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By James Gashel
Editor's Note: Mr. James Gashel is the Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind.
Braille literacy for blind youngsters was a theme much repeated at the 1988 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The convention was held in Chicago during the first week of July, 1988, and brought over three thousand active leaders among the blind together. Resolution 88-07 concerning Braille literacy was adopted unanimously by the convention on July 8.
Educators, employers, and lawmakers are voicing concerns over growing literacy problems among the U.S. population in general. Several years ago the United States Department of Education launched a special literacy initiative with only passing reference to the blind and the need for Braille. More recently, the United States Department of Labor has also begun to emphasize the importance of work place literacy. RESOLUTION 88-07 identifies two bills which were under consideration by the 100th Congress, both calling for increased literacy initiatives. Neither bill mentions the blind or anything about the need for Braille literacy skills.
The unanimous adoption of this resolution by the Federation's National Convention is another expression of this organization's strong commitment to Braille literacy for the blind. Whenever the resources of our country are spent to improve literacy skills among our general population, blind persons should receive their fair share of the training. Braille must not be regarded as a second-class method of reading and writing. Resolution 88-07 reminds all of us to redouble our efforts in urging the federal government and the states to promote laws and programs to bring greater literacy skills to the blind of all ages. The resolution follows:
WHEREAS, Congress is considering legislation (H.R. 3019 and S. 1016) to make grants for the establishment of special initiatives to increase the level of literacy in our country; and
WHEREAS, the level of Braille literacy skills among the blind remains low because many educators of the blind themselves do not know Braille sufficiently to teach it; and
WHEREAS, advancements in technology have removed the excuse that Braille materials are too expensive and cannot be readily available, yet the denial of Braille instruction to the blind still persists to a crisis proportion: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this 8th day of July, 1988, in the City of Chicago, Illinois, that this Federation demand that the resources of our country be used to promote Braille literacy for the blind just as they are used to promote literacy in using print for the sighted; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this policy be implemented by seeking appropriate changes in federal and state legislation which will require all elmentary and secondary school programs to offer Braille instruction to any student who is blind.
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