Braille Monitor                                                                 April-May 1985


First National Conference on the Status of Education and the Blind

by Jim Mitchell, President
Student Division
National Federation of the Blind

The "National Conference on the Status of Education and the Blind" will be held in conjunction with the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind on June 29, 1985, at the Gait House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. The day-long conference is jointly sponsored by the NFB Student Division, the National Association of Blind Educators, the National Association to Promote the use of Braille, and the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division. The purpose of the meeting is to evaluate the current status of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education of the blind. Presentations will focus on today's approaches in education and developing new directions for the future.

Session I, chaired by Fred Schroeder, Director of Low Incidence Programs for the Albuquerque Public Schools, is entitled "The Skills of Blindness-Foundations for Success." The various alternative techniques used by the blind will be discussed with reference to their educational and social applications. The importance of how these skills are taught and the attitudes necessary for their successful use will be explained along with a slide presentation demonstrating the implementation of these concepts in the Albuquerque public schools.

"Parents, Educators, and the Organized Blind-Role Models and Reinforcement" is the title of Session II. The chair, Barbara Cheadle (Editor of Future Reflections and mother of a blind son) will lead a panel of parents and educators in a discussion of the importance of approaching educational goals in an integrated manner. The effect of positive role models and reinforcement at home on young children will be a topic of discussion. Also, the need for involvement by the National Federation of the Blind in Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) and local school districts and how this has been done will be covered.

Session III will be chaired by James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, and is entitled "Post-secondary Education and Rehabilitation-Where Do We Draw the Line?" A panel of professionals from both fields will debate the controversy surrounding the current status of higher education and the blind. Among the questions to be addressed are: What services should be provided for blind college students? Who is responsible for providing these services? How should services be structured to promote independence? How should the financial burden for tuition, auxiliary aids, and supplies be handled and by whom?

Jim Mitchell, NFB Student Division President and doctoral student at Duke University, will chair Session IV, "Successful Students-The Consumer's Perspective." Students from primary education through graduate school will comprise this panel. How today's student makes it through the myriad of rules and regulations, itinerant teachers, resource rooms, and special programs and manages to get an education will be the main theme of this session. The "experts" will discuss various strategies and alternative techniques they have employed to be successful in educational and social settings. The impacts of special education, mainstreaming, vocational rehabilitation, and Social Security on the lives of each student will be discussed.

"Teaching our Educators-The Role of the Organized Blind" is the title of Session V, to be chaired by Dr. Homer Page of the University of Colorado at Boulder. This panel, comprised of professionals in the field of teacher education, will review the current status of educating teachers of the blind.

The colleges and universities across the country are minting new teachers of the blind each year. What attitudes toward blindness are the teacher education programs instilling in their students, and what basic skills of blindness are the new teachers learning? How well prepared are these new teachers to work with blind children that they will actually work with in the schools?

These and crucial other issues will be pursued with a panel well prepared to discuss them.

The various viewpoints presented in each panel promise to provoke spirited, in-depth, and informative discussion. As time allows, questions will be taken from the audience. Everyone is welcome, especially students, parents, and educators. For more information on the First National Conference on the Status of Education and the Blind, please contact: Jim Mitchell, President, National Federation of the Blind Student Division, 2752 Middleton Avenue #29H, Durham, North Carolina 27705.