate the "least
restrictive" provisions of the law. The child could stay in
the regular classroom (least restrictive setting) and learn
print, but would have to be pulled out (restrictive setting)
for Braille instruction. Based on this twisted reasoning, the
school denied the child Braille instruction. Finally■as of
November 3, 1995■parents, teachers, and other school officials
have a tool to help them apply the provisions of IDEA to the
specific educational needs of visually impaired students. This
tool is in the form of a policy letter issued by the Office of
Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS). Policy
letters are issued occasionally by OSERS as a means of
clarifying a section of special education law. (Readers may
remember that several policy letters were summarized in an
article about assistive technology in the Fall 1995 issue of
This policy letter is reprinted below in full because it
has the potential, if aggressively used, to be of sound help
in the development of appropriate Individualized Education
Programs (IEPs) for blind and visually impaired students.
Additional copies of this issue are available free of charge,
or readers may make photocopies of the letter from the
magazine as they wish. The more widely the letter is
distributed and read, the more useful it can be.
Please note, however, that useful as this policy letter
may be, it does not have the same force as law. There
continues to be an urgent need for strong Braille literacy
provisions to be added to IDEA. The National Federation of the
Blind, in cooperation with other agencies and organizations
serving the blind, remains committed to this goal. With the
reauthorization of IDEA due for consideration this Spring,
this is the time to make such an amendment a reality. Contact
the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, 1800
Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314 for
information on how you can help this effort.
Here is the policy letter from OSERS:
United States Department of Education
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
600 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, D.C. 20202
Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote
educational excellence throughout the Nation
November 3, 1995
Contact Person Name: Rhonda Weiss
Telephone: (202) 205-9053
To: Chief State School Officers
From: Judith E. Heumann, Assistant Secretary
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Thomas Hehir, Director Office of Special Education Programs
Subject: Policy Guidance on Educating Blind and Visually
One of our highest priorities at the Office of Special
Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is improving
services for students with low incidence disabilities,
particularly those with sensory deficits. On October 30, 1992,
the Department published a Notice of Policy Guidance on Deaf
Students Education Services1 (Notice) to provide additional
guidance to educators on the free appropriate public education
(FAPE) requirements of Part B of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (Part B) and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Acts of 19732 as they relate to students who are
deaf. In OSEP Memorandum 94-15, dated February 4, 1994, we
clarified that the policy guidance in this Notice is equally
applicable to all students with disabilities.
Nevertheless, it has come to our attention that services
for some blind and visually impaired students are not
appropriately addressing their unique educational and learning
needs, particularly their needs for instruction in literacy,
self-help skills, and orientation and mobility. We at OSERS
are strongly committed to ensuring that our educational system
takes the steps that are necessary to enable students who are
blind or visually impaired to become productive and
contributing citizens. Therefore, OSERS has determined that
there is a need for additional guidance on the FAPE
requirements of Part B as they relate to blind and visually
impaired students. This guidance will provide some background
information on blind and visually impaired students and
discussion of their unique needs, and will identify the steps
that educators can take in meeting their responsibilities
under Part B to blind and visually impaired students.
We hope that the attached guidance is helpful to you and
educators in your state as you implement educational programs
for blind and visually impaired students. If there are any
questions, or if further information is needed, please contact
the contact person listed above or Dr. JoLeta Rey- nolds in
the Office of Special Education Programs at (202) 205-5507.
CC: State Directors of Special Education
RSA Regional Commissioners
Regional Resource Centers
Federal Resource Center
Special Interest Groups
Parent Training Centers
Independent Living Centers
Protection and Advocacy Agencies
The population of students who receive services under
Part B because of blindness or visual impairment is extremely
diverse. These students display both a wide range of vision
difficulties and adaptations to vision loss. The diversity
that characterizes the student population is true of the
population of blind and visually impaired persons in general.
So far as degree of vision loss is concerned, the student
population includes persons who are totally blind or persons
with minimal light perception, as well as persons with high
levels of functional vision, though less than the norm. For
some students, visual impairment is their only disability;
while others have one or more additional disabilities that
will affect, to varying degrees, their learning and growth.
Identifying other characteristics of this diverse
population is far more complex. This is because adaptations to
vision loss vary greatly and are shaped by individual
differences in areas such as intellectual abilities and family
supports. Degree of vision loss, therefore, does not give a
full understanding of how that loss affects learning. Students
with similar degrees of vision loss may function very
differently. A significant visual deficit can pose formidable
obstacles for some students and far less formidable obstacles
for others. However, regardless of the degree of the student's
vision loss or the student's ability to adapt to that loss,
there is general agreement that blind and visually impaired
students must acquire the skills necessary to function in
settings in which the majority of people have vision
sufficient to enable them to read and write regular print as
well as to move about in their environment with ease.
To state the obvious, children begin at a very young age
to imitate the actions of others, particularly by imitating
what they see others doing. Typically, learning is based on
this principle. The challenge for educators of blind and
visually impaired students in schools is how to teach their
students to learn skills that sighted students typically
acquire through vision, including how to read, write, compose,
and obtain access to information contained in printed
materials. We recognize that blind and visually impaired
students have used a variety of methods to learn to read and
write. For example, for reading purposes, some students use
Braille exclusively; others use large print or regular print
with or without low vision aids. Still others use a
combination of methods, including Braille, large print, and
low vision aids while others have sufficient functional vision
to use regular print, although with considerable difficulty.
In order to receive an appropriate education under Part B,
unless a student who is blind or visually impaired has other
disabilities that would inhibit his or her ability to learn to
read, we believe that instruction in reading must be provided
for blind and visually impaired students in the medium that is
appropriate for their individual abilities and needs to enable
them to learn to read effectively.
One of the most serious concerns voiced by parents of
blind children and their advocates, and by adults who are
blind or visually impaired as well, is that the number of
students receiving instruction in Braille has decreased
significantly over the past several decades. As a result,
these individuals believe that Braille instruction is not
being provided to some students for whom it may be
appropriate. Braille has been a very effective reading and
writing medium for many blind and visually impaired persons.
In fact, data from a recent study demonstrate that blind and
visually impaired adults who know Braille are more likely to
be employed than those who do not, suggesting a strong
correlation between knowledge of Braille and a person's
ability to obtain future employment. The American Foundation
for the Blind's Careers and Technology Information Bank, which
lists 1,000 different jobs held by blind and visually impaired
people, indicates that 85 percent of those who use Braille as
their primary method of reading are employed.3 Undoubtedly,
there are numerous other benefits that individuals for whom
Braille instruction is appropriate would derive from knowledge
of Braille, particularly a heightened sense of self-esteem and
self-worth that a student gains from the ability to read
Another significant concern voiced by parents of blind
and visually impaired students and their advocates, as well as
by many blind and visually impaired adults, is that these
students are not receiving adequate instruction in orientation
and mobility to address their individual needs. In some
instances, it has been reported that these students do not
even receive adequate evaluations of their needs for such
instruction. The intent of Part B cannot be achieved fully if
a blind or visually impaired student who needs instruction in
orientation and mobility does not receive that instruction
before completing his or her education.
I. Application of the Free Appropriate Public Education
Requirements of Part B to Blind and Visually Impaired Students
Under Part B, each State and its public agencies must
ensure that all children with specified disabilities have
available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE),
and that the rights and protections of Part B are afforded to
those students and their parents. FAPE includes, among other
elements, special education and related services that are
provided at no cost to parents under public supervision and
direction, that meet State education standards and Part B
requirements, that include preschool, elementary, or secondary
school education in the State involved, and that are provided
in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP).4
Before a student with a disability can receive special
education and related services, a full and individual
evaluation of the student's educational needs must be
conducted in accordance with the requirements of 34 CFR
300.532.5 Section 300.532 requires, among other factors, that
the child be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team or group of
persons, including at least one teacher or other specialist
with knowledge in the area of suspected disability.6 Thus, for
blind or visually impaired students, an individual with
knowledge of blindness and visual impairment would be an
essential participant on this multidisciplinary team.
An assessment that meets the requirements of Part B must
assess the child in all areas related to the suspected
disability, including, if appropriate, "health, vision,
hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence,
academic performance, communicative status, and motor
abilities."7 Assessments for blind and visually impaired
students must evaluate the student in the areas listed above,
as determined appropriate by the multidisciplinary team.
For example, an assessment of academic performance would
include an assessment of the student's ability to master the
skills necessary for literacy, including reading, reading
comprehension, composition, and computing. If appropriate, an
assessment of vision would include the nature and extent of
the student's visual impairment and its effect on the
student's ability to learn to read, write, and the
instructional method or methods that would be appropriate to
enable the student to learn the above skills. For the teaching
of reading and composition, these methods could include
Braille, large print or regular print with or without low
vision optical devices, or a combination of Braille and print.
A range of devices that utilize computer-generated speech
could be helpful tools in the instruction of children who are
blind or visually impaired. Because of the importance for some
blind and visually impaired students of mastering the skills
necessary to acquire information, additional assessments may
be necessary to determine whether the student should receive
specific instruction in listening skills. Possible assessments
that could be considered for this purpose could include
assessments of hearing, general intelligence, or communicative
status. The student's need for instruction in orientation and
mobility and the appropriate method or methods for acquiring
this skill could also be assessed. As with other educational
decisions, the results of the student's assessments must be
considered as the student's IEP8 is developed, and the
participants on the student's IEP team determine the specially
designed instruction and related services to be provided to
Under Part B, the public agency responsible for the
student's education must initiate and conduct meetings to
develop or review each student's IEP periodically, and if
appropriate, revise its provisions. A meeting must be held for
this purpose at least once a year.9 Required participants at
all IEP meetings include the child's teacher; an agency
representative, who is qualified to provide or supervise the
provision of special education; the parents, subject to
certain limited exceptions; the child, if determined
appropriate; and other individuals at the parent's or agency's
discretion. If the IEP meeting occurs in connection with the
child's initial placement in special education, the school
district must ensure the participation of evaluation
personnel, unless the child's teacher or public agency
representative or some other person at the meeting is
knowledgeable about the evaluation procedures used with the
child and the results of those procedures.10
Each student's IEP must contain, among other components,
a statement of annual goals including short-term objectives,
the specific special education and related services to be
provided to the student and the extent that the student will
be able to participate in regular educational programs, and a
statement of needed transition services under certain
circumstances.11 To ensure that blind and visually impaired
students receive adequate instruction in the skills necessary
to become literate, IEP teams must ensure that the
instructional time that is allocated is appropriate for the
required instruction or service.12 For a student to become
literate in Braille, systematic and regular instruction from
knowledgeable and trained personnel is essential. Likewise,
for students with low vision, instruction in the utilization
of remaining vision and in the effective use of low vision
aids requires regular and intensive intervention from
appropriately trained personnel.
In all instances, IEP teams must consider how to address
the needs of blind and visually impaired students for the
skills necessary to achieve literacy. For students who are
blind or for students with a minimal amount of residual
vision, it is probable that Braille will be the primary
instructional method for teaching the student to learn to
read. Therefore, for blind students and for students with a
minimal amount of residual vision, Braille should be
considered as the primary reading method, unless the student
has a disability in addition to blindness that would make it
difficult for the student to use his or her hands or would
otherwise adversely affect the student's ability to learn to
read. In developing IEPs for other students with low vision,
IEP teams should not assume that instruction in Braille would
not be appropriate merely because the student has some useful
vision. While IEP teams are not required to consider the need
for Braille instruction for every student with a visual
impairment who is eligible for services under Part B, IEP
teams may not fail to consider Braille instruction for
students for whom it may be appropriate. This consideration
must occur despite factors such as shortages or unavailability
of trained personnel to provide Braille instruction, the
ability of audiotapes and computers to provide blind and
visually impaired persons with ready access to printed
textbooks and materials, or the amount of time needed to
provide a student with sufficient and regular instruction to
attain proficiency in Braille.
IEP teams also must select the method or methods for
teaching blind and visually impaired students how to write and
compose. Students whose appropriate reading medium is Braille
may benefit from using Braille for these purposes.
Alternatively, in addition to Braille, they may benefit from
using a personal computer with speech output for composition.
Therefore, IEP teams must make individual determinations about
the needs of blind and visually impaired students for
instruction in writing and composition, and must include
effective methods for teaching writing and composition in the
IEPs of those students for whom instruction in this area is
determined to be appropriate.
In addition to mastering the skills taught to all
students, blind and visually impaired students must receive
instruction in the skills necessary to acquire information,
particularly because Braille or large print documents
frequently cannot be made accessible to them in a timely
manner. The skills that could be taught to accomplish this
include recordings that utilize compressed speech, personal
computers with speech output, and optical scanners with speech
output. As determined appropriate, use of these devices and
methods would be considered on an individual basis. In
appropriate situations, one or more of these devices could be
used to supplement Braille instruction for students for whom
Braille is the primary reading medium, or to supplement print
or large print for students using print as their primary
reading medium. In rare instances, methods for acquiring
information could be used in place of Braille or print for
students who, by reason of other disabilities, cannot be
taught to read.
To ensure that IEPs for blind and visually impaired
students address their specific needs effectively, the
following unique needs should be considered as IEPs for these
students are developed:
* Skills necessary to attain literacy in reading and writing,
including appropriate instructional methods;
* Skills for acquiring information, including appropriate use
of technological devices and services;
* Orientation and Mobility Instruction;
* Social Interaction Skills;
* Transition Services Needs;
* Recreation; and
* Career Education.
This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Participants
on IEP teams could determine that it would be appropriate to
consider an individual student's need for other skills, in
addition to the skills listed above. Therefore, in making
decisions about the educational programs for blind and
visually impaired students, IEP teams must consider the full
range of skills necessary to enable these students to learn
II. Least Restrictive Environment and Placement Requirements
Part B requires States to have procedures for assuring
that, to the maximum extent appropriate, students with
disabilities are educated with students who are not disabled,
and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal
of students with disabilities from the regular educational
environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the
disability is such that education in regular classes with the
use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved
satisfactorily.13 This requirement is known as the least
restrictive environment (LRE) requirement.
Recognizing that the regular classroom may not be the LRE
placement for every disabled student, the Part B regulations
require public agencies to make available a continuum of
alternative placements, or a range of placement options, to
meet the needs of students with disabilities for special
education and related services. The options on this continuum,
which include regular classes, special classes, separate
schools, and instruction in hospitals and institutions, must
be made available to the extent necessary to implement the IEP
of each disabled student.14
Part B requires that each child's placement must be based
on his or her IEP.15 Thus, it is the special education and
related services set out in each student's IEP that constitute
the basis for the placement decision. That is why placement
determinations cannot be made before a student's IEP is
developed. Rather, it is the special education and related
services set out in the student's IEP that must constitute the
basis for the placement decision. After the IEP of a blind or
visually impaired student is developed, the placement
determination must be made consistent with the special
education and related services reflected in the student's IEP.
In addition, the potential harmful effect of the placement on
the visually impaired student or the quality of services he or
she needs must be considered in determining the LRE.16 The
overriding rule in placement is that each student's placement
must be determined on an individual basis.17 As in other
situations, placements of blind and visually impaired students
may not be based solely on factors such as category or
disability, severity of disability, configuration of delivery
system, availability of educational or related services,
availability of space, or administrative convenience.
In addition to the Part B requirements applicable to
placement in the LRE, Part B requires that each student's
placement decision be made by a "group of persons, including
persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of
evaluation data, and placement options."18 While Part B does
not explicitly require the participation of the child's parent
on this placement team, many states include parents in the
group of persons that makes placement decisions. It also is
important to emphasize that parents of blind and visually
impaired students, through their participation on the
student's IEP team, can play a critical role in ensuring that
the student's unique needs are appropriately addressed. Public
agencies and parent information centers should take steps to
ensure that parents are fully informed about the instructional
media that are available to address the unique needs arising
from the student's visual impairment.
In implementing Part B's LRE requirements, in some
instances, placement decisions are inappropriately made before
IEPs that address a child's unique needs are developed.
Determinations of appropriate special education and related
services for blind and visually impaired students must be made
through the IEP process, and must examine the development of
skills necessary to address the effects of blindness or low
vision on the student's ability to learn and to access the
curriculum. Since Part B requires that each child's placement
be based on his or her IEP, making placement decisions before
a student's IEP is developed is a practice that violates Part
B and could result in the denial of FAPE in the LRE.
Still in other instances, some students have been
inappropriately placed in the regular classroom although it
has been determined that their IEPs cannot be appropriately
implemented in the regular classroom even with the necessary
supplementary aids and supports. In these situations, the
nature of the student's disability and individual needs could
make it appropriate for the student to be placed in a setting
outside of the regular educational environment in order to
ensure that the student's IEP is satisfactorily implemented.
By contrast, there are other instances where some blind and
visually impaired students have been inappropriately placed in
settings other than the regular educational environment, even
though their IEPs could have been implemented satisfactorily
in the regular classroom with the provision of supplementary
aids and services. As is true for all educational decisions
under Part B, the above concerns about the misapplication of
the LRE requirements underscore the importance of making
individual placement determinations based on each student's
unique abilities and needs.
In making placement determinations, it is essential that
placement teams consider the full range of placement options
for blind and visually impaired students. The following are
some examples of placement options that could be considered:
* placement in a regular classroom with needed support
services provided in that classroom by an itinerant teacher or
by a special teacher assigned to that school;
* placement in the regular classroom with services outside the
classroom by an itinerant teacher or by a special teacher
assigned to that school;
* placement in a self-contained classroom in a regular school;
* placement in a special school with residential option.
III. Procedural Safeguards
Part B also requires that public agencies afford parents
a range of procedural safeguards. These include giving parents
written notice a reasonable time before a public agency
proposes to initiate, or change, the identification,
evaluation, educational placement of the child, or the
provision of a free appropriate public education to the child.
This notice to parents must include a description of the
action proposed, or refused, by the agency; an explanation of
why the agency proposes, or refuses, to take the action; and
a description of any options the agency considered and the
reasons why those options were rejected.19 The requirement to
provide a description of any option considered includes a
description of the types of placements that were actually
considered, e.g., regular class placement with needed support
services, regular classroom with pull-out services; and the
reasons why these placement options were rejected. Providing
this kind of information to parents will enable them to play
a more knowledgeable and informed role in the education of
their children. Part B affords parents and public educational
agencies the right to initiate an impartial due process
hearing on any matter regarding the identification,
evaluation, or educational placement of the child, or the
provision of a free appropriate public education to the
Disagreements between parents and public agencies over
issues such as the extent that Braille instruction should be
included in a student's IEP and the educational setting in
which the child's IEP should be implemented are examples of
some of the matters that can be the subject of a Part B due
process hearing. Since many State procedures call for
mediation before resorting to formal due process procedures,
issues that can be the subject of a Part B due process hearing
also can be addressed through mediation if the State has such
a process, or through other alternative dispute resolution
mechanisms. We strongly encourage alternative dispute
resolution without a need to resort to due process and
informing parents about such procedures. Public agencies also
need to inform parents of blind and visually impaired students
of their right to initiate a Part B due process hearing when
agreement cannot be reached on important educational
1See 57 Fed. Reg. 49274 (Oct. 30, 1992)
2 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by
recipients of Federal financial assistance. The Department's
regulations implementing Section 504, at 34 CFR Part 104,
require recipients that operate public elementary and
secondary education programs to provide appropriate
educational services to disabled students. See 34 CFR
104.33■104.36. Section 504 is enforced by the Department's
Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Americans With Disabilities
Act of 1990 (ADA), Title II, prohibits discrimination on the
basis of disability by State and local governments, whether or
not they receive Federal funds; OCR enforces Title II of the
ADA as it relates to public elementary and secondary
educational institutions and public libraries, and interprets
the requirements of Title II of the ADA as consistent with
those of Section 504. OCR officials have reviewed this
guidance and find it to be consistent with recipients'
obligations to provide FAPE to blind and visually impaired
students under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA.
3Study of Issues and Strategies Toward Improving Employment of
Blind and Visually Impaired Persons in Illinois, American
Foundation for the Blind, (March 1991).
<T>420 U. S. C. 1412 (2) ; 34 CFR 300. 121; 20 U.S.C. 1401
(a) (18) and 34 CFR 300.8.
534 CFR 300.531.
6See 34 CFR 300.532(e)
7See 34 CFR 300.532(f).
<T>8The IEP is the written document that contains the statement
for a disabled student of the program of specialized
instruction and related services to be provided to a student.
34 CFR 300.340■300.350.
920 U.S.C. 1414(a)(5) and 34 CFR 300.343(d).
1034 CFR 300.344.
1134 CFR 300.346.
12Appendix C to 34 CFR Part 300 (question 51).
1320 U.S.C. 1412(5)(B); 34 CFR 300.550(b).
14See 34 CFR 300.551 and 300.552(b).
15See 34 CFR 300. 552 (a) (2). That regulation requires that
each child's placement is determined at least annually, is
based on his or her IEP, and is in the school or facility as
close as possible to the child' s home. 34 CFR 300.552 (a)
(1) - (3). Further, unless a disabled student's IEP requires
another arrangement, the student must be educated in the
school or facility that he or she would attend if not
disabled. 34 CFR 300.552(c).
1634 CFR 300.552(d).
1734 CFR 300.552 and Note 1.
1834 CFR 300.533 (a) (3) .
19See 34 CFR 300.5O4(a) and 300.505(a)(2)-(4).
20See 20 U.S.C. 1415;(b)(1)(E) and 34 CFR 300.506(a).