FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
National Federation of the Blind Commends Department of Education for New Guidelines on Braille Instruction
Baltimore, Maryland (June 19, 2013): The National Federation of the Blind commended the Department of Education for guidelines on Braille instruction issued in a Dear Colleague Letter earlier today. The letter clarifies the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regarding Braille instruction.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We commend the Department of Education for recognizing that every blind child needs to be given the opportunity to learn Braille. Knowing how to read and write Braille is critical to the ultimate success of blind children. The department’s action today puts school administrators on notice that Braille instruction must be provided to blind children unless a thorough and rigorous evaluation demonstrates that Braille is not appropriate. The guidelines also make it clear that Braille is appropriate for blind children who have some vision, especially if their eye condition is degenerative and they are therefore likely to continue to lose vision. Finally, the guidelines emphasize that external factors like the expense of providing Braille instruction or the availability of audio or other alternative formats cannot be used as an excuse to deny Braille instruction to blind children. We hope and believe that these clarifications will reverse the harmful decline in Braille instruction that has left too many blind people functionally illiterate, and will restore Braille to its proper place as the most effective reading and writing medium for blind people.”
“The U.S. Department of Education is committed to ensuring that children who are blind and visually impaired have access to Braille instruction and Braille materials,” said Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education. “The ability to read and write Braille competently and efficiently is critical to ensuring students who are blind and visually impaired graduate from high school college and career ready.”
On May 1, 2012, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, along with twenty-five Senate cosigners, wrote to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to express concern that blind students in America were not receiving adequate instruction in Braille, the recognized reading and writing medium for the blind, and were therefore falling behind their sighted peers in school.