Future Reflections

Vol. 21, No. 2                                       Summer/Fall 2002

Barbara Cheadle, Editor

ISSN  0883-3419

This issue is dedicated to Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind person to climb the tallest mountain peaks on all seven continents. Erik is pictured below at the National Center for the Blind with his guide dog and blind children from the Maryland KIDS Camp program. For more information about Erik and his adventures, see Erik’s book Touch the Top of the World, and go to the NFB Web page <www.nfb.org/erik.htm>.

[PHOTO]

“Erik exemplifies the spirit and mission of the National Federation of the Blind. We believe all blind people can climb their own
individual mountains, provided that they receive proper training
and opportunities, and, most importantly, have faith in themselves.”
Dr. Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind

For more information about blindness and children contact the

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314 ext. 360
www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm  *  nfb@nfb.org  *  BCheadle@nfb.org

Contents

Vol. 21, No. 2               Future Reflections            Summer/Fall 2002

Mountains to Climb: Blind Dillon Teen Conquers Baldy Mountain

by Maryanne Davis Silve and Marty Greiser

Kyra’s First Grade Year

by Barbara Matthews

Braille Is Beautiful

Textbooks on Time: Update on the Instructional
Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA)

by James McCarthy and Barbara Cheadle

Why We Need the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA)

Lack of Brailled Textbooks Leaves Blind Students in Bind

by Sandy Coleman

National Resource Center for Blind Musicians

Emilie’s School Spirit Shows

by Anna Nguyen

Technology-Acquisition Strategies for Young Blind Students3

by Curtis Chong

Blind Students Can Succeed in Chemistry Classes

by Cary Supalo

Parents, School District Struggle with Teacher Shortage
Problem in Maryland

Contest Winners: 2001-2002 Braille Readers Are Leaders

Honor Roll of Schools for the Blind:
2001-2002 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

by Nadine Jacobson

Practice Makes Perfect

by Sally Miller

Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

by Pauletta Feldman

The Braille Beginner—A Constructive Learner

by Kerstin Fellenius, Ph.D.

A Partially Sighted Child in the Classroom: Tips for Teachers

by Barbara Cheadle

What I Prefer

by Sarah Weinstein

Special Opportunity for Sighted Kids

Blind Girl’s Teacher Wins Inclusion Award

by Cindy Kranz

The Rewards and Continuing Challenges of Teaching Blind
and Visually Impaired Students

 by Tami Dodd Jones

Frustrated Student at an IEP (a poem)

by Erin Byrne

What Is the Family & Advocates Partnership in Education? (FAPE)

IEP Services Checklist for Parents of Blind Children

Rhode Island Department of Education: Cutting or Gutting
Services to Blind Children?

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Future Reflections Subscription

Slate Pals Application

Braille Monitor Sample Issue Request

Family Needed for a Two-Year-Old Girl from Asia

2002-2003 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Entry Form  

In This Issue….

Barbara Cheadle, Editor

[PHOTO]

The 2002-2003 school year presents parents, students, and teachers with challenging, sometimes even formidable, mountains to climb. Some of these peaks are of the difficult-but-rewarding type of enterprise Cody and Marty sought out and mastered in “Mountains to Climb” (page 2). Others, such as the monumental budget cuts to the Rhode Island programs for blind children (p. 68), are man-made barriers thrown-up by public officials who have much to learn about the capacities of the blind.

Some of the mountains are individual challenges, other collective. In our collective campaign to conquer the Textbooks on Time peak, we’ve made it to base camp with the introduction of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (see page 13). The question that remains is, will the political climate be favorable enough for us to summit with the legislation before Congress adjourns in October, or will the chill generated by the Department of Education set the bill back another year?

Even as we are within sight of vanquishing the “Textbooks on Time” mountain, another one is looming ever larger and ominous on the horizon—the national Braille and O&M teacher shortage. The article on page 30 examines the problem from the perspective of one family and one school district in Maryland.

Despite the troublesome shortage, we are reminded on page 54 and page 56 of the dedicated teachers in special and regular education who hang in there and work hard to equip our children with the tools they need to surmount life’s challenges.

Barbara Matthews, who a year ago wrote about her daughter’s Kindergarten year, continues the saga with “Kyra’s First Grade Year ” (page 5). Despite some steep and rocky inclines, Kyra and her family are subduing their mountains and leaving a well-marked trail for others to follow. On the other end of the educational spectrum, Doctoral student, Cary Supalo, provides some excellent suggestions (page 26) for blind students who are wondering if they can successfully maneuver through a chemistry class.

Emilie Schultz (page 20) and Erin Byrne (page 58) demonstrate that with spirit and the right tools, blind students with additional disabilities can also triumph over obstacles. Sarah Weinstein, a middle school student, provides guidelines for sighted peers and teachers making the trek with her in her article, “What I Prefer” on page 52.

Other articles tackle a whole mountain range of topics: technology (page 23), low vision children in the classroom (page 48), early childhood (page  41), IEP’s (page 61), Braille literacy for beginning readers (page 43), and Braille for sighted children (page 10).

Finally, we congratulate and celebrate with the students and the schools for the blind that successfully achieved literacy summits in the past year’s 2001-2002 Braille Reader’s Are Leader’s contest (page 36 and 37).

It seems to me that the common thread throughout all these articles is one of hope. Whatever obstacles we face, we don’t have to face them alone. When we willingly share the hardships, we also share in the accomplishments and triumph. And individual achievements, properly shared and communicated, are an inspiration and guide to those that follow.

Mountains to Climb : Blind Dillon Teen Conquers Baldy Mountain

by Maryanne Davis Silve and Marty Greiser

Reprinted from the Montana Standard, Tuesday, January 8, 2002.

Editor’s Note: Cody was just a baby when his father, Marty Greiser, joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Today, as a Vice-President in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, Marty is respected by parents nationwide for his consistent, and thoughtful application of a positive philosophy about blindness in his relationship with his son. Here is Marty’s account of a climb he and his son, Cody, recently completed together:

[PHOTO]

Cody Greiser on top of Baldy Mountain

Some of us climb hills and think they are mountains. Others climb mountains and consider them molehills. Fifteen-year-old Cody Greiser is a mountain climber, but says, “What is so special about me climbing a mountain?” Cody is blind.

“Even before Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to climb to the top of Mount Everest, was in the news, my then 12-year-old son, Cody, was talking about climbing mountains,” remembers Cody’s father, Marty Greiser. “He was asking if there were mountains nearby, what were their names, and which ones could be climbed and when could we do it? In western Montana where we live, a mountain is always nearby and they can all be climbed, weather permitting.”

So why was Marty reluctant to take his son mountain climbing? After all, he has been to the top of many a mountain in the area over the years and thoroughly enjoys hiking and climbing in the mountains.

“I know what it takes to prepare and I am aware of the risks and hazards involved, some of which can be very serious, Marty said. “As I considered taking Cody up a mountain, worrisome thoughts pounded my mind. What if something happened? What would his grandparents think, or his mother? What would the neighbors say? I had visions of it.

“That careless, reckless father, what was he thinking? Doesn’t he know better than to take a blind kid mountain climbing? That’s just asking for trouble.”

But Cody had been raised with a “can do” philosophy, Marty said. “Plus, I had always preached that the broad umbrella of overprotectivism has bad consequences. I knew this was something Cody really wanted to do, not because he was blind and not to prove anything to anybody. He just wanted to climb a mountain, just like any other teenage boy might want to do.”

Marty remembers the interest and excitement that came after hearing about Weihenmayer’s adventure to the summit of Mount Everest. “When he heard Weihenmayer had made it to the top and back, he was excited,” said Greiser. “When he learned that Weihenmayer was going to talk about his climb up Mount Everest at the National Federation of the Blind Convention in Philadelphia, there was no way Cody was going to miss that. At the convention, an hour before Weihenmayer spoke, Cody was right up front with his own tape recorder.”

Cody’s goal to climb a mountain was fueled with another burst of enthusiasm after listening to Weihenmayer’s talk. Weihenmayer’s determination to achieve his dreams and his refusal to let blindness stand in his way provided a powerful message that blind people can compete and can be adventurers in everything they undertake, Marty said. After Weihenmayer’s talk, Cody, now 14, turned to me and said, ‘OK, Dad, when can we climb Baldy Mountain?’” Greiser said.

Greiser knew that Baldy’s 10,568-foot elevation was no Mount Everest. But still, he considered it a real wild mountain with no gentle, groomed trail leading to the top. We knew when anyone climbed it, they were on their own and responsible for their own safety. The moment of decision had come. Greiser swallowed hard and answered his son, “As soon as we get home, and the weather looks good, we’ll climb Baldy.”

It was August 10, 2001. Temperature was in the mid-30’s. “We started out at daylight,” Cody said, still feeling the excitement of the that day, “It was chilly and I remember when we got to the top of the mountain, it had that feeling of winter even though the temperature had warmed up quite a bit.”

Greiser described the terrain. “We had to walk sharply up through standing timber and over and around downfall to reach the upper tree line,” said Greiser.” Then it was rock and wide-open spaces. We had to negotiate boulder fields, rock slide rubble and slope so steep in places you could reach out in front of yourself and touch it.

“We made the top in just over three hours. As we went, Cody usually grasped my right arm, just above the elbow with his left hand. He had his cane in his right hand. On a few occasions of rock hopping, we clasped hands for safety. While on top we ate lunch, enjoyed the mountain, and took pictures. I then began to notice clouds gathering on the horizon and above other nearby peaks. It was time to start down. I knew that a bare, open mountainside was no place to be caught by lightning, hail, or rain.”

The pair made much better time going down, Greiser remembered. “Cody’s ability to walk on broken ground just kept getting better, and I focused more on our route and speed. If I had known we were going to get down so quickly, we would have spent more time on top.”

The adventure ended safely as Cody and Marty reached their truck with a tired but triumphant feeling. The sun was still shining and the temperature had climbed into the 70s. No storm ever materialized.

Recalling the trip made Greiser reflective. Their trip had been a success and they were safe. “But what if we, or Erik Weihenmayer, had not been successful or safe? What then? Would Erik’s effort be seen as folly? Would I be seen as a reckless father? Would Cody and other blind kids be seen as deserving more protection? Could we not, in fact, be perpetuating the very negative stereotypes we are trying to eliminate? To answer my own questions: perhaps, but most likely not. I have to think that allowing blindness to prevent our trying something new has far more negative connotations than the consequences of trying and failing at any particular task.”

Cody echoed Marty’s thoughts. “If we hadn’t made it, we’d just have tried again, until we did,” he smiled.

“Cody never had any doubt that he could make the climb,” Greiser said, “I was the reluctant one. I just did not believe or understand how a blind person could walk on such heaved and broken rock as exists on the top of mountains. I still don’t know how Cody managed the terrain. But I nearly let blindness stop us from having a good time. After all, we didn’t climb it to prove blind people can climb mountains. Weihenmayer did that, and did it royally. Cody and I climbed Baldy Mountain just for the fun of it.

“My desire is to encourage other parents of blind children to think out of the box,” he said.

Cody says, “We plan to do it again. Maybe not Baldy, but Dad and I have other mountains to climb.”

 

KYRA’S FIRST GRADE YEAR

by Barbara Matthews

[PHOTO]

Kyra makes a metal mask at an art activity sponsored by the NOPBC at the 2002
NFB Convention.

Editor’s Note: Barbara Matthews is a newly elected member of the board of directors of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. She and her family live in southern California. The article to which she refers below, “Kyra’s Kindergarten Year,” was published in the volume 19, number 4, 2001, issue of
Future Reflections
.

Last year, I wrote about Kyra’s experience as a fully mainstreamed kindergartner and only blind child in our neighborhood public school. I left off wondering if we were doing the right thing in our planning for first grade in two ways — first, by changing teachers, when most kids stay with the same teacher for kindergarten and first grade; and second, by keeping the same one-on-one aide. The answer to the first question is a resounding yes; the second, a qualified no.

But before I describe the first grade year, it’s important to relate what we did for a summer program. I think most parents of blind children would agree that it’s ideal to have a balance between mainstreaming and special programs for blind children. The tough part is finding the right balance, which varies from child to child, and circumstance to circumstance. In our case, we decided to work towards that balance by what we termed “blindness immersion” for the summer.

First, Kyra attended a “class” (two students) taught by the Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) specialist at the special education summer school. During this time, her reading skills really took off, so that by the beginning of first grade, she was reading at a second grade level. In addition, her dad took her to the National Federation of the Blind convention in Atlanta, which she loved. She also went to Camp Bloomfield, for Family Camp and Buddy Camp. This was a bit of a disappointment. We felt that camp should be a place for making friends. Unfortunately, the counselors were not trained or encouraged to facilitate friendships. I think the program reflected the kind of low expectations for our children that we find all too often.

When first grade started, we were pretty sure we had done the right thing by having Kyra change teachers. The new teacher, Ms. Gillam, was very enthusiastic about having Kyra in her class. She provided materials to the TVI specialist for Brailling at the beginning of the summer! She came to our house for dinner, and it was clear Kyra would be comfortable with her. But things never go as planned. We learned during the summer that Ms. Gillam was pregnant, due in December. We decided to stick with her. She planned to be back in February.

This really seemed like the right decision when we visited the classroom the day before school started. As I went around making Braille labels everywhere a print label appeared (“Reading Center,” “Art Center,” etc.), I discovered that Ms. Gillam was one of those people who naturally narrates what she is doing—whether anyone is listening or not. It’s perfect for a blind child.

She also welcomed my suggestions about setting up the classroom for Kyra, including the separate desk for the aide away from Kyra and putting a friend of Kyra’s next to her. The friend, Kourtney, is one of those great kids who is completely unconcerned with Kyra’s blindness. They had become friends in after-school care. Knowing they would be in the same class (I got the class list from the principal well in advance), I made sure they had a couple of play-dates over the summer.

I’ll never forget the day school started. Kyra walked into her classroom, and someone said, “Hey, look, Kyra’s in our class!” Several kids yelled, “Kyra!” The smile on her face was a sight to behold.

Every day, the teacher put a “morning message” on the board. And every day, there it was in Braille on her desk, so that she could read along. Then they had calendar time. She used an American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults calendar. The discussion of days of the week wasn’t a challenge for her, but the time was well spent learning to read a Braille calendar.

Ms. Gillam soon reported to me that the other kids recognized Kyra as the smartest kid in the class. One day a child said that there must be a connection between Ms. Gillam’s brain and Kyra’s brain because Kyra always knew the answer. Some kids became convinced that Braille was easier to read than print because of Kyra’s reading skill. What this meant to me was that Kyra was comfortable and confident enough to actively participate, and that she continues to be “changing what it means to be blind” in the minds of other people. Imagine how different these children’s perception of blindness and blind people will be as they grow up free from the misconceptions many of us had. My older daughter recently commented on one of Kyra’s achievements, “Well, that’s because blind people are smarter than other people.” I had to correct her, but I had to admit to being a bit pleased that Kyra is creating that impression.

We were very lucky to have a TVI specialist who pushed Kyra to her limits. When Kyra learned ten new contractions, Sherri gave her ten more. When it was clear that Kyra was beyond the spelling and math in the class, Sherri added extra hard spelling words and added an extra digit to the math problems.

But of course there were challenges. One was Kyra’s aide. We discovered that she had Kyra sitting with her for lunch. We insisted on putting a stop to that, but it was fighting a losing battle. I don’t think she had any idea how to help Kyra join a group of friends, or how to ask someone to join her.

Then there was the “Brailler as a safety hazard” story. One day Kyra came home with her homework, and I noticed that she had managed to circle some answers. I asked her if she had worked with Sherri on it; she said no, she did it in after-school care, but she couldn’t do more because she didn’t have a Brailler there. I immediately went to work to get her a Brailler in the day care room. The principal and the TVI specialist tried to help. Then I got a response from the day care teacher—She wouldn’t allow a Brailler because of “safety issues.” This was actually written down! I happened to be attending a reception for school board members that afternoon and mentioned the problem. By the time I called the person in charge of the after school program the next day, she already knew why I was calling. The problem was semi-solved by having the aide carry the classroom Brailler back and forth every day. They never did get one for the day care room. Not surprisingly, we took both our daughters out of the program by February.

Technology is a perpetual struggle. The school finally put a PC with JAWS in the classroom, but without a cable to plug it in! My husband finally went out and bought one and plugged it in himself. It took weeks for the Braille embosser to be moved from the high school, where it wasn’t being used, to Kyra’s classroom. Once it was moved, again, there was no cable, as well as no paper. I located a local community organization that was willing to make a grant to the school district to purchase a PIAF tactile imaging device. I prepared all the paperwork, but the school district never submitted the grant application. As for the Braille ’n Speak, we purchased it ourselves. Then it took five months to schedule the training called for in the IEP for the TVI specialist and for us as parents.

When Ms. Gillam’s maternity leave started, Kyra had a strong foundation of confidence. Unfortunately, Ms. Gillam had complications with childbirth and, as a result, didn’t return until May. That meant the class had two different long-term substitutes. We spent time “training” both of them regarding Kyra and our approach to blindness. With the help and support of the principal, both substitutes worked out fine. After talking to other parents, I think Kyra may have suffered less than the other children because she had the TVI specialist continuing to push Kyra to her potential.

Kyra’s friendships changed during the course of the year. At first, she continued to join her best friend from last year for lunch and recess. But the friend was in second grade, and a different class. Kyra became better friends with the other girls in her own class, particularly the other “smart” girl, named Leticia (called “LA”). We had LA over to our house several times. Eventually, her mother got over her trepidation and invited Kyra over. They even went to the beach! Kyra became much more aware of times when friends would come over and be more interested in playing with her older sister, Kiko, and she didn’t like it. This wasn’t all bad, because it encouraged her to try to be more social. She still had a tendency to start playing by herself even with a friend there. It remains a challenge to facilitate activities that she can do with other kids—meaning that they don’t involve a lot of running around.

Kyra had her first sleepover. The situation was ideal. She went with her sister to the nearby home of a girl who has been best friends with Kiko since kindergarten—who I call my third daughter because she has spent so much time with us. It seemed very natural, and she had so much fun that she didn’t want to come home.

I started a Brownie troop with another mom. It became very popular with the girls at school, including those with the more advanced social skills and involved parents. Like most girls that age, Kyra loved the rituals and the sense of belonging. I loved the opportunity for her to see the social behavior of the other girls and for the other girls and parents to see her participating as a regular kid.

In May, it was IEP time again. The meeting went relatively well. Kyra attended most of it, and provided helpful input on issues such as the phase-out of the aide. We asked for and got the TVI specialist for an hour every day (including prep time). We  asked for and got a commitment for the district to provide a BrailleNote (although we haven’t seen it yet). With the support of the principal, we got a commitment for a different aide. We also reduced the aide’s hours from the full school day to three hours.

On the down side, we learned that the TVI specialist wouldn’t be available for summer school. The district staff suggested that Kyra attend (and we pay for) the regular education summer school sponsored by the PTA. We’d inquired about that program last year, and were less than impressed, so we insisted on our right to extended school year services. We felt the skills she needed work on could be effectively taught by the O&M instructor. The district knew better than to refuse to offer a program, but it wasn’t until two days before summer school started that we actually got confirmation that there would be a program for Kyra.

There was no obvious choice for a second grade teacher, so we agreed to the principal’s recommendation. It’s a job sharing arrangement between two teachers. According to the principal, this requires advance planning and organization, which is critical to getting materials prepared for Kyra. We’ll see.

Then, on June 3, we got the real blow. At a meeting for parents of children in special education, the Assistant Superintendent accidentally told me that our TVI specialist wouldn’t be coming back. I say accidentally, because he assumed I knew, but I had not been told by the teacher or otherwise. I left the meeting in tears. He followed me out and promised to use all his contacts to find a replacement.

Summer school was a far cry from the prior summer. According to the IEP, the areas Kyra was supposed to work on were orientation and mobility, computer skills, and daily living skills. They didn’t even get the computer moved into the classroom for a week or two (of the five-week program), and then the teacher couldn’t figure out how to use it. They ended up cooking. Kyra had fun, but making “ants on a log with roaches” wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I have learned how much we depend on the TVI specialist to be the most effective
advocate for the student.

Nonetheless, as I sit here today, three days before school starts, we don’t have a TVI specialist. Needless to say, it’s agonizing. Last week, I asked for the district’s plan to address Kyra’s needs in the absence of a TVI specialist. I got back a response saying, basically, “We don’t have one; can you provide leads on a TVI specialist?” So I prepared a six-part plan and sent it to the Assistant Superintendent. He promised a response by the end of the following day. That was six days ago; I still haven’t received anything. I really don’t want to even suggest a temporary transfer to the school for the blind in neighboring Los Angeles. I’m afraid it will take the pressure off, they’ll give up and they won’t even look for a TVI specialist. And I don’t want to take Kyra away from the school community that she has become such a part of.

To make matters worse, they haven’t even hired a new one-on-one aide. That isn’t attributable to a lack of candidates. It’s simply bureaucratic ineptitude. So she’ll start school with an unprepared, untrained substitute.

Last year, I concluded with six suggestions for anyone considering the educational placement decision. Now, with the ups and downs of two years, I continue to believe in them, so I’ll briefly repeat them:

1. Look for enthusiasm about your child in teachers, administrators, and others.

2. In a teacher, look for the qualities of organization and advance planning.

3. Take it upon yourself to provide training, for everyone you can.

4. Use e-mail to communicate with the numerous people who are involved in your child’s educational program.

5. Socialize with your child in the school community.

6. Trust your instincts.

I will continue the saga in “Kyra’s Second Grade Year.” I hope other parents can relate our experiences to their own circumstances and perhaps get new ideas that will work for their children, or at least be reminded that we’re not alone with these challenges.

Slate Pals slate pals

A pen pal program for blind Braille reading students who
want to write and receive Braille letters from other students.

Mail to: SLATE PALS, 5817 North Nina, Chicago, Illinois 60631 or <dkent@ripco.com>

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Name__________________________________ Age_____ Birth Date______ Grade______

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Sponsored by the
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

Braille Is Beautiful

Editor’s Note: The following little review was published in the April 2002 issue of NEA Today, The Magazine of the National Education Association. It is reprinted with permission.

Looking for ways to help your students understand the perspectives of those with disabilities? Braille Is Beautiful, a new program from the National Federation of the Blind, could be just the ticket.

Braille Is Beautiful is a flexible, hands-on program that comes complete with a Braille stylus and slate for kids to learn with. It aims to help sighted students in grades four through six understand not only Braille but also the many capabilities and achievements of blind people.

Marc Maurer, the Federation’s president and himself blind, created the program to make blindness “less weird” to kids.

“I’ve used few materials that generate as much excitement,” says Claudia Bosworth, who last year introduced Braille Is Beautiful to her thirty-two fifth graders at Fort Smallwood Elementary in Pasadena, Maryland. “My students all wanted their own slate and stylus. Several of the kids contacted the National Federation of the Blind on their own.”

Bosworth especially appreciated the program’s classroom video, Jake and the Secret Code. In the video ten-year-old Jake becomes separated from his mother while visiting the National Federation of the Blind. He wanders into the office of Mr. Chong, who puzzles him by doing lots of things Jake didn’t think blind people could do.

Mr. Chong gives Jake a crash course in the “secret code” of Braille. He also clues Jake in on how to help his mother become more comfortable around blind people.

“Nothing is more fun than a secret code,” says Bosworth. She adds, “After using Braille Is Beautiful, I saw my students become more understanding of children in other areas as well, whether it was a disability or just a kid who wasn’t as quick at a given subject.”

Braille Is Beautiful includes five instructional units with a variety of learning formats including group discussions, interactive games, and applied projects. Parts of the program can be used together or alone.

“To me blindness is not unusual,” Maurer says. “It isn’t that I forget it, but it’s not a thing I think about much. But to many people it’s weird.”

“Children can be cruel. If there is a noticeable difference in another child, it will be used against that kid—unless the difference has charm,” says Maurer. “With Braille Is Beautiful, we’re trying to take an isolating difference and make it into a charming difference.”

For information, visit <www.nfb.org> or call (410) 659-9314.

LOWER PRICES! NEW PACKAGE OPTIONS!

Braille Is Beautiful Curriculum Program

Braille Is Beautiful is a flexible, hands-on program [that] . . . aims to help sighted students in grades four through six understand not only Braille, but also the many capabilites and achievements of blind people.”

    NEA Today, April 2002

“After using Braille Is Beautiful, I saw my students become more understanding of children in other areas as well, whether it was a disability or just a kid who wasn’t as quick at a given subject.”           

            — Fifth Grade Teacher,

                 NEA Today, April 2002

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) deeply believes in the  benefits of the Braille Is Beautiful Program for children.  It is a disability awareness program that really does change attitudes.  The NOPBC is, therefore, pleased to join with the National Federation of the Blind in announcing, for a limited time, the following new package options and fantastic low prices for the Braille Is Beautiful Program:

NEW OPTION!

Teacher's Guide Economy Kit . . . $25

This economical kit includes the following items:

r 100 page Teacher's Guide complete with background information, lesson descriptions, pullout exercises, and master copies of the student instruction booklet and student workbook.


r
100-count package of Braille Alphabet Cards


r
3 paperback books containing stories by blind people about Braille and about their lives: Braille Under My Fingers, What Color Is The Sun and I Can Feel Blue on Monday


r
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            r 30 page video discussion guide (includes instructions for Braille-writing demos)

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            r Braille Alphabet Card

    Video Set Option 1: Two different videos

            r Jake and the Secret Code and That The Blind May Read

    Video Set Option 2: Two videos, one title

            r Jake and the Secret Code, two copies

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            r Braille Is Beautiful Program Video Set — (Video option 1 or 2)

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ORDER FORM

Braille Is Beautiful

Ship To ______________________________________

Address _____________________________________

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ZIP ______  Phone _____________________________

Video Set:

    Option 1__ Option 2 __ = $35 + $10 S/H ______

Teacher's Guide Economy Kit = $25 + $10 S/H_____

Combo Set = $50 + $10 S/H  ______

TOTAL ENCLOSED:  _____

Make check or money  order payable to NFB and  mail with this form to:

Materials Center

National Center for the Blind

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

E-mail: nfbstore@nfb.org

Phone: (410) 659-9314

Textbooks on Time: Update on the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA)

by James McCarthy, Assistant Director Governmental Affairs, NFB
and

Barbara Cheadle, President
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

One of the most chronic problems encountered by blind and visually impaired children all across the nation is getting textbooks on time. The tales of Braille or large print textbooks which arrive months after schools start—or sometimes not at all—are legion. These real-life stories cover every region of the country; urban and rural areas; all grade levels from elementary through high school; and wealthy school districts as well as poorer school districts. The irony is that we have the technology to solve this problem. So, what’s the hold-up?

In the Fall 2000, volume 20, number 4, issue of Future Reflections, we printed an article by Kristen Cox titled, “Textbooks on Time: Will it Ever Happen for the Blind?” (Readers may remember the cartoon that accompanied the article—it is reprinted with this article, too.) Mrs. Cox described step-by-step the process for converting print textbooks into alternative formats, and explained where in that process the hang-ups occurred in getting textbooks on time. She then outlined a legislative proposal by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) that would dramatically improve the situation. The key element to this proposal was that publishers would be required to provide school districts with a specialized electronic file of any instructional materials purchased by the school district. Some 300 Federationists—including parents and blind students—presented this concept to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Washington D.C. Seminar in February 2000.

Following that action, the NFB arranged to have a meeting in April 2000, with the American Association of Publishers (AAP) and other affected groups. It was at that point that we began to work on specific legislative language. We completed this process in June 2001, when all parties reached agreement on a bill, now known as the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act—the IMAA. Although modifications were made to the original proposal of the NFB, the key element—a uniform electronic format provided by publishers to school districts—remained. (For information about the other provisions in the current IMAA proposal, please see the background information about IMAA at the conclusion of this article).

On April 24, 2002, the IMAA was introduced in the U.S. Senate as S. 2246 by Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut and Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi, and in the House of Representatives as H.R. 4582, by Thomas Petri (R) of Wisconsin and George Miller (D) of California. The bills are now in committee. The Senate bill, S. 2246, is in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, and the House bill, H.R. 4582 is in the Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by John A. Boehner (R) of Ohio.

A public hearing on S. 2246 was held on June 28 by the Senate committee. Jesse Kirchner, a blind student from Connecticut, gave compelling testimony about her personal experiences with tardy textbooks; and Barbara McCarthy, head of the Virginia Instructional Materials Center, outlined the inadequacies of the current system, and presented some startling statistics about the projected long-term cost savings of the IMAA should it be implemented. Also testifying were Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the NFB, and former Congresswoman Pat Schroder, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). The Senate Hearing was extremely effective, and straight to the point. It established a strong record for passing the legislation this year.

The Senate hearing gave us momentum for negotiations with members and staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee; however, around that same time, some officials in the Department of Education vocalized doubts about the need for the bill. They expressed the hope that publishers will provide the electronic texts voluntarily, and therefore there would be no need for a national federally-supervised repository center. (Please note that publishers, as represented by the AAP, have voluntarily participated in the formulation of IMAA, and are actively supporting its passage. Representatives of the AAP have explained that there are legal and marketing reasons why legislation is required.) These points are under discussion as of the middle of August 2002, and we are optimistic about resolving them. With an agreement this can happen very fast. Without an agreement, the bills might languish in committee until session adjourns, and then we will have to start over again in January of 2003.

One thing we know for sure, whether this year or next, or the next— “Textbooks on Time” will become a reality for blind students. We have what it takes to get it done: the technology, the partnership with industry, the unity of purpose among blindness organizations/agencies, and the goodwill of the public. Most of all we—the blind in partnership with parents and teachers—have the persistence and the determination to keep at it until we prevail.

[cartoon]

Why We Need the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act—IMAA

Background:

In the mid-nineteenth century, states established centralized schools for the blind to educate blind and visually impaired students. To support this, Congress authorized the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky, to produce educational materials in alternative formats, including Braille. Today, APH continues to fulfill this function, receiving annual appropriations for this purpose.

In the 1960’s blind children first began to attend schools in their home communities in significant numbers and, today, the vast majority do so. As a result, Braille, audio, and large print books must be obtained or created by any local school district having one or more blind children. Converting printed instructional materials into “specialized formats” such as Braille is often time-consuming, labor-intensive, and costly, taking six or more months and several thousand dollars to complete. Relying on APH alone cannot fulfill the need. Therefore, it is the exception—not the rule—for blind students to have access to required textbooks at the same time as their sighted classmates.

Existing Law:

The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other federal laws clearly establish the policy that individuals with disabilities are entitled to equal treatment in all areas of society. However, the successful implementation of these laws does not occur without clear, specific, and practical standards and systems in place to anticipate accessibility needs. Currently, there are no federal laws that create standards to facilitate the production of textbooks in Braille.

Twenty-six states have responded to this need by requiring publishers to provide electronic copies of print editions of textbooks. However, there is no consistent file format used among the states, and the electronic copies provided by publishers are frequently not usable for Braille reproduction at all. Therefore, inconsistent and often conflicting state requirements place burdensome obligations on publishers without efficiently facilitating more timely production of books in accessible formats. An agreed-upon, uniform electronic file format would reduce the burden to publishers and significantly reduce the cost of creation, while helping to provide materials to blind students at the same time they are provided to others.

Proposed Legislation—the IMAA

Congress should enact the “Instructional Materials Accessibility Act,”—IMAA—which has been negotiated by textbook publishers, the National Federation of the Blind, and other affected groups. This legislation will ensure that blind and visually impaired students will not be left behind in having the textbooks they need in a form they can use. 

This legislation would:

n Develop a uniform electronic file format for instructional materials prepared by publishers, and

n Require publishers to produce a copy of each textbook in the uniform electronic file format and furnish it to a central repository for distribution to schools.

 

Benefits and Costs:          

The principle benefit of this legislation will be a uniform electronic file format. This will allow rapid creation of textbooks in the desired format for each student, sighted or blind. For students who read Braille, their books can be presented through the use of synthetic speech or stored and read with small computers which display Braille dots.

Without this legislation, local school districts will continue to bear the burden and cost of converting printed books into Braille. However, modern technology can now support shifting much of this responsibility to publishers without placing an undue burden on them. This legislation does not remove the school’s responsibility to provide materials, but will institute a shared burden between the schools that teach the children and the publishers that create the books. The effect will be a uniform electronic file format and national distribution center.

This shared obligation between school and publisher has been carefully crafted with publishers fully engaged in the effort to create it. Although publishers have agreed to provide electronic books, nothing can happen without federal legislation to establish procedures and create a federally-supervised national
distribution center.

For more information about the IMAA and how you can help, contact

James McCarthy
Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314, extension 240 jmccarthy@nfb.org

Lack of Brailled Textbooks Leaves Blind Students In Bind

by Sandy Coleman

Reprinted from the May 13, 2002, Boston Globe.

Editor’s note: Sometimes reporters get stories dead-on, sometimes they get it mostly right, sometimes it’s a toss-up, and other times they miss the boat. In this article, Ms. Coleman gets part of the story—the description of the problem—dead-on. However, she misses the boat entirely in her last paragraph when she states, in reference to the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA), that “Still, advocates hope the legislation will provide some relief.”

It’s not “some relief” that the IMAA will provide—as any of the IMAA backers will tell you—it’s the infra-structure of a long-term, cost-effective solution. However, if you read this story in tandem with the preceding article, “Textbooks on Time: Update on the IMAA,” I think a complete, accurate picture begins to emerge. So, here is the Boston Globe’s report about the problem of timely textbooks for blind students:

Close your eyes and envision a complex math problem. Now, solve it, imagining the formulas and graphs—without a book. That’s what Newton North High student Tasha Chemel, who is blind, had to do for three months in her junior math class because the Braille version of her textbook didn’t arrive until after the school year began. The 16-year-old, who has been blind since birth, has to have all her textbooks converted to Braille. Most years, she doesn’t get them on time.
“One year, someone forgot to order the ones I needed ... Last year, my history book took forever to come. In the interim I had to listen to it on tape, which doesn’t work very well,” said Chemel.  “It’s been a pain.”

Advocates for the blind say such delays deny blind or visually impaired students equal access to education. They are pushing for legislation recently introduced in Congress that would require states to make sure that such students get their books on time. Publishers would have to produce electronic copies of textbooks and furnish them to a national access center for distribution to schools nationwide.

Eileen Curran, director of educational services for the National Braille Press in Boston, compares the measure to laws that require schools to build handicapped ramps. “The only thing preventing a child in a wheelchair from getting a full education is being able to enter a school ... The only piece that is lacking in [visually impaired students’] education is the
access to their materials.”

Converting printed textbooks into Braille is so elaborate that it takes about three months. It means textbooks have to be ordered far in advance of the school year, but officials often have to wait until budgets are approved in the summer to order books. And sometimes teachers haven’t made their selections or change their minds at the last minute.

In Massachusetts, regular textbooks are converted at the National Braille Press. A transcriber must first turn the printed material into an electronic format, usually by scanning the pages. However, scanners often make errors, said Curran. Advocates and publishers estimate that there are 90,000 blind or visually impaired students in the country. In Massachusetts, there are about 2,000, 200 of whom are Braille readers. The numbers may be small, but the problem is not, said Peter Leofanti, assistant principal and Chemel’s math teacher at Newton North. “The big deal is the state tells us that [blind and visually impaired students] have to be educated in a mainstream situation,” he said. “I agree with that. But they require a lot of support, and anything that makes this easier and facilitates it should be considered.”

Sometimes, when Brailled books don’t arrive on time, teachers such as Anne Spitz do the Braille themselves on home machines. That’s what she did last year when parts of a reading series didn’t arrive in time for her third-grade students. “Parents of sighted children would be appalled if their children were sitting in class without materials,” said Spitz, who teaches visually impaired students at Bridgewater Elementary School. “At a time when high standards and literacy are being pushed, no student can afford to fall behind,” she said.

Currently, only 26 states require publishers to provide electronic copies of textbooks for visually impaired and blind students. Massachusetts is not one of them. The big problem for publishers has been that electronic file format requirements vary from state to state, making it time-consuming to produce books in the appropriate format, said Stephen Driesler, executive director of the school division of the American Association of Publishers.

“The system has not worked well for the blind kids. It takes sometimes six months or longer into the school year to get their books,” he said. “The new legislation would require publishers to create only one type of file, saving time and money,” he added.

The Instructional Materials Accessibility Act is currently awaiting committee hearings in Congress. It was introduced last month by the National Federation of the Blind, along with Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, and Representative Thomas Petri, a Wisconsin Republican. The American Association of Publishers worked two years with advocacy groups and educators to draft legislation that all sides could support.

However, it will take up to three years to set up an electronic access center, and cost $1 million to run annually. Another $5 million will be needed initially to train staff and provide technical assistance to schools. Moreover, only books published after the legislation is enacted would be available electronically. Still, advocates hope the legislation will provide some relief.

At one point this year, when Chemel’s book hadn’t arrived, Leofanti improvised, squeezing goo out of a tube to create graphs that Chemel could feel and study. “We had to do a lot of things orally, and I had to repeat and repeat,” he said. “She’s been a very resilient and resourceful kid. She took it philosophically. She said, ‘we’ll do the best we can with what we have’.”

But Chemel is angry, particularly as she heads toward college where the workload will be increased and she may be facing similar book problems. “I should have books as accessible as anyone else,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to waste my time chasing down materials. I want to focus on academics.”

National Resource Center for
Blind Musicians

National Endowment for the Arts

Music and Arts Center for Humanity

The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians provides information and referral services on matters regarding Braille music, technology, and strategies that enable visually impaired people to study music in school or college settings. It can direct inquirers to someone in its network of musicians and teachers in the field and can provide consultation and training. It also runs an annual Summer Institute for Blind College-bound Musicians, which brings together high school and beginning college students from around the country to prepare for advanced music study. 

The National Resource Center is a division of the Music and Arts Center for Humanity, a school of the arts serving children and adults with special needs in Fairfield County, Connecticut. The Resource Center reaches beyond the state to share its experience and hard-to-find information regarding blindness and music education with students, professional musicians, parents, and teachers.

How the National Resource Center Can Help

Locating Sources of Braille Music: We do not have a Braille music library or transcribe Braille music, but we may have suggestions for finding a piece of music when the standard sources can’t help.

Suggestions for Including Blind Students  In Music: Teachers can talk with us about how to get students started with Braille music, teaching strategies, or ways for students to keep up with their peers in theory or ensemble activities.

Advice to musicians losing vision: The Resource Center can help musicians who have hitherto worked with print music find new methods to accomplish their goals.

On-site training for students and teachers: Our staff can travel within New England and New York State to conduct workshops for school staff and provide training to students in Braille music and technology.

Put people in touch with blind musicians in their area who often serve as mentors: Our network of musicians around the country has a great deal of accumulated experience in every imaginable area.  If we don’t know the answer to a particular question, chances are we can put you in touch with someone who does.

Summer Institute for Blind College-bound Musicians: This three-week, residential program held on a college campus is for students tenth grade and up who are serious about pursing formal music study. All students study Braille music, technology, theory and ensemble, while working and living in a situation where they can hone their college independence skills and make friends with peers. Cost of the program is $2,000 with partial scholarships
available.             

Contact Information

National Resource Center for Blind Musicians Music and Arts Center for Humanity

600 University Avenue

Bridgeport, Connecticut 06601

Phone (203) 366-3300 *  Fax (203) 368-2847

Web site: www.musicandartscenter.org

Emilie’s School Spirit Shows

by Anna Nguyen

Reprinted from the St. Paul Pioneer Press EXPRESS, Monday, December 17, 2001, under the title, “Go Hawks.”

Editor’s Note: Emilie’s mother, Barbara Schultz, is the president of the Minnesota affiliate of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), and the coordinator and resource person for the NOPBC Blind and Multiply-Impaired Network. Emilie is one of eight children in the Schultz household. Despite the obvious time and energy required in raising Emilie (who is autistic, hearing impaired, and blind) and her other children, Barbara always finds time to talk with parents of newly-diagnosed blind children, steer them to needed resources, and organize parent seminars and other activities for families of blind children in Minnesota.

[PHOTO]

Emilie Schultz in her official Hawks cheerleading outfit.

Emilie Schultz’s school spirit shows. The 17-year-old is a member of her St. Paul high school’s adaptive cheerleading squad, which supports other student athletes with physical and mental disabilities.

“Five, Six, Seven, Eight!” screams out St. Paul Humbolt High School senior Emilie Schultz as she and nine other cheerleaders proceed to chant: “If you wanna be the best in the state, you have to fly like a Hawk to be great!”

Emilie is part of the Humboldt Hawks’ adaptive cheerleading squad, a 6-year-old group that lends its support to the adaptive sports teams that are designed for students who have physical and health impairments or mental disabilities. Fresh from supporting the adaptive soccer team’s 12-game schedule, the squad is ready to cheer the school’s adaptive floor hockey team, which began its season earlier this month. Humbold’s adaptive sports team program—now in its 20th year—is involved in four activities: softball and bowling as well as the soccer and floor hockey competitions. The adaptive sports teams compete with similar school teams from as far away as Brainerd.

Students from 54 Minnesota schools participate in at least some adaptive sports, says Kris Swanson-Schones, adaptive athletic director for St. Paul Public Schools. (Students from schools that do not have adaptive athletics can join programs at schools that do have teams.) About 50 students take part in Humbolt’s adaptive sports program, and each has an Individual Education Plan put together by St. Paul Public Schools aimed at helping the students succeed.

For Emile, 17, that means a busy day of four classes, a part-time job-training program and cheerleading practices. The mix of activities is meant to help her cope with multiple challenges: She is blind, deaf in one ear, and has a severe mental impairment that was diagnosed about two years ago as autism.

“Activities such as cheerleading help to give her exposure to what other people are doing and get her outside of herself,” says her mother, Barb Schultz, noting that Emilie otherwise has tended to keep to herself.

“In the squad, I use pompoms and cheer,” Emilie says. “My favorite part is singing the national anthem.”

Emilie, a native of the Philippines, was adopted by Barb and Rob Schultz after they got to know the orphan during the six months she was in foster care with Barb’s parents. At age one and in need of specialized eye care, Emilie was brought here by a staff worker from the children’s Shelter of Cebu, a Philipine orphanage run by Minnesotans. Because of her health, the government there decided to let her stay in the United States.

The Schultzes, over time, began to realize that Emilie would not develop like other children, Barb says, but she has always been treated like any other member of the family. Emilie, her mother says, enjoys celebrating birthdays, and she get plenty of chances with seven siblings—five brothers and two sisters.

Since beginning kindergarten, Emilie has had nearly daily help from Patricia Grundhauser, a one-on-one “Intervener” provided by the school system. In that role, Grundhauser helps Emilie communicate with others and explains her condition to new people Emilie meets.

Emilie’s situation, for example, can often be misunderstood by students who just assume she will recognize them after they’ve met only once, Grundhauser explains. When they first meet her, they don’t realize that she can’t see because Emilie has a prosthetic eye. She can perceive only light in her other eye because of
glaucoma.

Each day, Grundhauser adapts school materials to Emilie’s needs, assists Emilie in forming relationships with other students, and aids other students in Emilie’s classes if needed.

Their 12-year journey together through the St. Paul school system is rare. Most of the one-on-one relationships, Grundhauser says, don’t work long-term because some students become too dependent on the intervener, or their personalities can begin to clash through the years. But that has not happened in Emilie’s case. Their relationship has been wonderful, says Barb Schultz, because Grundhauser understands Emilie’s mood and her style of learning. “Emilie would rather be left alone with her autism,” Schultz says. “Patricia knows when to push her and when to stop.”

Grundhauser’s opportunity to work with Emilie grew out of her interview for a library position intended for children with math and reading problems. The interviewer noticed her previous work with a blind teacher and informed her of a new blind kindergartner at Mississippi Creative Arts School who would need help. Grundhauser says she was immediately intrigued by the opportunity and remains so because every day with Emilie is different. “It’s a challenge to keep everything going for Emilie and find new things to do so Emilie doesn’t get bored,” she says.

When asked about the most difficult part of her day, Emilie responds immediately, “I have to get up early in the morning.” Each day the bus picks her up at 6:30 a.m. Emilie begins her school day with special education classes that include computer skills, reading Braille, writing, and speech. Emilie knows that the difficulties of these classes are the daily struggles she has to overcome, and Grundhauser helps to keep her calm when she becomes frustrated. “My favorite classes are math, basketball, and typing,” Emilie says.

For the second half of Emilie’s school day, the two go to Emilie’s job-training site at Bethel Care Center in St. Paul, where she washes and folds clothes and delivers laundry with Grundhauser’s assistance.

When Emilie finishes high school in May, she will be enrolled in a four year St. Paul Public Schools community-based transition program for students who are no longer involved in a traditional high school program. Emilie can be part of the public school system until she is 22. The program, Transition to Independence, will help her by providing more job training and experience in getting around the community by Metro Transit. Grundhauser plans to continue accompanying her in the new program.

Through the years, Grundhauser says, she has seen Emilie become more independent and communicate better with both her peers and adults. Grundhauser is amazed by Emilie’s ability to remember names. “Once Emilie does recognize someone, she does not forget. Emilie and I are a great team together. I am her eyes and she is my memory,” Grundhauser says. As if to prove her point, a few moments later, when a student yells “Hi” from far away, Emilie responds immediately with the girl’s name and a warm smile.

Technology-Acquisition Strategies for Young Blind Students

by Curtis Chong

Reprinted from the December 2001, issue of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind.

From the Braille Monitor Editor: Curtis Chong, Director of the NFB’s Technology Department, receives a steady stream of requests for advice on various aspects of technology and technology acquisition. He recently heard from an alert and dedicated teacher of blind children who wanted help in planning the future acquisition of Braille technology for a bright six-year-old. The questions she asked and the answers and comments Mr. Chong provided will be useful to other teachers and parents grappling with the same set of problems. Here is the e-mail correspondence:

[PHOTO]

Curtis Chong

November 6, 2001
Subject: technology guidelines

Dear NFB,

I am a teacher of the visually impaired who is working with a bright six-year-old student in first grade who is totally blind. He is using Braille for reading and math along with his sighted peers and is keeping up quite nicely. I want to make recommendations to his school district about the assistive technology equipment he will need. Presently he is using the Perkins Brailler. He accesses some programs on the computer such as the software from APH that was written for Windows (Math Flash, Learn Keys), as well as some games from Bavisoft (Grizzly Gulch), and PCS (Mobius Mountain, A 2 Z). He is capable of using touch typing to locate all the letter keys of the qwerty
keyboard.

He has also been introduced to the Braille ’n Speak Scholar and can recall the sequence of commands to create files, read in files, and do some editing. He writes mostly on the Perkins because I want him to spend more time with the dots, and we do not have an embosser to make a hard copy with the Scholar. Initially I thought about getting a talking word-processing program and Home Page Reader instead of getting a screen reader. However, he is very bright and interested in how to open and close programs in addition to playing the games. Now I think maybe I should just go ahead and
recommend a screen reader. What do you think?

At some point in time I want to get a Braille-transcription program and embosser. Currently his Braille materials are being obtained through a variety of sources including myself and the Braillist aide. We are able to keep up with his present needs, but I know this will change rapidly. I also want to get him an electronic notetaker with a refreshable Braille display at some point. I guess what I am asking is: for this particular student, what do you see as his short term technology needs and his long-term needs? What do you suggest I recommend that the school district purchase, and in what
order?

I would appreciate any help you can give me.

Sincerely,

____________

******

November 7, 2001

Subject: Technology Guidelines

Dear ________:

Your e-mail to the National Federation of the Blind dated November 6, 2001, has been forwarded to me. You asked for some short-term and long-term technology‑related recommendations for a totally blind student who is six years old. I think that we can help you to come up with recommendations that will provide this student with not only the technology he needs—when he needs it—but also a solid grounding in blindness‑specific skills that will serve him in the long term.

To begin with, let me say how delighted I am that your student is keeping up with his sighted peers, that he is using Braille (on a Perkins Brailler no less), and that he is working with a teacher as knowledgeable and educated as you are. Regardless of any technology that he might obtain in the future, what he has available to him today has already set him on the right path—a path which will guarantee his future success. It is unfortunate that there are far too many other blind children in this
country who are not as well situated.

I agree with your desire to encourage your student to work with the Braille dots. This is the best way to build up reading proficiency. While the Scholar may be a useful note-taking device, its inability to produce refreshable Braille creates a disadvantage for the student who needs to build up his Braille‑reading speed. If I were to suggest any improvement in this area, I would encourage the use of a slate and stylus as the ultimate backup to any electronic note‑taking system.

My short-term recommendation is to acquire screen-access technology for the PC (JAWS for Windows or Window‑Eyes) and to use this technology to help the student learn to produce printed work with a simple word processor such as Microsoft’s WordPad. If the situation warrants, he can also start some supervised activities on the Internet. The important point to keep in mind here is that he needs to learn—as early as possible—to prepare printed material for sighted consumption using a standard qwerty keyboard as opposed to a device with Braille keys.

Preparing printed material using a Braille keyboard creates bad Brailling habits—habits which are hard to break as the child grows older and the mind less flexible. It is perfectly fine to write material in Braille for one’s own use, but it is quite another to try to input Braille into a document which one intends to print. The convolutions that one must go through in order to ensure proper reverse translation from Grade II Braille to print, force one to enter the Braille information incorrectly. Just think about how one would produce two hyphens [ -- ] or how one would write the letter “K” by inputting these in Braille. The reverse translator will want to convert the two hyphens into something like “com-” and the K into the word “Knowledge.”

At some point, perhaps a few years in the future, a portable electronic notetaker with a refreshable Braille display (e.g., a BrailleNote) could be obtained. But I wouldn’t rush to get this technology. It takes a few years to build up really good speed on the slate and stylus, and having an electronic notetaker available creates a powerful disincentive.

Ultimately, when the student reaches high school, consideration needs to be given to developing skill in finding, managing, and (if necessary) dismissing sighted readers. This skill is indispensable in the later years as less and less material is available in the format of the student’s choice. Of late, we have been noticing that students who are able to obtain 100 percent of their materials in Braille while in high school tend to be quite frustrated when entering college, where there is far less Braille available. They find themselves unable or reluctant to work with sighted assistance. This problem grows even worse when the student graduates from college and enters the workplace, where almost nothing is available in alternative formats.

As your student progresses through school, I hope you will be able to consider how to provide him with tactile graphics—that is, raised-line drawings and tactile representations of three‑dimensional objects. Many of us, growing up blind, had little or no opportunity to feel raised-line drawings, and as a result we find that we are not able to deal with such drawings when they become available. In my opinion, if blind students are constantly exposed to raised-line drawings and raised-line representations of three‑dimensional objects, they will soon be able to use these representations to learn far more than some of us did who were not quite so lucky.

I trust that I have given you some useful information. Please feel free to write to me directly if you need additional help or recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Chong, Director of Technology

National Federation of the Blind

Blind Students Can Succeed in Chemistry Classes

by Cary Supalo

Editor’s Note: The following article is based on a speech Mr. Supalo gave to the 2002 Washington, D.C., Student Seminar sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students. Cary Supalo, a former NFB Scholarship winner, is a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Penn State University. He is, so he tells me, “working on a heterogeneous catalysis synthesis project in an attempt to optimize energy outputs with hydrogen fuel cell technologies.” Right. But don’t skip to the next article yet! You really don’t have to understand anything about chemistry to understand the techniques and strategies Cary outlines below. Here are some tips for budding chemists, and for students who just want to get through their
chemistry class:

[PHOTO]

Cary Supalo

Have you ever wondered why ice melts, and water evaporates? Why leaves turn color in the fall, and how a battery generates electricity? Why keeping food cold slows its spoilage, and how our bodies use food to maintain life? Chemistry supplies answers to these questions and countless others like them.

Chemistry is the study of the properties of materials and the changes that they undergo. One of the joys of learning chemistry is seeing how chemical principals operate in all aspects of our lives, from everyday activities like lighting a match to far-reaching matters like the development of drugs to cure cancer. I am going to talk to you a little bit about how I got to where I am today, and some of the many tricks that I used in chemistry classes.

It was back when I was an undergraduate at Purdue that I first realized the importance of good blindness alternative skills in my academic pursuits. When I entered college, I possessed what I considered then to be adequate skill levels in cane travel, Braille, and adaptive computer technology. But I came to the realization that more training was necessary when, after my first year at Purdue, I was not satisfied with my academic level of success, and was upset that I couldn’t use my time more efficiently. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota [one of three NFB Rehabilitation Training Centers for the Blind]. There I learned how to travel more independently, read and write Braille faster, and how to use adaptive computer equipment efficiently and effectively. But most importantly, I developed a
positive attitude about blindness.

Shortly after I completed the BLIND, Inc., program and returned to Purdue, I decided to change my major to chemistry. The skills and positive attitude I had gained helped me end the long revolving door policy that I had towards my major. Become a chemist? How can a blind person do this? I had confidence, now, that I could find answers to that question. It also helped that I had met a blind chemistry professor who gave me basic tips and offered his help to me if I needed it down the road.

To succeed in my new major, I learned that I had to become quite good at obtaining materials in alternative formats, especially tactile drawings of graphical concepts presented in my classes. I also had to become an excellent manager of lab technicians, scribes, and readers.

I used lab technicians (lab techs) throughout my undergraduate career. A lab tech is someone that assists me in performing laboratory experiments and recording data in a print notebook. However, it is up to me to instruct the worker as to what to do, by what methods, what pieces of glassware to use, and so on. It wasn’t simply “you do this experiment for me and tell me what happens.” Some lab techs thought that this was the purpose of their job, but I quickly learned to explain to them the importance of describing results and equipment set-ups so that I could get a clear picture about what was going on in the laboratory.

When hiring a lab tech, scribe, or reader, it’s important to stress showing up on time, and to look for all the other good qualities that any employee should exhibit. I also find it helpful to establish a good rapport with that person. It is essential for blind students to show up to a lab fully prepared. This means that we have read the entire prelab, any assigned readings that go along with it, and have come up with a plan about how to perform the experiment. It isn’t absolutely essential that you understand everything before the lab session because, of course, that’s why we do the lab—to learn. In most lab classes you will be given the opportunity to ask your instructor questions about anything you don’t understand after the pre-lab lecture.

As far as succeeding in lecture courses, it is important for blind students to have good note-taking skills, whether that be on a portable notetaker and/or a slate and stylus. This is a key component of success in chemistry class. Also, it is absolutely essential for you to have access to tactile drawings about the subject on which the professor is lecturing, ideally at the same time as the professor is presenting it. This can be done a number of different ways. One method is to have someone—a scribe—sit next to you in the classroom. The job of the scribe is to use a raised line drawing kit to draw the graphical information as the professor presents it to the class.  It is important that you and your scribe establish a labeling code for your graphs so that you can easily refer back to them after class is finished, and when the scribe is not there to explain them. I learned that art students (for obvious reasons) tended to be best at this type of a job.

A second method is to simply ask the professor if he or she would be willing to make tactile drawings for you prior to the lecture. They should not have to spend more than 5 minutes drawing these figures, and you should provide them with the tactile drawing tools and materials. A labeling method for the drawings should be established so that you can follow which graph or figure to look at during the lecture. I simply asked the professor to label the graphs as, figure 1, figure 2, and so on. Then, during the lecture, to refer to the graphs or drawings by those figure numbers. As it turned out, this technique of verbalizing a label for each figure got favorable remarks from other
students in the class. It helped them, too.

I found that professors in the upper level classes of my major, and those who enjoyed teaching and really had an interest in their student’s learning, were more willing to use these accommodations. However, if the faculty member’s main focus was on research, not teaching, then they didn’t always want to follow my suggestions. It just varied from professor to professor. If neither of these techniques worked, then I arranged in advance to get a copy of a classmate’s notes so that I could get tactile drawings of the figures made after class was concluded.

In some cases, large lecture classes may have a designated note taker for the course. These notes are then put on reserve in a library for all students of the course to examine. This, too, can be a useful resource if it is available.

[PHOTO]

Tactile aids can be purchased from college book stores, such as the 3-D snap-together molecule set pictured upper right; and others, such as this felt board with cardboard cut-outs, can be handmade
with inexpensive materials.

For those of you interested in studying organic chemistry, a useful tool that I developed back in the mid 90’s is something that I call a 2-D Organic Chemistry Mechanism Drawing Kit. It basically consists of a piece of felt glued on top of a piece of poster board that you fold in half for portability, and cutouts of circles and small rectangles with Velcro backing to stick on the board to represent chemical bonds. I label some of the cutouts, in print and Braille, with the symbols (N) for nitrogen, (O) for oxygen, (S) for sulfur, etc. I also use an unlabeled square cutout as a “wild card” which changes its meaning from mechanism to mechanism depending on what special catalyst the reaction may require.

To show stereochemistry, i.e., 3-dimentionality of a molecule’s structure  (which is a critical concept in understanding organic chemistry), I use cutouts of wedges—some with Velcro on both sides, some with Velcro on one side only. The smooth-sided wedges showed atoms that were above the plane of the board, and the double-sided Velcro wedges showed atoms below the plane of the board. This kit is very handy when doing homework sets as well as performing mechanisms on quizzes and exams. It is also useful when a professor is presenting a detailed mechanism in a lecture setting. Your scribe can place the structures for you on the felt board while the professor is lecturing on that topic. This greatly enhanced my understanding of the content in the large lecture setting. The materials to make this kit are cheap and easily available at any number of discount stores.

Being a good manager of readers, scribes, and lab techs are important skills for success in a technical field. You should also be able to clearly explain your needs to a faculty member, and be flexible and creative in coming up with solutions to problems that will arise as the semester progresses. Knowing what resources are available to you in Braille and in other formats is key to success in this field. A good understanding of the Nemeth Braille code will greatly enhance your pursuit of a career in chemistry and other technical fields. There are many, many science and math books that are already available in the Nemeth Braille code. These books can be located using the American Printing House for the Blind’s Louis Braille database.

It may not always be possible to get the same textbook in Braille that the rest of the students are using, but you can usually get a similar textbook. You should get ISBN numbers of potential substitute texts and share the titles, authors, edition numbers, and so on with your professor to get their advance approval for using the text. Check with your vocational rehabilitation counselor and/or the college’s Disabled Student Service office regarding funding for your books in Braille or other alternative formats.

These are just a few of the many tips and tricks that allow blind students to be successful in science and chemistry courses. To any blind student considering going into a science or engineering field, I say, go for it!

***************

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Parents, School District Struggle with Teacher Shortage Problem in Maryland

From the Editor: It’s no secret that there is a nationwide shortage of trained, certified teachers for blind children. In a recent federally-funded project document, the Council of Exceptional Children estimated that we need additional 5,000 teachers nationwide *(see the NPTP document on www.educ.ttu.edu/sowell). Not everyone agrees on this particular statistic, but no one disagrees with the assertion that we don’t have enough teachers.

However, this story is not about the statistics, nor is it discussion about a plan to solve the shortage, although we certainly care about these. The National Federation of the Blind has helped fund research projects aimed at collecting accurate data (an essential component of any plan to alleviate the shortage); and teacher training is high on the list of priorities of the NFB’s soon-to-be-completed National
Research and Training Institute for the Blind.

This story is about the human face behind those statistics. It raises—and answers—some very important questions. What happens when a child goes a whole year without a Braille teacher? What can parents do? What can a school district do? What does the law require? For the Richmond family, it also turned out to be another answer to “Why the National Federation of the Blind?”

Jill Richmond and her husband live in Calvert County, Maryland. Their son, Aaron, is blind. They joined the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a Division of the NFB, and started reading Future Reflections when Aaron was just a baby. The Washington Post newspaper articles, reprinted below, are reports about their own personal “teacher shortage” dilemma. Jill mailed these two articles to me, along with four others from the Washington Post, and six from their local paper, The Calvert Recorder. The articles spanned a nine-month time period, from December 19, 2001, to August 14, 2002. Along with the articles, Jill included a note of thanks and appreciation to the National Federation of the Blind. The note explains a part of this saga—the significant role played by the NFB—that the newspapers did not cover. Here is the essence of what Jill said:

“The NFB has been a tremendous and unique resource for me over the past 11 years. I absolutely cannot thank the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) enough for their most recent support in guiding me through the maze of trying to obtain an appropriate education for my son, Aaron. Specifically, we have just finished going through a due process hearing against Calvert County Public Schools, and we could never have accomplished this without the help of the National Federation of the Blind. Sharon Maneki [President of the NFB of Maryland] has been incredibly supportive; full of great ideas and an enormous amount of knowledge regarding the education of blind children. And it was at the NFB Convention in Philadelphia a couple of years ago that I met special education attorney, Mark B. Martin, who has handled our son’s case expertly. I would be glad to give something back to others in appreciation for the way that the NFB helped my son. I encourage any parents who have concerns and questions about this problem [teacher shortage] to contact me. I will be glad to talk with you.”

(NOTE: To contact Mrs. Jill Richmond, write to her c/o Future Reflections, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.)

Here, now, is the Richmond’s story as
reported by the Washington Post:

For Blind Students, Another Challenge

by Theola Labbe
Washington Post Staff Writer

Reprinted from the Washington Post, July 27, 2002.

The story was “Freckle Juice,” the Judy Blume tale of a young boy desperate to alter his looks. In a Calvert County fourth-grade classroom, the students broke up into small groups and read the book aloud. Except for Aaron Richmond. He sat by himself doing nothing.

Aaron is blind. He lacked a Braille version of the book and a teacher trained in Braille to help him read it. To his parents, Aaron lacked the opportunity to get an education. This year, they filed suit against the district.

“He should have been participating all day, every day, without exception,” said Aaron’s mother, Jill Richmond. “With a vision teacher, he would have.” Aaron, an 11-year-old who previously earned A’s and B’s in school, went without a vision teacher for his entire fourth-grade year when the district could not find one. The difference was stark. He was without Braille reading textbooks for two months because no one placed the special order over the summer. He was excluded from activities such as computer lab and that hallmark of a grade school education, the science project. He ended the school year with near-failing grades.

The root of the problem, a critical shortage of vision teachers, has left virtually no school district in the Washington area and beyond untouched. Prince George’s County is looking for a vision teacher and went to a Toronto conference this month to recruit. There are two openings in Prince William County. Montgomery County filled one post last fall by getting a teacher to switch positions. Then, another teacher announced she was quitting and
administrators are back to where they started.

“What if a school district said, ‘Oh well, we just can’t provide service to Chinese children or African American children’? No one would tolerate that,” said Mark Richert, executive director of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind. “But because it’s a child with a disability, it’s not seen as a civil rights issue, it’s seen as charity.”

Robin Welsh, Calvert’s director of special education, said the district made a good-faith effort. “We maintain that we did everything possible to try and find a teacher,” she said. A judge will rule in Aaron’s case in August.

As difficult as Aaron’s plight may have been, he is coming of age in a challenging time for blind children who attend public schools. The inclusion movement over the past decade has successfully pushed disabled children such as Aaron into mainstream classrooms. Yet spots for special education teachers, particularly those with knowledge of Braille and other techniques for helping the visually impaired, remain the hardest vacancies to fill.

Teachers for the blind make up a small part of the special education pool—in Maryland, for example, 100 of the state’s 7,392 special education teachers—and they are aging and retiring. At the same time, the number of university programs that train vision teachers has shrunk to just 30. This year, Michigan State University voted to eliminate its vision teacher-training program after a lengthy, emotional debate. “These are not easy decisions,” said Lou Anne Simon, the school’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Elaine Sveen, superintendent of the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind—which has two vacancies—said: “This shortage is a critical crisis. We need certified teachers.”

Aaron will enter fifth grade this fall without a vision teacher—though the district has hired someone who will start in January. To help Aaron make up for what he missed last year, including work with a teacher to review his Braille writing for spelling and capitalization errors or help him edit his writing, Calvert is paying for him to be tutored this summer by a vision teacher from Anne Arundel County. It’s a singular situation foreign to his school-age friends. “They don’t really understand what it means to be blind,” Aaron said.

Of the three Southern Maryland counties, Calvert’s rural tranquillity and high-achieving schools increasingly have made it a destination for military families and suburbanites. Even after the growth, which has required the school system to use temporary classrooms at nearly all 12 elementary schools, there are just 20 children in the 15,000-student district who are blind or have severely impaired vision.

Aaron—a talkative, outgoing boy who holds an orange belt in tae kwon do—likes to read biographies and runs around the playground with the other children at recess. Born with Peter’s Plus syndrome, Aaron has had seven cornea transplants to improve his vision, the first when he was seven weeks old. He wears thick glasses with curved lenses. His vision is 20/800 in his left eye and 20/1,000 in his right eye. He can recognize colors and large shapes at close range. He reads and writes exclusively in Braille.

Aaron had worked with the same vision teacher since kindergarten. He sat alongside students without disabilities and participated in a regular class with the assistance of the county’s only vision teacher. The teacher also pulled Aaron out of class for one-on-one sessions several times a week. But after 12 years in which the teacher saw both her student caseload and responsibility grow, she resigned in April 2001. Calvert County advertised in trade journals and national publications and interviewed several candidates but struggled to find a teacher. In February, the Richmonds filed suit.

The severity of the vision teacher shortage has bubbled quietly for years because blindness is a low-incidence disability. Experts in the field differ on statistics: The American Foundation for the Blind counts about 93,600 schoolchildren who are blind or visually impaired, while federal education statistics put the count at about 26,000.

Recruiting teachers can be hardest for remote, rural areas such as Calvert. “Unless somebody has come from that area, is trained, and goes back to that area, it’s usually not easy to provide the necessary specialist in the more rural areas,” said Lucy Hession, of the division of special education in the Maryland Department of Education.

The Richmonds have lived in Port Republic for five years, an eclectic Southern Maryland community made up of sprawling farms, estate homes with built-in swimming pools and houses with a view of the Chesapeake Bay. The Richmonds settled there, even though Kyle Richmond works in St. Mary’s County at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, because they had heard good things about the Calvert schools.

“When we moved here, everything was fine, but I did have concerns that they had one teacher. It rose in my mind, what if she quits?” Jill Richmond said. Some have questioned her stick-to-her guns strategy. Why not move, or send Aaron to the Maryland School for the Blind?

Officials say the school concentrates on children who have severe disabilities in addition to blindness, which does not apply to Aaron. As for moving, Jill Richmond said special education services at public schools are too tenuous to try your luck at a succession of districts.

“Every time you have a problem like this, if you move, a year later someone could quit and then everything is horrible,” she said. “We want to get the problem resolved, not just for our son, but for all the vision students.” The hearings in the case lasted through the spring. The school district admitted before a judge that not all of Aaron’s books were ready, and that he was taught by several instructional assistants or aides, never by a certified vision teacher. Jill Richmond was the only witness to testify on behalf of her son. She said he was in dire need of a vision teacher to lift his grades and teach him how to use equipment such as the software that would allow him to access the Internet independently. The lawsuit also demands that the school district pay for tutoring and technology to assist Aaron.

The teacher arriving in January is a recent graduate from Illinois, lured in part by the $10,000 singing bonus, school officials said. But a search continues, Superintendent James R. Hook said. The district hopes to hire another teacher to begin work in September.

[Editor’s Note: A month later, the judge’s decision in the Richmond case was announced. The Washington Post followed up on the story with one last article:]

Special-Ed Law Violated, Judge Rules

by Theola Labbe
Washington Post Staff Writer

Reprinted from the Washington Post,
Friday, August 9, 2002.

[PHOTO]

Aaron Richmond

The Calvert County school system violated federal law when it failed to provide a blind student with a certified vision teacher last year, a state administrative law judge has ruled.

In his 38-page decision, Judge William C. Herzing found that without a teacher trained in Braille, 11-year-old Aaron Richmond fell behind in fourth grade and was denied a “free and appropriate public education,” as required by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. The school district’s efforts to find a vision teacher amid a national shortage did not excuse it, Herzing ruled in a lawsuit filed by Aaron’s parents.

“While there is no doubt [the district] faced difficult circumstances regarding the availability of vision teachers, and made extensive efforts to find a replacement…the child was denied a free and appropriate education,” he wrote in a decision Monday. Herzing also determined that the school system failed to give Aaron all the technology he needed in third grade, but he agreed with the district that Aaron received Braille versions of his textbooks and appropriate technology last school year.

Superintendent James Hook said the district never disputed that it needed to hire a vision teacher. “We were wrong because we didn’t have one, but we were trying to do everything that we could,” Hook said.

After Aaron’s parents, Jill and Kyle Richmond of Port Republic, filed their lawsuit in February, the district offered a $10,000 signing bonus to recruit a certified teacher for blind and visually impaired students. A teacher was hired last month and will start in January. Hook said the district is searching for a second teacher to work with the 20 visually impaired students in Calvert County’s public schools. Under the judge’s ruling, the district will be required to pay for a tutor to help Aaron make up for missed schoolwork. Robin Welsh, the district’s director of special education, called the decision
“favorable.”

The Richmonds viewed it as a victory. Their attorney, Mark Martin of Baltimore, said the district’s inability to provide Aaron with a teacher was at the heart of the lawsuit.

“You always want to prevail on every issue. However, the one thing that dominates Aaron’s case is the need for 16.5 hours of service a week from a teacher of the visually impaired,” he said.

Jill Richmond agreed. “Aaron needed a Braille teacher,” she said. “Should the county have to hire a teacher of the visually impaired? You can see, yes, we won.”

Mark Richert, executive director of the Alexandria-based Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind, said parents and school districts can learn from this decision.

“Schools, with a good amount of effort, may stand a better chance of finding a teacher,” he said. “Parents can fight to get a specialized teacher for their kids—they don’t have to accept the status quo.”

*Funded by a federal grant, the mission of the National Plan for Training Personnel to Serve Children with Blindness and Low Vision (NPTP) project was “To alleviate the critical shortage of personnel who provide essential services to children with blindness and low
vision in educational settings.…”

No one is quite sure just how many teachers we are short, but the NPTP document estimates, based upon a recommended caseload of 8 students to one teacher, that we need an additional 5,000 teachers nationwide. The current average caseload, according to data gathered by the NPTP project, is 14 students to 1 teacher of the visually impaired and 72 students for every Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialist. These figures are based upon NPTP’s estimate of 93,600 “students with educationally significant visual impairment in special education,” 6,700 full-time teachers, and 1,300 O&M instructors.

To round out the statistical picture, NPTP also reported on research data which indicates that, in 1998-1999, 225 university students received a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree as teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility specialists, or both.

National Federation of the Blind
2003 National Convention

Galt House Hotel
Saturday, June 28, 2003 - Friday, July 4, 2003

140 and 141 N. Fourth Street  *  Louisville, Kentucky

Rates: $57 for singles and doubles; $63 for triples and quads.

NOTE: The annual day-long seminar for parents of blind children, sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), will be conducted on Saturday, June 28. Other NOPBC-sponsored events for parents, teachers, and children will also be scheduled throughout the week. Reservations will be accepted sometime after the first of the year. Details and updates about the convention will be published in upcoming issues of the Braille Monitor and posted on the NFB Web Site at <www.nfb.org>.

Contest Winners
2001 - 2002 Braille Readers Are Leaders

School for the Blind Outstanding
Participation Award

Kansas State School for the Blind

Excellence in Promoting Braille Literacy

Fidela (Del) Simmons
Librarian, Maryland School for the Blind

Print-To-Braille

First: Kayla Bentas, MA, 3,152 p., grade 5

Second: Ruel Roque, Canada
1,078 p.,
grade 3

Third: Nathan Clark, MD, 1,064 p., grade 4

Honorable Mention:

Angelica Roque, Canada, 996 p., grade 4

Justin Howard, LA, 657 p., grade 9

Kindergarten—First Grade

First: Paige Tuttle, KS, 5,760 p., grade 1

Second: Josiah David. Hearn, TN
5,170 p., grade 1

Third: Morgan Budreau, MN
3,925 p.,
grade 1

Honorable Mention:

Elizabeth Conlin, VA, 2,954 p., grade 1

Marissa Hirschman, IA, 2,033 p., grade 1

Second—Fourth Grades

First: Tyler Kavanaugh, KS
10,717 p.,
grade 3

Second: Lindsay Upschulte, IL
7,732 p.,
grade 3

Third: Samantha Weisenbach, IN
6,330 p.,
grade 4

Honorable Mention:

James Johnson, VA, 4,652 p., grade 2

J. J. Bell, GA, 4,477 p., grade 2

Fifth—Eighth Grades

First: Bianca Samaniego, CA
17,800 p., grade 6

Second: Mei-Ling Felten, WI
15,532 p., grade 5

Third: Tim Peters, Canada
11,112 p., grade 5

Honorable Mention:

Haben Girma, CA, 10,236 p., grade 8

Aaron Mushlock, MI, 9,090 p., grade 6

Ninth—Twelfth Grades

First: Carissa Rutherford, TN
17,119 p., grade 12

Second: Jaymee Lynn Strickler, PA
16,153 p., grade 12

Third: Shelly Christner, MN
9,992 p., grade 12

Honorable Mention:

Reina Brown, MD, 8,586 p., grade 9

Desi Cady, MT, 8,293 p., grade 11

Most Improved

Nandini Singh, MD, age 11

Cortleigh Luxenberg, OH, age 8

Anna Miller, SC, age 13

Justin Hughes, AZ, age 21

Elizabeth Davis, TN, age 14

Tyler Machado, MA, age 8

Dalton Novince, KY, age 11

Timothy R. Jones, GA, age 8

Joey Couch, KY, age 17

Amanda Simmons, AZ, age 16

Honor Roll of Schools for the blind

2001 - 2002 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

by Nadine Jacobson, President
National Association to Promote the Use of Braille

Congratulations are in order to the following 17 specialized schools for the blind! These schools made a special effort to promote the contest and, with one exception, had 5 or more students enter the 2002 contest.

The list would not be complete without the names of the teachers, librarians, or other staff members at each school that coordinated and/or promoted the contest in their schools. Many of these individuals also acted as the certifying authority for the students. (The certifying authority is responsible for keeping track of what each student read and for filling out and sending in the entry forms—no small task!)They truly deserve a moment in the spotlight for all the extra, behind-the-scenes support they
provide to their students!

Note: For comparison purposes, we first list the number of contestants from the school followed by the approximate total enrollment of that school (as reported to the contest judges).

Arizona State School for the Deaf
 and the Blind

23 participants/ 116 enrolled

Debbie Hartz, English Teacher

Georgia Academy for the Blind
5 participants/ 160 enrolled

Janice Polmatier, Fourth Grade Teacher

Kansas State School for the Blind

15 participants/  58 enrolled

Janet Taylor, Librarian

Kentucky School for the Blind

20 participants/  80 enrolled

Cathy W. Hicks, Media Specialist

Louisiana School
for the Visually Impaired

16 participants/ 42 enrolled

Jerilyn M. Woodson, Librarian

Missouri School for the Blind

30 participants/ 130 enrolled

Patricia Schonlau, Braille Teacher

Montana School for the Deaf and Blind

4 participants/ 25 enrolled

Nancy Getten, Teacher

Ohio State School for the Blind

12 participants/ 125 enrolled

Cecelia Peirano, Elementary Coordinator

Oklahoma School for the Blind

16 participants/ 89 enrolled

Sandra J. Helbern, Library Director

South Carolina School for the Blind

16 participants/ 53 enrolled

Terri Randolph, Teacher

St. Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairment

10 participants/ 28 enrolled

Sister M. Margaret Fleming, Principal

Washington State School for the Blind

10 participants/ 70 enrolled

Greg Meader, Principal

Colorado School for the Blind

9 participants/ 90 enrolled

Marianne Arnold, Librarian  and
Tammy Laskowski, Teacher

Maryland School for the Blind

24 participants/ 180 enrolled

Del Simmons, Librarian

Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind

5 participants/ 28 enrolled

Holly Brooks, Teacher

West Virginia School for the Blind

6 participants/ 57 enrolled

Paula McIntyre, Teacher

Practice Makes Perfect
by Sally Miller

Editor’s Note: Parents and teachers sometimes ask me if the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest is really worth all the trouble. It’s a lot of work just to fill out the form, not to mention three months of keeping track of titles and pages. (Ever try to figure out how many Braille pages there was in a book you just mailed back to the library?) Sally Miller, mother of 2001-2002 Most Improved winner, Anna Miller, has the best answer yet. Here is what she has to say:

Practice makes perfect. That’s what my mother used to tell us when we were kids.
So when I started taking piano lessons, I practiced and practiced and practiced, trying my best to play perfectly. My teacher was a good one, so I learned to play the piano fairly well. Then in my teens I had the opportunity, and the desire, to learn to play the pipe organ at our church. Again, I was fortunate enough to have a great teacher. I practiced and practiced, always looking for perfection. I got to be fairly good at playing the pipe organ. In fact, the more I practiced the more I enjoyed playing both the pipe organ and the piano.

Now, forty years later, I’m still playing those musical instruments. I’ve done a LOT of practicing in that time. I play better now than I did when I was younger. My practice habits are different and my playing techniques are more efficient. My timing is not as mechanical. My interpretation of the music is much more my own style. Without a doubt, I enjoy playing more than I did as a teenager, and I’m better at it, but not yet perfect.

Let’s face the facts. No matter how much I practice, I’ll never be perfect. Yet somehow, that doesn’t seem to be the point. Practice has simply made me a better player. And because I play better I enjoy it more, which spurs me on to practice again, which makes me a better player, which helps me to enjoy it more, which…well, you get the picture.

“Practice makes perfect” is a saying that can be applied to reading. My daughter Anna read 175 pages during the 2000-2001 school year Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. Due to her tremendous efforts to learn to read Braille (she was thirteen before she learned to read) we were very pleased with those numbers. But something astounding happened in the 2001-2002 school year.

Anna began reading on November first for the contest. Her Braille instructor, Mrs. Terrie Randolph, coordinator of the contest at the South Carolina School for the Blind, and Anna’s classroom teacher, Ms Irene Casey, encouraged her to read at school and the family encouraged her to read at home. The pages started adding up. As she read she was improving her reading skills. Words that had to be decoded at first, or spelled out, were becoming sightwords, which made the pages easier to read. Her enthusiasm for reading large quantities of pages turned into a desire to read different books, and she enjoyed them more. Her inflection while reading greatly improved. This spurred her on to read more pages, more stories, more books. I was begging, borrowing, buying, and Brailling books for her to read.

At the end of the three months of reading Anna had increased the number of pages she had read to 5,022 pages! During the contest period Anna would tell us that she wanted to win a prize. And she did. Not only was she recognized at the national level, but at the state level, and at her school. Mrs. Randolph added an award of her own—a trophy—to those Anna received from the contest sponsors (cash, a T-shirt, ribbon, and certificate). Anna wanted to show everyone she met the prizes she had won. They meant a lot to her. And rightly so. I think she got so much more from this experience than she realizes now. Her practice of the basic skills of reading has made her a better reader. And because she is a better reader she enjoys reading more than she did before.

When the contest had ended, and we were sitting down to read she said, “The contest is over,” as if to say, “but, I don’t have to read anymore.” I told her, “So, now we can read just for the fun of it.”

“Oh. OOOHHH!” She exclaimed.

A real sense of accomplishment plus improved skills has given Anna a sense of well being. It makes her more comfortable with reading than she had ever been before. Now she can read just for the fun of it. So, she’s not a perfect reader. I don’t play the piano or the organ perfectly either; but that’s not the point. The point is that I enjoy playing; and the point is that Anna enjoys reading.

Family Needed for a
Two-Year-Old Girl from Asia!

[PHOTO]

The World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) is seeking an adoptive family for Soo Bin, a pretty little girl who plays happily, sings, and makes joyful sounds. Soo Bin is blind and her delays in development seem to be related to this. Caretakers in her orphanage report that they don’t have the necessary experience or facilities to best meet her needs and they hope that a family can be found soon to help her reach her highest potential.

For more detailed information, please contact WACAP’s Family Finders Project at 206-575-4550 or FamilyFinders@wacap.org. WACAP will mail her photo and medical information to you upon request. Financial assistance is available for the adoption of this child.

Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

by Pauletta Feldman,
VIPS—Louisville Family Coordinator

Reprinted from the VIPS Newsletter, volume 17, number 5; the newsletter of the Visually Impaired Preschool Service of Louisville,
Kentucky.

There are so many things that are difficult for a young child to understand without sight. What is the sky? What is an airplane? What is a city? What is the ocean? The list could go on and on.

For everything we see there is a word to name it and other words to tell about it that fill in the “picture.” Without vision, your child will need you to help her build and fill in her concepts. That’s one of the most impor­tant jobs you’ll have as the parent of a blind child—to help her understand all of the things she cannot see. Concept development will provide the foundation for all of your child’s learning.

Life with your child will give you a constant chance to help her learn, if you talk, talk, and talk some more to her about all of the things you are seeing, hearing, touch­ing, smelling, tasting, and doing. Help your child use all of her senses. Word by word, sound by sound, touch by touch, smell by smell, and taste by taste, your child will begin to develop an understanding of her world.

When your child is just an infant, you will want to use simple words to tell him about things. Use the same words each time you talk about a particular thing so he doesn’t get confused. For example, “Umm. Good vegetables! Carrots are vegetables.”

As he gets older, you can explain things in more detail: “Carrots are vegetables. What other vegetables do you like?” Children raised in the city may have a very limited understanding of where foods come from. To help fill in the picture for your child, continuously add information. “Vegetables come from plants that grow in the ground on farms or in gardens. The farmer picks his vegetables and sends them to the city to gro­cery stores where we can buy them. Sometimes we buy them in cans, and sometimes we get them frozen, and sometimes we buy them fresh.”

Talking about one thing can open up many new concepts for your child. As you add detail to your de­scriptions, your work of explaining is just beginning! For instance, from a discussion of vegetables, new ques­tions arise. What is a plant? What is a farm? How do you pick vegetables? Where are farms? What does fresh mean? How do vegetables get in cans?

It can be common for a child to develop mistaken notions about things, unless you explain them to him as fully and accurately as possible. For instance, from the previous example, if you say, “the farmer sends his veg­etables to the city,” and the child’s only notion of send­ing is sending a letter through the mail, he may think that farmers put their vegetables in envelopes with a stamp and mail them to the store!

Suggestions:

1. Trips to the grocery offer a feast of learning opportu­nities. For instance, at the grocery store, look at all of the different kinds of fruits. Name them for your child, tell their colors, feel their different textures and shapes, smell them. Let your child choose a fruit to bring home.

2. Take a food and talk about all the different ways it can be prepared and how the method of cooking can change its texture and taste. For example, potatoes can be baked, mashed, boiled, or French-fried.

3. Visit a farm to see the crops and animals.

4. Plant a small backyard or window box garden with your child.

5. Go around the house with your child and see all the different things you can find that are round (or rough, or smooth, or hard, or square, etc.) Expand the exercise beyond your home.

6. Go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt; find a leaf, a rock, a twig, a flower, a bird feather, etc. Identify all the sounds and smells along your way.

7. Tour a factory with an older child, so that he can learn how raw materials become the
finished products we use.

Another reason to really explain things to your child is that without good explanations his concepts and talk may be empty—he may be able to use language, but have no real idea of what he is talking about.

Your child will need more experiences than other children. He can’t look at pictures in a book or on TV to get information. He will need to experience many things first-hand to understand them best. Give your child lots of opportunities for hands-on learning by letting him be in new situations and go to new places. Give him the free­dom to explore safely to get his curiosity going.

Remember the saying, “a picture is worth a thou­sand words?” Well there may be times that you feel that a thousand words are not enough to explain a cer­tain concept to your child. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed with all the things you need to tell your child about. But you will get used to all that talking, and it will be so exciting to watch your child’s under­standing of the world grow through your hard work!

The Braille Beginner – A Constructive Learner

by Kerstin Fellenius, Ph.D.
Stockholm Institute of Education, SWEDEN

Reprinted from The Educator, a publication of the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment, volume X111, number 1, Autumn 2001.

From the Editor: The NFB, through this publication and others, has consistently urged parents of young blind children to create a Braille-rich environment in their homes.

“Get print-Braille storybooks and read to your children,” we’ve said.  “Put Braille labels on everyday objects throughout your home, learn Braille yourself, and get involved in Braille activities with other families (i.e. Braille Storybook Hours). Join your affiliate of the NFB and find blind Braille mentors and role models for your children. Take your children to functions where they can see and hear blind people using Braille to make speeches, take notes, read minutes of meetings, read recipes, read map directions, write down names and telephone numbers.”

In the following scholarly article, Dr. Fellenius demonstrates that this practical advice has sound educational and research-based underpinnings. Learning Braille is a lot more than memorizing dot-patterns. Environment does matter. In industrialized nations, home is where the foundation of literacy is built. With a little thought and effort, parents of blind children can provide this foundation, too. Here is what Dr. Fellenuis has to say about “The Braille Beginner—A Constructive Learner.”

Literacy means more than just being able to read and write. It means being able to
communicate on different levels—with an author through the text of a book; by correspondence with other people, famous, obscure, personally known or not; and with society as a whole. Literacy is obviously a necessary skill for anyone who lives in a society where reading and writing are used daily. But it will become ever more necessary in a future society dependent on information and advanced communication technology. Reading, of course, serves so many fundamental social needs that individuals are highly motivated to learn to read—not only for their own pleasure and satisfaction, but also because today’s society makes demands on reading skills. School and society impose necessary reading tasks which differ in nature from reading for pleasure.

To meet these required everyday reading situations an individual must adapt his or her reading strategy to the reading task. A reader who can do this exhibits what we may call “reading competence.” Reading competence in this sense implies an interaction between an individual and his/her surroundings. A person with reading competence reads and understands, adapts reading strategy to the reading task, and uses his/her reading ability to meet the reading demands expected from people in his/her surroundings.

How then do reading ability and reading competence develop? From my point of view the acquisition of literacy is a social construction that develops in interactions with the environment. The question thus arises: what does this approach offer to the Braille beginner and to his/her educator?

The theoretical framework for the development of the individual states that every child actively searches for knowledge by interacting with his/her surroundings. The child is simply a constructive learner (Piaget, 1954; Vygotsky, 1978). Research has taught us that the sighted and the blind child differ in the way they explore and acquire concepts and language (Warren, 1994). We do not yet fully understand, however, how the blind child’s surroundings affect his/her efforts to construct the world (Webster & Roe, 1998). That is, how the Braille beginner constructs the concepts of reading and writing in interaction with the family, school, and society. And how does the teacher’s knowledge of and experience with the way blind children explore the surroundings affect an individual child’s chance to be a constructive learner? These are matters frequently discussed nowadays when most blind children are integrated in mainstream school systems.

As a former special teacher in a special school for visually impaired and someone who today trains other teachers, I have had reason to reflect on how a teacher’s experience affects blind learners of different ages and learning situations. Two of my pupils especially come to mind—both girls, and both in my classes in the special school. And both constructive learners.

The first, Tiina, came to the special school when she was seven-years-old in grade one. Tiina was the most curious pupil I had ever met with an incredible hunger for learning to read. She was always asking questions about the dots she felt everywhere in the surroundings of the special school, and of course there were always people around to answer. I am sure she would have been a reader by seven if she had been a sighted child. Once she was fa­miliar with the positions of the dots in the Braille cell, she asked what the names of the letters were. In those days, we as­signed each dot a position number in the cell, and this methodology gave Tiina a lan­guage to describe what she wanted to know. “What letter is number one, three, four, and five?” she would ask when she found a letter she didn’t recog­nize. Very early on she began to single out letters from a whole written word and would describe them in the same way as a sighted child does who points to a letter and says its name. Tiina had never had the opportunity to learn about letters before she came to the special school. She had the “appetite” but no food!

By the end of her first school year Tiina was a fluent reader, she also was able to write with slate and stylus. Today she is in her thirties—the mother of three children and a lawyer. She got her law degree before computer reading and writing in Braille.

The second constructive learner, Katarina, had a hearing impair­ment besides her visual impair­ment. She had been fitted with a hearing device just before school started and she did have some re­sidual vision. I was told before we met that she was a slow learner, and might perhaps have slight mental retardation. She was a very silent girl, and it was not easy for me to get close to her so she would share her thoughts.

I noticed almost at once though, that something happened to her when she was introduced to let­ters in Braille. She learned them very easily, and was obviously pleased to be using her fingers and sense of touch. Then on par­ents visiting day about two months later, when Katarina had to show her anxious mother her Braille reading trials, she was brilliant! Katarina had been given a medium that allowed her to express her hidden talents. It was obvious that previous judge­ments about her mental retarda­tion and slow learning were wrong. During her preschool years she’d been misunderstood because she had no opportunity to be a constructive learner. Her two impairments were not merely added, they were multi­plied in the ignorant environ­ment she lived in—environ­ment, that was her biggest handicap. Once she got the key to lit­eracy, she devoured books and journeyed away to a world of po­etic imagination.

Today Katarina, totally blind and severely hearing impaired, has published a book of poems, Cau­tious Hands, and works for the deaf-blind association. Reading and writing have helped her sur­vive, but who knows what more she might have accomplished had she lived in a competent en­vironment during her preschool years. Several other pupils also became more relaxed when they were able to use touch instead of bad vision. One girl with CVI and normal intellectual development had severe visual percep­tual problems; she told me she was much more comfortable when she was reading Braille instead of print (Fellenius, Ek & Jacobson, in press).

What happens to blind children like Tiina and Katarina today? Has anything changed in the last twenty-five years?

Does a [blind] child have an opportunity to be curious about the [Braille] dots before going to school?

Does a child have an opportunity to be curious about the dots before going to school? And if a child is curi­ous, do the people around him or her, have the knowledge, the im­agination, or the appropriate tools to satisfy the curiosity? Do children have more access to in­formation, more opportunity now for learning and teaching before school starts?

The methodology for teaching Braille has long focused on the single Braille letter and the question of how a child learns to rec­ognize the patterns of the dots. We have evolved efficient read­ing techniques and rapid reading, we understand the use of con­tractions as a way to overcome a slow reading rate and to develop exercises for going from dots to letters, and from letters to read­ing words and sentences. But can these methods be combined with the philosophy of a con­structive learner?

 Piaget has said that each time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. This is the es­sence from the perspective of a constructive learner. To give a blind child the chance to invent letters, words, and sentences would put enormous demands on his/her learning environment—that is, teachers and tools. One reason Tiina and Katarina learned Braille so quickly, was, of course the access they had to let­ters and texts in Braille in the special school. You cannot be curious and ask about something you don’t know exists. Secondly, other pupils around them were also striving to understand the meaning and the use of reading and writing in Braille. Once you understand what being able to read means, you are more moti­vated to learn. Thirdly, they were made aware of what they were learning and why; and awareness is always important for progress. And lastly, they had knowledge­able people around them to an­swer their questions, stimulate their curiosity, and make them eager to grow.

Learning is an interactive process. Learning never exists in a vacuum.

Learning is an interactive proc­ess. Learning never exists in a vacuum. Vygotsky emphasized the importance of socio-cultural interaction if a child is to be able to move ahead from his/her actual development level. He talks about “the zone of proximal development” (ZPD) where the child has the opportu­nity of developing inherent re­sources during particular circum­stances e.g., in cooperation with or in interaction with more capa­ble people. He defines the near­est development zone as follows:

It is the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in
collaboration with more capable peers...

The zone of proximal development defines those func­tions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are cur­rently in an
embryonic state. (P. 86)

From this perspective, the educa­tional process becomes impor­tant for, and determines, the child’s learning. Education must be based on those processes which are under development in every child/pupil if it is to stimu­late further development of higher cognitive processes. Reading is such a process.

Therefore, the learning environ­ment of
pupils with visual im­pairments must be considered important if the child is to de­velop reading ability and reading competence. This point of view presumes access to people who know about, and have experi­ence with, the consequences of visual impairment for reading development, which is, to use Vygotsky’s words, scaffolding.

The adult must support the child in his problem-solving in such a way that later on he/she will be able to manage alone. From this perspective the educator will function more as an observer and supporter rather than as a tradi­tional instructor. Such an educa­tor observes and based on his/her own knowledge, interprets what is seen and supports the child to facilitate his/her own problem ­solving. It is a delicate task that requires a teaching competence involving both timing’ and coaching. As a teacher it is my duty to promote learning and to create a room for active learning in which learning also has mean­ing for the pupil.

The access to “room for active learning” is relatively easy for a sighted child. It is much more difficult for the Braille beginner to find an environment enriched with opportunities for incidental learning. Sighted and visually impaired pupils report very dif­ferent kinds of interaction within their families when they describe their home reading environment. Many pupils with visual impair­ments report that people at home never or almost never talk to them about what they read (Fellenius, 1999). This lack of interaction is an alarm signal and a pedagogical challenge. As edu­cators with our knowledge of blind children’s needs and learn­ing processes, it is our responsibility to describe and participate in creating opportunities for active learning in the child’s total environment, and to do so in collaboration with the family, the school, and the society.

References

Fellenius, K. (1999). Reading Environment at Home and at School of Swedish Students with Visual Impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 93; (4), 211-224.

Fellenius, K. Ek, U. & Jacobson, L. (2001). Reading strategies in children with cerebral visual impairment due to periventricular leucomalasia. A pilot study of four cases. Unpublished manuscript.

Piaget, J. (1954). The construction of the reality in the child. New York: Basic.

Piaget, J. (1971). The Structuralism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Vygotsky, S. L. (1978.) Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Warren, H.D. (1994). Blindness and Children. An Individual Differences Approach. Cambridge University Press.

Webster, A. & Roe, J. (1998). Children with visual impairments. Social interaction, language and learning. London: Routledge.

A Partially Sighted Child
in the Classroom: Tips for Teachers

by Barbara Cheadle

Shortly before school started last year, I received an e-mail request from an elementary classroom teacher. A visually impaired child had been assigned to her classroom, and the teacher wanted to know what she should do to help this child learn and flourish in her class. She was, she  admitted, a little anxious because she had never taught a visually impaired child before. My impression from the teacher’s brief e-mail was that this child was a partially sighted print user. My intention was to reply with a brief e-mail, get her postal address, and send her a thick packet of literature. She did get that thick packet, but my brief e-mail turned into a
multi-page letter, with lots of advice.

I think all the frustrations I experienced over the years with my son’s classroom teachers came bubbling to the surface as I wrote. Here was a chance to get a classroom teacher—one who obviously cared—off to the right start in working with a low vision kid! Looking back, I realize that although I had often shared my ideas about raising a partially-sighted child with parents (see the article, “Advice to Parents of Partially Sighted Children” in the Future Reflections Introductory Issue), I had never
written down any tips for classroom teachers.

Well, that deficiency is now remedied. Reprinted below is the classroom teacher’s reply to my letter, and an edited version of the e-mail letter I wrote to her:

July 27, 2001

Dear Barbara,

Thanks for all of your advice and for taking the time to write. After reading your letter I’ve become even more excited about this year. Your information came today in the mail. I am looking forward to learning as much as I can. I wish you could see the smile on my face right now. My anxiety has suddenly turned into excitement. Your support is truly appreciated!!!

Thanks again,

___________

Dear ________;

First of all, I am so very glad you care enough about this little girl to reach out for information. She and your entire class is fortunate to have a dedicated teacher like you. I’m sure that all of you will have a good year.

Now, as you requested, let me give you a few tips and suggestions.

Let me begin with some background about myself. My own son, who is now 23 and finishing college, is partially sighted from birth. It was never necessary for him to have an instructional assistant, or aide, in the class. He did have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the services of an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), who provided direct instruction to him as needed and consultation to his classroom teachers and others as needed. Totally blind in one eye, my son has a visual acuity in the other eye which ranged, during his school years, from 20/70 to 20/200  (20/200 is legally blind). He used print primarily in the class, but was taught Braille and keyboarding, too, by the TVI. (We were ahead of our time. The federal law—IDEA—now requires that all visually impaired children be provided instruction in Braille unless an evaluation indicates it is not necessary now or for future literacy needs.)

Now, for the tips.

1. Before you do anything else, read the child’s IEP, then ask the TVI and/or the parents to clarify anything you don’t understand about it. If the girl does not have an IEP, she should have a Section 504 plan. If she doesn’t have either, this is a serious oversight, and I urge you to call it to the attention of the proper authority in your school system. In the meantime, with or without an IEP or Section 504 plan, you can still proceed with the strategies below:

2. Verbalize everything! All of your kids will benefit if you read everything as you, or others, write it on the board or review it from the overhead projector. Even when you call on students for answers, don’t just point—say the names aloud. You can even occasionally rattle off several names, “Oh, I see that Kevin, Tyesha, Rachel, and Ryan have their hands up. Ryan, what is the answer?”

Kids with partial sight can see some things and not others, and sometimes what they can see will vary from day to day or hour to hour depending upon the lighting conditions, eye fatigue, etc. My own son loses a lot of vision in glare or overly bright light; he always did better in low or even dim light. Some kids can’t see well in dim light. Observe your student and try to determine what works best for her. If you learn to verbalize everything as you go, you don’t have to worry about whether she is having a good day or a bad day with her vision.

Also, a partially sighted child at this age very often cannot tell you what she can or cannot see. Remember that she has no idea what “perfect” vision is like. There is much in the visual world that she is missing, and doesn’t even know she is missing. It takes time and training for kids with low vision to understand their vision, and more time to learn how to describe it to those with good vision. My son, for example, didn’t realize until middle school, that other kids could look out the car window and see their friends waving at them from the sidewalk. He was upset because other kids thought he was being stuck up and ignoring them when they waved to him—he didn’t know they expected him to be able to see them. After all, he recognized his friends visually in the hallways. It was hard for everyone—including himself—to understand the quirks of his low vision.

3. With this in mind, please don’t ask your student “What do you see?” or “Can you see...?” Instead, observe the child, ask for her feedback about your verbalizations, and ask her how she prefers to manage certain tasks.

4. Blackboard work, overheads, demonstrations, movies, and materials on bulletin boards in and around the room will need consideration. Follow the IEP if it is clear and detailed. If not, work with the student, the TVI, and the parents to determine what techniques will work best for her. Your verbal descriptions and reading aloud of everything may be enough. On the other hand, she may need to be allowed to go close to read the material and copy it down. Don’t always make her sit up front, however, if she doesn’t want to. Let her move about the room as needed to read things. This should be done quietly and unobtrusively, and taken for granted as a matter of course. In other words, no big announcements to the class. If other students ask about it, answer them honestly, but briefly, and move on to other topics.

5. Allow your student some flexibility to experiment so she can find out what works best for her. My son found that if he sat or stood next to the overhead projector, he could read the material on the projector slide without interfering with the projection on the wall. He always sat next to a friend in the back of the room when a video or movie was shown, and his friend quietly described any necessary action that wasn’t verbalized. He would stand close to the blackboard to read and copy down assignments, then return to his seat. Sometimes he would ask a friend, who would read it quietly to him. (It was best if he copied it himself since he could not always read others handwriting.) Although we didn’t call it this, he was doing what blind people call “using readers”—that is, live people who read materials to you under your direction and instruction. It’s no big deal, and often at this stage only takes a few moments and is especially easy to do when students are working in groups or pairs.

6. When doing a demonstration, it might help to stand close to the low vision student and to over-verbalize as you go. My heart still aches when I remember the time I observed my son in a fourth grade class. The teacher was demonstrating how to peel the thin membrane off an onion so the kids could put it under a slide to look at the cells. My son was totally lost and confused. If she had been more explicit in her language, and had stood next to him (or him to her) and casually dipped her hand down for him to get a visual close up of what she had done, he could have proceeded with the other kids.

7. Large-print IS NOT always the answer. Often regular print, as long as it is crisp, sharp, and with good contrast and no glare, is best. In fact, the WORST thing you can do is give a low vision kid fuzzy, smeared, blurred, or faint copy—no matter how big it has been enlarged. In my son’s IEP he was always given permission to take a good master copy of something to the copy machine in the office and to make an enlarged copy of it as needed. Of course, this didn’t help if he had a bad master copy, or if he had a substitute teacher who didn’t have good instructions (or didn’t follow them). That was one of his biggest complaints: a substitute who would give him a worksheet, or even a test, that had not been enlarged and when he told her he needed to go to the office to enlarge it, she would refuse and tell him to “Do the best that you can.”

8. Don’t make a big deal about the student or the techniques used. Do be up front about it; just take the attitude that “Of course we do it this way because this is how it’s done in classes with blind or partially sighted students in them.” Don’t tolerate teasing or harassing of the student, but do so in the context that NO ONE is allowed to tease or harass others for any reason.

9. DO expect your student to do the work. Please don’t excuse her from assignments; think about the purpose of the assignment and adapt if necessary, but don’t exclude. For example, she needs to learn how to use the dictionary, even if she can’t read the small print. She can learn, for example, to direct someone to read it to her. But to do that, she needs to know what information is included in a dictionary and how it is organized.

If she isn’t getting the work done but she has the cognitive ability to do so and you have eliminated other possible causes, then the problem is not the low vision; it’s lack of proper materials, techniques, and/or compensatory skills. Some low vision kids struggle with print when they really need Braille. It’s much easier to learn Braille as a child than an adult. Your observations and recommendations do count. If your student is having difficulties with print, or if you can anticipate that she will have trouble when the print gets smaller and the reading demands increase, then please call this to the attention of the TVI, the parents, and the IEP team.

10. Handwriting may be a problem. My son did not live up to his capabilities until he began to use a computer to write his essays in 5th grade. Before then he wrote as little as possible because it was hard for him to read his own handwriting, to check his spelling and grammar, and to make corrections. If keyboarding instruction and access to a computer, or even an old-fashioned electric typewriter, is not in your student’s IEP, it should be. She needs a fast way to independently prepare print materials for all her classroom teachers. My son did the True/False and Fill-in-the-blank tests by hand, but he always had independent access to a computer at school and at home to do all other longer writing assignments. Some schools provide laptop computers with synthesized speech and/or screen enlargers to blind and low vision students.

The most important thing to remember is that although a student who is blind or low vision may do things differently, they are as capable of doing academic work as their peers. If we expect them to perform, and provide them with the tools they need, they can do it.

Best Wishes! Please get in touch with me if I can help in any other way, or if you have other questions!

[PHOTO]

Barbara Cheadle with her son, Charles Cheadle, at the 2001 NFB Convention.

(Mrs.) Barbara Cheadle, President
National Organization of Parents
    of Blind Children
BCheadle@nfb.org

www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm

What I Prefer

by Sarah Weinstein

[PHOTO]

From the Editor: The following article is a slightly revised version of a list Sarah Weinstein prepared and presented at a New Jersey NFB workshop for classroom teachers and aides two years ago.

Today, Sarah is 14-years-old and ready to begin 8th grade in High Bridge Middle School. She enjoys swimming, bowling, attending Camp Marcella (a camp in New Jersey for blind children) and singing in school chorus. Recently, she spoke at a National Library Service Pre-Convention in Richmond, Virginia, about her experiences as a library for the blind patron.

Sarah aspires to be a Braille teacher. “What I Prefer” is credible evidence that Sarah is already an outspoken advocate for independence for blind students. Here is Sarah’s 12-point list of tips for classmates and teachers:

1. I like to walk independently. If I need directions, I want people to tell me with words (verbally) which way to turn. Touching and moving me with your hands without my permission is disrespectful.

2. When I do want hands-on-guidance, I want people to guide me the proper way. I will take your elbow. If I am guided from the back—that is, someone takes my arm—it feels like I’m being pushed, and I don’t like it.

3. My Braille writer, my cane, my Braille Lite, and my Braille watch are my equipment. They are not toys to be played with by my friends.

4. When you say hello to me, please tell me who you are. I don’t want to always ask, “What’s your name?” or “Who is it?” Even if you think I should know you, there are lots of reasons I may not recognize your voice.

5. When the teacher tells the other kids to get their books out, I want to go get my Braille books by myself, too. Don’t send anotherkid to get my book for me.

6. If I am stuck on a word and a teacher doesn’t know Braille, he or she can still help me. The teacher has a print copy of exactly what I have in Braille.

7. I want everyone to know my cane needs to be next to my desk. I don’t want others to complain about it.

8. I feel good when teachers say things like, “Rachel, you and Sarah can work together on this project,” or “Kevin, you and Heather and Sarah can walk together on the field trip.” When I hear them say, “Be Sarah’s helper,” I feel sad.

9. Please tell me if you are standing there holding the door open for me. And tell me which side (my right or left) the door is on. Then I can reach out and help hold the door as I walk through.

10. I would like it if people would not bend down and tie my shoes for me. Just tell me and I will tie them myself.

11. If you know I can’t do something, or if you think I can’t, you should still ask me first if I need help. This is an important way to handle everything.

12. I want people to let me be independent. If you’re not sure when or how to help, ASK ME!

Special Opportunity for Sighted Kids

To the sighted brothers and sisters
of blind kids:

You are a special group. You have experiences, questions, and, yes, frustrations, that are probably different from other kids at your school, but are shared with other kids in NFB families. Now it’s your turn. We would like to have a whole section in an upcoming issue of Future Reflections that is for you, from you, and about you.

You are invited to submit for publication anything you have written, or want to write, about having a blind sibling. It can be any length. Here are some ideas of what you could write about:

• Describe how you feel about having a blind brother or sister.

• Annoying questions other kids ask, and advice (if you have it) on how to answer them.

• A fun time you have had together.

• Your experience at the NFB convention—what you liked and didn’t like (including suggestions).

• A fictional story involving blind and sighted siblings.

• Anything else you can think of.

You might satisfy a school requirement with what you write. Also remember that having a published article is good for job, college, or private school applications.

Please include your age and send it in by April 2003, to: Editor, Future Reflections, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230, or e-mail it to <Bcheadle@nfb.org>.

Photos would be nice, too. If you enclose a photo, be sure to identify the people in it. If you want the photo back, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

For parents of younger children—It’s fine to send something that your sighted child might “dictate” to you.

Blind Girl’s Teacher Wins Inclusion Award: She Gave Blind Student Chance to Belong

by Cindy Kranz

Reprinted from The Cincinnati Enquirer, February 12, 2002.

Erin English felt uncomfortable around blind people. She never knew what to say or how much help to offer—until she met Emily Pennington. When Mercer Elementary’s assistant principal asked first-grade teachers who wanted to teach little Emily, who is blind, it was Mrs. English who volunteered.

“I didn’t want to be the one to say, “I don’t want her. It’s too much work,” recalled Mrs. English, who has taught 18 years in the Forest Hills School District.

She adapted classroom materials for Emily, made sure daily lessons were translated into Braille, and painted maps with puffy paint so Emily could feel them. When the class studied worms, Mrs. English brought in worms so Emily and all the kids could touch them. “I may not have done that if it wasn’t for Emily,” the 42-year-old Anderson Township woman said.

For her efforts, Mrs. English will receive an Inclusion Network Leadership Award for Educational Inclusion tonight at the Hyatt Regency downtown. The Inclusion Network is a volunteer group committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are included in all aspects of community life. Mrs. English was nervous at first. “How do you teach a child who can’t see? If you can’t read Braille, how are you going to help her?”

The summer before Emily started, in 2000, Mrs. English attended a workshop and read everything she could about teaching blind students. She found a teacher’s aide who could prepare Emily’s lessons in Braille. Although Mrs. English didn’t learn Braille, she could read Emily’s name and understood the concept. “I got the underlying idea of Braille, so if Emily was making mistakes, I could figure out why she was making them,” she said. Some adaptations were simple, such as being more specific with directions. Instead of telling students to gather “over there,” she’d tell them to sit in a circle on the carpet. When reading a book, she’d describe the pictures.

Mrs. English is a great teacher because she always planned ahead, said Emily, now a 7-year-old second-grader. “She made sure I had my things Brailled out for me to read.”

By the end of first grade, Emily was reading at a fourth-grade level. Kids wanted to sit next to her so she could help them spell. “Not once did I ever feel sorry for Emily,” Mrs. English said. “She’s smarter than most people. She’s got a charming personality. She’s got a loving family. She’s very gifted musically. The only thing is she can’t see.”

Teaching Emily proved to be a learning experience for Mrs. English. “I learned having an inclusive child in the classroom makes the classroom a better place,” Mrs. English said. “It teaches children by experience, not by lecturing or preaching. People with special needs aren’t any different. They still want to be included and be part of things.”

Emily’s parents, Tim and DeeAnn Pennington of Newtown, nominated Mrs. English for the Inclusion Award. One thing that impressed them was her perseverance in getting equipment Emily needed. Mrs. English persuaded the district to spend about $2,000 on a Braille ’n Speak, a machine that allows Emily to write, then prints her work for the teacher on a regular printer. It can also be hooked up to a Braille embosser so it prints in Braille for Emily to read. The Penningtons often compared notes about teachers with parents of other blind children, in Cincinnati and at a national conference. “They would say, ‘You are the luckiest person on earth.’ Early on, I didn’t know that I was,” Mr. Pennington said. “You think this is what every teacher does. It’s not.”

In turn, Mrs. English praised Emily’s parents for letting her do the best she could. “They were incredible,” she said. “They did not expect me to give her any more time than any other child. They wanted me to treat her like any other typical first-grader. They were never critical of my limitations.” One day, Mr. Pennington asked Mrs. English why she volunteered to teach Emily. He recalled her words: “If I’m a teacher, I’ve got to teach all kids. I’ll find out what kind of a teacher I am.”

The Rewards and Continuing Challenges of Teaching Blind and Visually Impaired Students
by Tami Dodd Jones

Reprinted from the June 2002, Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, this article was originally published in the Blind Educator, a publication of the National Organization of Blind
Educators.

Editor’s Note: Tami Dodd Jones is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. She now lives and teaches in Indiana. In the following article she talks about her experience working as a teacher of visually impaired students. This is what she says:

[PHOTO]

Tami Dodd Jones

When I began college I had very little idea of what I ultimately wanted to do. My goals were simple—work hard, do well, and have fun along the way. Now that I am a teacher, my goals are remarkably similar—work hard to keep on top of new developments and technology in the field, do the best job I can for the students in my charge, and get as much enjoyment as I can from the experience. But it isn’t always easy. There are great rewards—the knowledge that because of you your students have a better chance for success in school and in their later lives—but there are even greater challenges. Here are some that I believe anyone contemplating a career in education of blind and visually impaired students should consider and work hard to meet.

The first big challenge is mastering the
essential skills of blindness. No matter what anyone tells you, it is very unlikely that your students will become better Braille users, cane users, or adaptive computer users than you are. In order for them to become successful using these skills, you yourself must become successful. Total mastery isn’t always easy or even possible, but it is important that you keep working at it, even after you have left school and begun working. The old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” really applies, especially with Braille. Those of us who rely on Braille in our daily lives have an advantage, but even I, who have used it since I was nine, find myself using it less for little things as technology becomes more advanced and available. I must constantly find occasions to use skills such as slate and stylus and abacus to keep my hand in.

Some may say that such skills are no longer relevant, but they may well be to your students, if not to you. There are still parts of the world, even in this country, where these devices are considered the epitome of technology, and they come in handy even now when the electricity goes off or you run out of batteries for your talking calculator. Don’t second-guess what your students may need; give them everything you can to provide them the best chance to succeed in their future lives.

The next big challenge is organization. If you’re like me, this doesn’t come naturally, and you have to work at it constantly. Since most teachers of the blind are now itinerants, at least for part of their day, it is crucial that you have what you need when you need it, whether it is lesson plans, student handouts, IEP goals, or whatever. We must all develop individual systems for keeping track of necessities based on our changing jobs and schedules.

One year, for example, my job was almost exclusively itinerant consultation. I visited about thirty schools during the course of a month, none of them more than once or twice a week. I had very little time in my office for gathering materials, so I developed a system whereby I placed materials I needed to take to the various schools on a special table. The leftmost pile was for Monday, the next for Tuesday, and so on. Any materials that could not be delivered within the week could be mailed or sent with colleagues—speech teachers, physical therapists, etc.—who would be visiting that school sooner than I could. That way the students or teachers got the materials as quickly as possible.

Another year I worked every day with totally blind students in four different schools in two different counties. Most of the equipment and supplies could be kept in each school, but the things the students shared (my lesson plans, extra Braille paper, IEPs, and so on) I kept in a banker’s box I carried with me from school to school. When my banker’s box got wet, I switched to a Rubbermaid storage box. If one box couldn’t hold what I needed, I got a bigger one.

This brings me to the third big challenge—flexibility. Very few jobs stay the same, and jobs in education seem to change more rapidly than most. You are expected to go with the flow. It seems as if every other week memos are sent to itinerants saying that we can no longer do this or must always do that. We not only have to keep track of these changes, but find ways to implement them while providing the best service possible for our students. Schedules can change with little or no notice. When special meetings are called that involve your students, you just have to attend. Office time can quickly evaporate.

This brings us back to skills. Without a variety of skills—the ability to use a Braille writer, slate and stylus, Braille notetaker—I would find it difficult to keep up. I don’t yet have senior moments, but my memory isn’t up to the challenges itinerant work places on it. I work where I can, when I can—in the car, in teachers’ lunchrooms, in school office reception rooms. I’ve Brailled important information on everything from index cards to legal pads to lunchroom napkins—whatever works.

Not all teaching jobs are like mine, but many are. The key is to be prepared for the challenges so that you can reap the rewards. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to listen to my student read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, with little hesitation and few mistakes, or find out a student I taught several years ago graduated with honors. I know I make a difference in my students’ lives, and that makes all the effort and frustration worthwhile.

Frustrated Student at an IEP

by Erin Byrne

I sit for an infinite age,

Wondering just how loquacious a person can be.

Seems even stranger when a stranger is talking;

After all,

They’re discussing me.

I sit for an infinite age,

In a room of seven or eight,

Wondering when, or if, I’ll ever get my say,

Or is it too late.

Indignantly, I think,

“How can a goal ever be set, if not by oneself,

By other persons in a team of two or three?”

Strange, it seems,

Not right,

After all,

They’re discussing me.

I sit for an infinite age,

Restlessly, shifting my feet under the table,

Anticipating the onset of freedom,

When the pen is passed to me.

“Sign, sign.” they say,

“Everything is done.”

And, as I touch the pen to paper,

I wonder if my presence in the room,

Is really known.

Suddenly, I realize with a start,

I’ve lost track of much of what was said.

Signing my name,

I wonder, in my heart,

What is in store for me in the year ahead.

I sit for an infinite age,

A frustrated student at my IEP.

How unusual the meeting is;

I think, next time,

I will speak!

After all,

They’re discussing me.

[PHOTO]

Erin Byrne

Erin Byrne is a 19-year-old entering freshman at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she will major in Music Education and Spanish. Among her many accomplishments, Erin is one of the youngest members to be inducted in the Stark County, Ohio, Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, and a NFB of Ohio Scholarship winner. Blind from birth from a type of osteoporosis (she has used a wheelchair since 5th grade), Erin wrote this poem when she was a 17-year-old student at Glen Oak High School in Canton, Ohio. Theresa Byrne, Erin’s mother, reports that Erin was a full and effective participant in all her IEP meetings throughout her middle and high school years. Evidently, Erin did learn to speak up! Erin reports that she still likes to dabble in creative writing regarding disability issues. Hopefully, we will see more of her thoughts in future issues.

What Is the Family & Advocates Partnership in Education? (FAPE)

Editor’s Note: The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children is one of the FAPE community partners. NOPBC distributes a free IEP Information packet which includes literature developed by the FAPE project. To get this free packet, send your request to:

NOPBC, IEP Information Packet,

1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
Fax: (410) 685-5653;
E-mail: Bcheadle@nfb.org

FAPE’s goal is to inform and educate families and advocates about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA). IDEA supports the achievement of high standards for the 5.8 million children eligible for special education in the United States, but to achieve positive education outcomes, families and advocates need to understand IDEA and their roles in improving results. The partnership helps to ensure that the changes made in IDEA are understood by families and advocates and are put into practice at local and state
levels.

The partnership has three goals designed to contribute to the implementation of IDEA,
including Part C:

1. Inform and support families and advocates through a partnership among families and disability organizations.

2. Promote research-based best practices that improve results for children with disabilities in accessing challenging curricula, meeting high expectations, realizing success through ongoing assessment of progress, and increasing the involvement of parents and disability advocates in children’s educational programs.

3. Maintain effective and efficient networking, marketing, and outreach activities to ensure broad-based understanding of the 1997 IDEA changes and promote appropriate
implementation at state and local levels.

PACER Center and 11 core partners, more than 20 community partners, and a number of expert consultants have come together to form the Families and Advocates Partnership for Education to deliver consistent, accurate, and timely information on IDEA to families, self-advocates, and advocates nationwide. In addition to the core partners who, with PACER, will actively implement the goals of the project, community partners and expert consultants have been recruited to assist in disseminating promising practices and research findings, and will provide additional assistance in implementing the goals of the partnership.

The partnership organizations represent American’s grassroots in its truest sense. PACER Center and the 11 core partners and their respective coalitions of more than 500 grassroots family and advocacy groups reach racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse families of children with and without disabilities in all areas of the U.S., including urban, suburban and rural areas, and American Indian Nations (reservations and trust lands). For more information on FAPE and their many services, please visit their Web site at www.fape.org.

The core partners representing general and special education interests are: the Technical Assistance Alliance for Parent Center (Alliance) (a Project under the PACER Center), the Academy for Educational Development (AED), Center for Law and Education (CLE), Family Voices, Federation of Families for children’s Mental Health, National Down Syndrome Congress, National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired, National Centers for Independent Living, National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE), National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), and Fiesta Educativa.

IEP Services Checklist
for Parents of Blind Children

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314 ext. 360
www.nfb.org/nopbc. htm

 

The following checklist is a tool to help parents who want to make sure that their child receives the special education and related services listed in their IEP. The law requires that the number of hours of service be listed on your child’s IEP; however, the name and contact information for the service provider and the schedule for services are not normally listed on the IEP. This checklist can help you keep all that information together in one place.

Notice that the checklist distinguishes two types of service hours. Direct hours are those hours of services given directly to your child. Indirect hours (sometimes called consultation) are those hours of services given to your child’s teachers or other service providers to help them with your child’s special needs.

You will need to review your child’s IEP, make a few phone calls, and/or visit your school, to get the information for this checklist. Please remember, however, that this checklist is only a management tool. It does not
address the issue of quality of services or the appropriateness of services.

You may find that your IEP does not distinguish among the services provided by the teacher of the visually impaired (TVI); they may all be lumped together. On the plus side, this allows flexibility for the teacher to adjust instruction according to the needs and pace of the child. The down side is that it can present a problem in accountability, and instruction in some skills may fall by the wayside.

For example, let’s say your child’s IEP does not distinguish the number of hours dedicated to keyboarding instruction versus Braille reading/writing. If your child fails dismally to meet his or her keyboarding objectives for the year, who is accountable for your child’s failure? Were the total service hours listed in the IEP inadequate to meet your child’s instructional needs in both skills? Was the teacher poorly organized, or did she not have the skill needed to provide the appropriate instruction? Was your child not ready for keyboarding instruction? How can the problem be correctly analyzed if instruction time is not documented? A whole year of instruction time in an essential adaptive skill can be lost if the IEP is not
specific.

If your team is reluctant to put into the IEP a break-down of the service hours from the TVI, ask that a note be put in the minutes about the distribution of time. If this doesn’t happen, get a verbal estimate from your team or TVI, then document it in a follow-up letter to the TVI with a copy to the school for your child’s file.

Some schools assign an IEP case manager. Many times the management of the IEP for blind/visually impaired children is assigned to the TVI. Sometimes it’s not clear who has responsibility for coordinating your child’s services. In any event, before or shortly after school starts, find out the name and phone number of the first person you need to call if problems arise with the provision of IEP services to your child. Also, it is helpful to have the name and number of an alternative person to call, preferably someone higher up in the chain of command, such as your school district’s
Special Education Director.

When you make a phone call or, for that matter, write a letter or send an e-mail to any school personnel regarding your child, it is a good idea to keep a log of these contacts. A simple spiral notebook kept close to the phone works well. Make and keep copies of letters that you send to the school about your child and his/her special education services. Keep all materials together where you can find them. You don’t need an elaborate filing system—a box will do.

But back to the checklist. You will notice that it begins with a list of the common categories of services provided to blind/visually
impaired children and progresses to a list of special services not specific to the blind. Please remember that your child may or may not require a particular service that is listed here. This checklist is designed to be a tool to help you organize information; it does not address what specific services should be provided to your child. The IEP team (which includes the
parents) must make that decision.

Finally, the checklist refers to hours per week since most services are provided on a weekly basis. If your child receives a service on a monthly or yearly schedule, make a note of that on the checklist below: 

IEP Services Checklist
for Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children

Title used for IEP coordinator in my school:_______________________________

Name: _______________________Phone number: ________________________

E-mail:________________________Best time to call:_______________________

Special Education Director or other title:_________________________________________

Name: _______________________Phone number:_________________________

Total hours per week of all special education and related services:
Direct hours = _________  Indirect hours = _________

Braille reading and writing instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

Slate and Stylus instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: Braille writing with the Braille writer is typically incorporated with Braille reading instruction, see above. The slate and stylus is typically taught as a separate skill.

Braille Nemeth Math Code instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: Depending upon the quantity and complexity of math symbols introduced in a particular grade, Nemeth Code instruction hours may be listed separately or incorporated with Braille reading/writing instruction hours above.

Braille Music Code and/or Braille Foreign Language Code instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: This will obviously depend upon whether the student is in a music or foreign language class. Sometimes this instruction may be incorporated in the service hours for Braille reading/writing instruction.

Low vision aids instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: This includes the use of a variety of low-tech and high-tech optical devices. The devices may be used for academics and/or O&M.

Keyboarding/touch-typing instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: This should not be confused with computer or adaptive technology equipment instruction.

Computer instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: The need to use adapted equipment (see below) and techniques—such as using the keyboard instead of the mouse—may require that basic computer instruction in using the Internet, word processing, etc. be provided as a special education service.

Adaptive technology instruction.

NOTE: This will typically include one or more of the following electronic products for the blind/visually impaired:

• Electronic notetaker (BrailleNote, TypeLite, Braille ’n Speak, etc.),

• Synthesized speech program for computers (JAWS, WindowEyes)

• Braille translation program (Duxbury, Megadots)

• Braille embosser

• Refreshable Braille display for a PC (Alva displays, Braille Focus, etc.)

• Closed Circuit TV (CCTV)

• Screen enlarging program (ZoomText, MAGic)

1. Name of equipment/tool _______________________________________________
Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

2. Name of equipment/tool________________________________________________ Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________Indirect hours = _______

3. Name of equipment/tool________________________________________________ Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

4. Name of equipment/tool________________________________________________ Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

5. Name of equipment/tool________________________________________________ Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

Orientation and Mobility Instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

Other Special Instruction

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: This may include instruction in listening skills, using a live reader, studying from books on tape, self-advocacy, ordering textbooks, study skills, organizational skills, etc.

Functional Life Skills

Total hours per week:  Direct hours = _________ Indirect hours = _______

NOTE: Also called Activities of Daily Living Skills (ADL) or Daily Living Skills (DLS).

Other Services

Speech/Language: _________hours per week/month

Physical Therapy: _________hours per week/month

Occupational Therapy: _________hours per week/month

Psychological Services: _________hours per week/month

Social Work Services: _________hours per week/month

Counseling: _________hours per week/month

Transportation—describe type of service (regular or special bus, pick-up and drop-off points and times, etc.) and person(s) to notify regarding changes or problems. ­­­­­­­

Instructional Assistant (other titles may be paraeducator, aide, etc.)– describe type and amount of aide support to be provided (one-on-one aide, classroom aide, aid/wrap-around service, Braille support/transcription, P.E. support, etc.)

Parent training—describe what type of training, how much, when, etc. (i.e. Braille instruction, 5-week course, 2 hours per week.)

Intervener for deaf-blind students—describe intensity of service:

Now that you have a checklist of “What” and “How much” (services and service hours) your child will get per his or her IEP, you are ready to list the Who, How, and When. That is, what’s the specific name of the person providing a specific service, how can you get in touch with him or her, and what is the specific schedule for the direct service hours. (There is no schedule, of course, for indirect or consultation hours).

Example

Service:   Orientation and Mobility, 2 hours per week

Name :    J. Walker, O&M instructor

Phone:   (999) 999-9999                E-mail:    Jwalker@OM.CANE

Schedule: 7:00 a.m. on Mondays (45 minutes), 2:20 p.m. on Thursday (1 hour, 15   minutes). Six times in the year—about every 5 weeks—instead of the schedule above, 2 hours in a community setting: Thursday, 12:30—2:30 p.m.                    

1. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

2. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

3. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

4. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

5. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

6. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

7. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

8. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

9. Service: __________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

10. Service: _________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

11. Service: _________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________

12. Service: _________________________________________________

Name: _____________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________E-mail: __________________________

Schedule:___________________________________________________

Rhode Island Department of Education: Cutting or Gutting Services to Blind Children?

This is the question uppermost in the minds of over 150 families of blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island. And so far no one is coming forward with any answers.

Many states across our nation (Rhode Island among them) are struggling with revenue shortfalls and other budget problems. A weakened economy has compelled several state governors to order across-the-board cuts in state government spending. In such circumstances it isn’t uncommon for services to blind children to take a proportional hit. In some states this means budget cuts to the state-funded schools for the blind. In a few states (such as New Jersey) children’s services provided by state-funded commissions for the blind suffer cutbacks as well.

None of this is pleasant, but neither is it unexpected, nor, providing that the programs had reasonable funding in the first place, is it grossly unfair. This is not to say that parents and blind advocates should take such cuts meekly—only that cycles of fat times and lean times are normal, and all must work together to minimize the impact of the lean times. But making cuts in a program is one thing; gutting it is another. A trimmed rose bush can grow back; a gutted fish is a goner.

Rhode Island does not have a state school for the blind or a commission for the blind that is charged with the responsibility for the education of children who are blind, but it does have a statewide program for children with visual impairments—the Vision Services Program (VSP). The VSP, in existence since the mid to late ’60s, is financially administered through the Rhode Island Department of Education at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. The program has provided direct educational itinerant teaching services to blind and visually impaired children (not to mention the provision of specialized books, equipment, etc.) to all but six of the state’s thirty-eight school districts. Beginning in 2000, the program also provided orientation and mobility services. In addition to these direct services, VSP has funded summer programs for eligible blind and visually impaired children statewide, continuing education training for specialized professionals, and other special programs for the entire state.

Never a completely independent department with its own budget and dedicated administration, the VSP program office is currently located on the campus of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, and, as of September of 2001, it is administered by the superintendent of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. Despite these limitations there has been much to commend the Rhode Island Vision Services Program since its inception.

This is especially to the state’s credit since the Vision Services Program started from almost nothing at all. Prior to the passage of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act (which later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA), Rhode Island’s education plan for blind children was simple: pay out-of-state tuition and send the kids to the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. At the peak of the program, the Rhode Island Blind Beneficiary Fund budgeted about $1.5 million for this purpose.

The transition from an out-of-state residential-education plan to a state program which provides supports for blind children to remain in their local public schools has been a long one, with some troubling implications for funding for services to blind children. As Rhode Island children moved out of the Perkins School for the Blind (or other out-of-state residential programs); the money formerly budgeted for that tuition disappeared into other programs within the Department of Education. More and more of Rhode Island’s blind children were remaining in the state to be educated, but proportionally less and less funding was allocated to the Vision Services Program, which provided specialized services to these children.

By 1999 those with a special interest in the education of blind children were becoming alarmed at the rapid bleeding away of resources. No systematic assessment of the needs and cost of services to blind children seemed to be in place. In 1999 concerned professionals in the VSP program went before the state legislature to ask that the $77,000 freed up that year by two children exiting the out-of-state tuition program be returned to the VSP budget and that a full-time position be added to the program. The efforts were partially successful for that year, but it was only a temporary fix.

In the fall of 2001 the budget axe was poised again for the most staggering cut yet. But this time a new factor was in the picture. Parents of blind children, led by Elizabeth Frampton and Paul Loberti, mobilized. Unwilling to sit by silently while essential service after essential service was stripped away, parents organized into the Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children (RIPBVI) so that they could collectively advocate to keep the VSP program and funding for that program intact. They wrote letters, made phone calls, dashed off e-mails, buttonholed state legislators, and finally got the ear of one newspaper reporter.

The following article, which appeared in the Providence Journal-Bulletin, picks up the story at this point. Following the newspaper article are copies of letters by Elizabeth Frampton and Paul Loberti, which bring the saga up to date as of August 2002. We begin with the report from the Providence Journal-Bulletin:

A Young Girl
is the One to Listen to

by Bob Kerr

Reprinted from the Providence
Journal-Bulletin (Providence, RI) Sunday,
July 07, 2002.

[PHOTO]

Aria Loberti

Aria Mia Loberti is a charming, articulate soon-to-be fourth grader with a musical name and a deep appreciation for the people who help her to be all she can be. Sitting with her parents in a restaurant at the Providence Marriott, holding the latest book she is reading, she explains that these people, at her school in Johnston, are important people, and they make her life better.

She suffers from an eye disorder that lets her see in dim indoor light but leaves her blind in the bright out-of-doors. She seems lucky, in a way, because she has parents who insist that she get the things she needs to be just another very bright girl in elementary school. And she lives in Johnston, where school officials have been very understanding and very helpful. But she is part of a small, seldom heard constituency in Rhode Island that now realizes it has to speak up for itself—and it is having no easy time getting simple answers to simple questions.

“We want to be part of the solution,” says Paul Loberti, Aria Mia’s father. “The only real advocacy we have is the vision educators themselves. They’re the only ones who testified on our behalf.”

What happened to Loberti, his wife, Audrey Loberti, their daughter, and other families with children who are blind or visually impaired got little if any notice in the recent debate over cuts in the Rhode Island state budget. There are perhaps 150 children in the state who are blind or suffer from impaired vision and require special assistance at school. They are not a large group, and, until now, they have not been organized. And they have not been heard.

But they have been hit hard, and some of their parents wonder why they are finding it so difficult to convince state officials that, with the right kind of assistance, a child who can’t see can often do darned near everything else.

“You come away with the feeling that these kids are considered a disposable part of the population,” says Kathleen Williams, whose 3-year-old son is visually impaired. “People seem to think that ‘blind’ means kids can’t learn.”

Williams met last week with the Lobertis and other members of Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children—the group they’ve formed to push for the services their children need in order to have the same kind of education that other children have. They have all received a rude wake-up call. They have learned that things they’d thought were in place and would always be in place are not.

The warning signs first appeared last October, when some of the parents were called to a meeting at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf to learn about cuts in the budget for the education of their children.

They started telephoning Peter McWalters, the state’s commissioner of education. Paul Loberti says there were 26 calls—maybe more—expressing the parents’ concerns. They finally had a meeting, but came away without any sense of support. State education officials, say the parents, put the blame for the cuts on the governor’s office. The parents don’t really care who made the cuts. They are just amazed at how hostile their reception has been when they have made what they consider a reasonable appeal on behalf of children who can’t see.

“The problem is that the people who are making the decisions are the least equipped to do it,” says Elizabeth Frampton, the president of the parents’ group. They say they weren’t even able to get the exact figures on how much was being cut from the budget for the education of blind and visually impaired children. They had to do the math themselves and came up with the startling and disturbing fact that the budget had gone from $469,000 to $279,000. That’s small potatoes amid the millions and millions of dollars involved in the state-budget battle. But for the blind children and their families it probably means the end of summer camps and training in Braille and life skills.

The parents want independence for their children—the ability to work and compete. Right now they’re not sure what the state wants for the children. There are federal guidelines for what schools should provide for blind and visually impaired students; the parents believe those guidelines should be followed, but they aren’t really sure that they will be. As Paul Loberti points out, they all want to be part of the solution, but they feel they are being shut out.

They did appear before the House Finance Committee to make their case, and the Rhode Island House of Representatives did approve a resolution creating a commission to develop a comprehensive education system for these students. It is, perhaps, a beginning.

Personally, I’d recommend some meetings with Aria Mia Loberti. Set up meetings for her with the governor, the commissioner of education, the leaders of the legislature. Let her tell them what these educational services mean to a very smart kid who sees no limits on what she can do. They’d understand. They really would.

Editor’s Note: If only it were that easy! Shortly after the publication of this article, Elizabeth Frampton and Paul Loberti, on behalf of the Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children (RIPBVIC), sent a letter to the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, Peter McWalters, reviewing specific concerns and asking cogent questions. Copies of the letter along with a short update memo from Paul Loberti were circulated to members of the RIPBVIC. (The letter and memo are
reprinted below.) That was in July.

As of September, parents were still waiting. Waiting to hear if any of the budget would be restored, waiting for answers from the Commissioner, and waiting to hear about appointments to the commission established by the Rhode Island General Assembly to study the problem.

One final observation: Although the immediate educational situation for many of Rhode Island’s blind children is bleak, the parents I have interviewed from Rhode Island—Paul Loberti and Elizabeth Frampton—are determined to stay the course. They have displayed a remarkable combination of patience, courtesy, determination, good will, and tenacity. The final chapter on services to blind children in Rhode Island hasn’t been written yet. You can count on it!

Here now, without further comment, are reprints of the letter to Commissioner McWalters and the July update memo from Paul Loberti:

Rhode Island Parents
of
Blind and Visually Impaired Children

July 15, 2002

Dear Commissioner McWalters:

We are writing to you today to ask to be part of the solution to deliver effective, necessary services for blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island.

That said, we are confused by the tensions between the Department of Education and
advocates for blind and visually impaired children. While we cannot compromise our principles, we do recognize that to become part of the solution of current problems, we must all put aside our differences and move ahead in the best interest of serving our children. We are confident that you would agree with this
approach.

As a result of: 1) the recent extreme state budget cuts to the Department of Education’s vision program, 2) the subsequent June 2002 termination of contracted employees to provide vision services to children in Rhode Island, 3) the elimination of line items in the vision budget pertaining to supplies and equipment for blind and visually impaired children, 4) the lack of resources of the present state vision workforce to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island, and 5) the fact that there is no dedicated plan of which we are aware to work with local towns and cities effectively to allow them to realize what has transpired, as well as to address the implications of the aforementioned situation—as a result of these things—we seek an amicable solution that we can be a part of.

We realize that as a group of concerned parents we have been assertive in our requests to you and your staff. We believe, however, that we have done this professionally and courteously. As a result of our deep concern and belief that the vision education program may be nearing extinction in the state of Rhode Island, again we exert our responsibility as parents and ask that you kindly respond to this letter by answering the following questions:

1) What efforts have been made to notify local towns and cities about the crisis associated with the termination of education services for blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island?

2) What is the Department of Education’s formal stance on coordinating these services for our children? For example, should another entity in state government be responsible for the implementation, coordination, and evaluation of services?

3) Have federal grantors been notified of the documented interruption of services associated with this population—many under the umbrella of IDEA, 504, and Title IX?

4) Due to the budget cuts, how can the state adequately meet the legal requirements associated with state laws and regulations to provide an appropriate, free education for this population?

5) At present we have identified approximately 20 children with needs that cannot be met in the current financial crisis. Our question is, if these 20 children are sent to Perkins [School for the Blind] at a cost estimated at $130,000 to $250,000 per year/per student, where will the funds come from, and will this affect the current opinion of state leaders about our ability to provide adequate services for these children in-state?

We sincerely hope that you will respond to our inquiries in a timely manner. Many of the questions above have been the source of great debate and concern among the parents in our network. We would greatly appreciate your kind and considerate attention to this matter, because many blind and visually impaired children are counting on you. Please send your response to: Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Old Wrentham Road,Cumberland, Rhode Island.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Frampton, President, RIPBVIC

Paul G. Loberti, Vice President, RIPBVIC

Rhode Island Parents
of Blind and Visually Impaired Children

20 July 2002

Dear Supporter of Rhode Island Parents of 
 Blind and Visually Impaired Children:

I hope you are well. Today I am writing to keep you informed of the events that have transpired within the last two months regarding the provision of services to blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island.

We as parents are completely and utterly shocked by the concerted destruction of state services for our children. This year we watched as the state budget for this program was essentially dismantled at the Department of Education. We continue to seek answers as to how and why this happened but quite honestly have not received any official word.

Our organization wanted you to receive a copy of the most recent letter sent to Commissioner McWalters. We sincerely hope that the appropriate individuals will rectify the problem, but at present the situation is grim. We ask that you take an active role in assisting us in resolving this crisis. Please carefully review this letter and call me at ___ or Elizabeth Framptom, President of RI Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children, at ___, if you have further questions.

Currently blind and visually impaired children who typically get services for the summer have been told they will no longer get these services. The fall is coming soon, and parents are uncertain whether local governments will have the time and resources to accommodate our children’s needs. Keep in mind that more than half of the vision educators were terminated as a result of the state mandate to
eliminate contract employees.

The current state-funded vision educators are at a complete loss to know how they will provide services for the children who desperately need them. In addition, line items in the current budget have been slashed, and fundamental resources to support the education of our children are no longer available.

We urge you to help us restore the necessary elements to provide services to blind and visually impaired children in our state. Thank you for your continued support of blind and visually impaired children. They need you now more than ever!

Sincerely,

Paul G. Loberti, Vice President, RIPBVIC

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Math Adds Up to Education

Susan Osterhaus, a math teacher at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, recently sent to the office of the editor a sample math packet. This wonderful packet simply bulges with brochures, catalogues, order forms, and flyers about adapted math materials and tools for blind and visually impaired children of all ages—from pre-K to college-age. The resources range from expensive, high-tech items to inexpensive, low-tech, materials.  To order the complete math packet—which is free—send your request and your mailing address to:

Susan A. Osterhaus, M.Ed.
Secondary Mathematics
Texas School
for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1100 West 45th Street, Austin, TX 78756
Susanosterhaus@tsbvi.edu
www.tsbvi.edu/math

Listed below are some of the resources in the packet:

Videotapes:

Teaching Visually Impaired Students—two videotapes produced by the Iowa State University Media Resources Center in cooperation with Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School:

Tape 1. Preparing Tactile Adaptations for Math and Science (28 min.)

Tape 2. Using Adaptations for Math and Science (18 min.)

Tape 1 is $60, Tape 2 is $60 and together they are $100. All prices are for prepaid orders and shipping is included. Send orders to:

Instructional Technology Center

1200 Communications Bldg.

Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-3243

Phone: (515) 294-8022  *  Fax: (515) 294-8089

Instructions for Teachers

Strategies for Developing Mathematics Skills in Students Who Use Braille is a 245-page book that covers such topics as Teaching Nemeth Code, Tactile Displays and Graphics, Spoken Mathematics, etc.

Computerized Nemeth Code Tutor is a tutorial guide (three disks and instruction booklet) that helps sighted teachers of blind students hone their skills in Nemeth Code.

For more information, request a Publications and Resources brochure from:

Association for Education and
Rehabilitation of the Blind and
Visually Impaired (AER)
4600 Duke Street, Suite 430
P. O. Box 22397, Alexandria, VA 22304
Phone: (877) 492-2708 or (703) 823-9690
Fax: (703) 823-9695  *  aer@aerbvi.org

Math Courses

Tuition-Free Distance Education—High School and Adult Continuing Education Programs in: general, pre-algebra, applied mathematics, algebra, geometry, metric, and Nemeth Code. Contact:

The Hadley School for the Blind
700 Elm Street

Winnetka, Illinois 60093-2554

Phone: (800) 526-9909 or (847) 446-8111

Fax: (847) 446-0855

student_services@hadley-school.org

Louis 

A service of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Louis, a database of accessible materials for people who are blind or visually impaired, lists the location information for over 145,000 books in Braille, large print, computer file, and/or tape. For information about how to use the Louis system, contact:

APH
Maria E. Delgado, Louis Database
Field Representative
Phone: (502) 899-2340  *  Fax: (502) 899-2363
mdelgado@aph.org  *  www.aph.org

Computer Transcription of Math

Convert print math to Braille with Scientific Notebook (SN) and LaTeX importer. Edit, proofread, and emboss Nemeth, BAUK, UEBC, and French math Braille. Contact:

Duxbury Systems, Inc.
270 Littleton Road, #6
Westford, MA 01886-3523
Phone: (978) 692-3000  *  Fax: (978) 692-7912
info@duxsys.com
www.duxburysystems.com

Math Textbooks in Braille

Computers to Help People, Inc., is a transcription service which specializes in math books—from elementary texts to advanced calculus and logic. For more information contact:

Computers to Help People, Inc.
825 East Johnson Street

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: (608) 257-5917  *  Fax: (608) 257-3480

director@chpi.org

Tactile Graphics

Making tactile graphics can be fast and easy. In only 10 seconds you can process a raised picture with piaf (Pictures in a Flash). Contact:

HumanWare
6245 King Road, Loomis, CA 95650
Phone: (800) 722-3393  *  Fax: (916) 652-7296
info@humanware.com
www.humanware.com

Maps, Etc.

Tactile Vision, Inc. provides many inexpensive tactile maps, calendars, children’s tactile books (Alphabet Book, My Counting Book, etc.), tactile and Braille greeting cards, etc. The most expensive item in the catalog is $70; the cheapest, $0.75. To order a catalog, contact:

Tactile Vision, Inc.
461 North Service Road, West, Unit B-11
Oakville, Ontario L6M 2V5 CANADA
Phone: (905) 465-0755

Wikki Stix for the Sight-Impaired

Wikki Stix are an easy way to create tactile graphics and assist with O&M training, map concepts, and much more. The thin, “sticky” strips are made of a special formulation of yarn and wax. They are virtually mistake-proof…press ‘em down, peel ‘em off…they are easy to change and reposition. Contact:

Wikki Stix, Omnicor, Inc.
2432 W. Peoria, #1188
Phoenix, Arizona 85029
Phone: (602) 870-9937  *  Fax: (602) 870-9877
www.wikkistix.com

Math Aids

From toys such as Twist & ShoutTM Multiplication and Dr. Talking Clock to talking calculators, Independent Living Aids, Inc. (ILA) offers a range of math educational resources for blind and visually impaired children. To request a catalog contact:

ILA
200 Robbins Lane
Jericho, NY 11753-2341
Phone: (800) 537-2118  *  Fax: (516) 937-3906
www.independentliving.com

Math Materials and Tools

Tactile demonstration thermometer, Feel ’n Peel Stickers, measurement aids, Braille/print Protractor, tangible graphs, tactile graphics starter kit, Braille Transcribers’ Kit: Math, Tactile Graphics Kit, graph sheets, Graphic aid for Mathematics, Geometry Tactile Graphics Kit, APH Number Line Device, Orion TI-34 Talking Scientific Calculator, Math Flash, Nemeth Braille Code books, and many more math-related items are available from APH. Contact:

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
P. O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Phone: (502) 895-2405 or (800) 223-1839
Fax: (502) 899-2274
info@aph.org   *   www.aph.org

Click Rule

The Click Rule is an efficient tactile and auditory measuring device that allows for accurate readings up to 1/16 of an inch, or up to one millimeter. It is especially fast and accurate for wood and tool set-ups. Contact:

Community Advocates, Inc.
P. O. Box 83304, Lincoln, NE 68501
Fax: (402) 486-3091   *   www.clickrule.com

Large Display Calculator

The VisAbleTM Scientific Calculator is a portable, battery-operated, large display calculator that allows people with low vision to perform scientific, statistical, and trigonometric calculations. Contact:

Betacom Corporation
450 Metheson Blvd. East, Unit 67
Mississauga, Ontario L4Z 1R5 CANADA
Phone: (905) 568-9977 or (800) 353-1107
Fax: (905) 568-9925
info@betacom.com   *   www.betacom.com

Leo Braille Display Calculator

Named after the famous 18th century blind mathematician, Leonard Euler, this miniature, 10-ounce scientific calculator has a refreshable Braille display. It performs the standard arithmetic functions and numerous scientific functions such as square root, sine, cosine, tangent, logarithm, conversions, financial functions, and others. Contact:

Robotron Group
Phone: +613 9568-2568
Fax: +613 9568-1377
info@sensorytools.com
www.sensorytools.com

Talking Scientific Calculator

Based on the popular TI-34 calculator from Texas Instruments, the pocket-size talking Orion TI-34 can be used for general math, trigonometry, statistics, physical sciences, etc. For more information contact Orbit Research at (888) 606-7248.

Future Reflections

The National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents of Blind Children

1800 Johnson Street * Baltimore, Maryland 21230

(410) 659-9314  *  www.nfb.org   *   BCheadle@nfb.org

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[  ]$8.00 Subscription. I understand this inludes a family membership in the National
         Organization of Parents of Blind Children

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