Future Reflections Summer 1996, Vol. 15 No. 3
By Betty Walker
Reprinted from the Feburary, 1996, issue of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
From the Braille Monitor Editor: Betty and Dave Walker are active members of the Jefferson City chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. At the beginning of the 1994-95 academic year Betty was hired to work with an elementary school student who was entering the public school system for the first time. Educators often refuse to consider hiring blind people to assist with such transitions, and of course to do the necessary work effectively the blind teachers must have appropriate skills and good sense, but done right the experience can be positive for everyone. Here is Betty's brief report of what happened in Jefferson City:
In 1988, when David was ready to enter school, the Jefferson City Public School System was not prepared to work with blind children, so David was sent to the school for thez blind in St. Louis. In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri led a successful campaign to pass ourBraille Bill, which mandates that blind children be given the opportunity to learn Braille in public schools. With this new law in place, David was enrolled in the city school system, and I was hired to facilitate meeting his Braille needs and to advise staff in other areas about blindness.
When I heard that David was returning to Jefferson City to enter school and that there was a need for a Brailleteacher to work with him, I applied for the job and was hired. I was the first blind teacher hired by the Jefferson City Public Schools, and David is the first totally blind child to be enrolled in this school system. Prior to applying for this job, I passed the National Library Service Literary Braille Competency Test; I was the first person in Missouri to do so. I felt that, with my background in education, Braille skills, and Federation philosophy, I would be a positive role model for David and would have the skills and knowledge to help him develop his Braille skills and alternative techniques in order to reach his highest educational potential.
David is very bright, but he needs to improve his Braille skills. This is one of my primary tasks. In addition toteaching him new uses of contractions, I teach him to use Braille in subjects other than reading and writing. I advise his teachers in how to use Braille and tactile markings in classes like physical education, art, and music. I also transcribe examinations, work sheets, and other classroom handouts and assist his sighted aide in preparing other materials such as graphs, charts, games, etc.
I continually remind teachers and his sighted aide that David is a normal child and that special efforts to protecthim are not in his best interests. I remind them that he needs to face many of the same things sighted children do if he is to develop and survive in a sighted society.
I have been introducing David to Braille maps borrowed from my husband so that he can learn how to use them. Irecently bought him a book that led him on an adventure through the Great Lakes to the ocean. When I brought in maps of the area, David was ecstatic. It gives me a great feeling to know that I am developing David's skills in Braille and having a positive influence in his education and life.