American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Fall 2023      ADVOCACY

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A Tool for Self-Advocacy in High School

by Erin Jepsen and Abi Jepsen

From the Editor: Erin Jepsen is a low-vision mom of four teenagers and a certified Braille transcriber. Abi (say Ah-bee) is a sophomore in high school who enjoys her friends, reading Harry Potter, and watching Avatar, The Last Airbender.

Erin Jepsen sits in a comfortable chair in a hotel lobby.Erin: This year, Abi is a sophomore at the public high school in our medium-sized Idaho town. We are remote enough that most of her teachers have never taught a blind student before. Although they want to do a good job making their material accessible, many don't have the training or experience to know what to do, especially at first.

In addition, substitute teachers rarely have the benefit of much teacher training. They can make life a bit uncomfortable because they don't know the best practices for interacting with a blind student. In the past, some substitute teachers have made assumptions about how Abi should be treated. Abi Jepsen is seated on a sofa.Some believe that Abi needs them to speak to her in a loud voice or a baby voice. Sometimes they offer much more help than she needs, which makes a class needlessly stressful for her.

In speaking with her World History teacher last year, we discovered that he had learned a lot about working with Abi and making her materials and instruction accessible. He shared that he would have liked to receive that information earlier in the school year. He suggested that Abi and I work together to come up with a quick one-page info sheet that we can hand to new teachers and substitute teachers. The info sheet would present a few basic guidelines for working with Abi or other blind students.

Here is our etiquette sheet in both a screen reader friendly format and a visually fun format for the sighted teachers and subs.

Blind Person Etiquette 101

Don't say:

Do say:

This is a graphically enhanced version of the list of dos and don’ts that appears in the text.[No need to warn of stairs or other obstacles. Her mobility tools do that job. She is in charge of keeping herself safe and learning routes.]

Don't say:

Do say:

Don't say:

Do say:

Don't say:

Do say:

[Braille is an alternate way of reading in whichever language you know. It's no harder to learn Braille than learning all the lines and squiggles we call print.]

Don't:

Do:

Abi: I hope this paper helps me communicate with my teachers better, especially the substitutes! It's hard when you're a kid to tell the teachers what to do, but they don't know what I need, and sometimes there's nobody but me there to tell them. I try, but sometimes I wonder if they will listen to me. Hopefully reading this paper will be a way to start.

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