Future Reflections          Special Issue: Sports, Fitness, and Blindness

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California Considers Legislation to Increase Blind Students’ Access to Physical Education

Often blind children are excluded from the physical education activities of their peers, or are denied physical activity coursework outright. It is not as if the teachers are malevolent sources of authority, bent on hurting children’s self-esteem and physical well-being. Instead, it is usually from a lack of training, knowledge, and resource availability.

In 2006, the National Federation of the Blind of California (NFB/CA) recognized a need for greater access to physical education for blind children. At their convention last year, they passed a resolution demanding such access in the form of adequately trained teachers. In order to make this result a reality, Chad Allen, the legislative representative for the NFB/CA, contacted Senator Jeff Denham of California’s 12th District and found a proud supporter of such legislation.

As a result, on February 1, 2007, Senator Denham introduced Senate Bill 168. If passed, the bill would create an advisory task force to develop guidelines for physical education teachers with blind students. This task force would be comprised of experts in the field of both blindness and physical education, and would, according to Mr. Allen, “develop a guide of best practices which will allow for teachers of physical education to become more aware of some methods already used to ensure blind children equal access to the curriculum of their physical education class.” The task force would be required to report to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Governor, and the Legislature by June 30, 2009.

“Childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions in our county. This bill gives local educators the tools they need to effectively teach physical education to blind and visually impaired students,” said Senator Denham.

It should be stressed that if the legislation is enacted, these guidelines would not be standards but a resource to be used by the teachers to best involve their blind students in physical education. “As always,” Mr. Allen explains, “it will still be the responsibility of the student, parent and teacher relationship to ensure that the child is actively participating in their curriculum effectively.”

“If SB 168 passes and a resource guide is developed here in California, parents, teachers, administrators, and counselors will have access to written examples of some of the most successful and effective practices in physical education with respect to blind children. This resource guide will enable students to participate effectively in the classroom, further empowering them to be successful in their educational experiences.”

As we go to press SB 168 has been unanimously passed in the Senate and has been sent to the Assembly where it is currently in committee. While the guide is for California public instructors, Mr. Allen expects it to be used as a model for other states as well.

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