Braille Monitor                                                                  July 1985


A New Generation of Blind Children

(Note: The following article appeared in the Spring, 1985, issue of the Blind Washingtonian, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington State.)

For those of us in the NFB, there has always been an awareness of issues beyond ourselves. We fight, not only for our generation, but the next.

Due to advances in the treatment of premature babies, that next generation will be as large as our own, if not larger. As children are being saved at lower birth weights, more and more babies are again contracting R.L.F. (Retrolental Fibroplasia). In these low birth weight babies, careful monitoring of oxygen cannot prevent R.L.F. Ninety percent of the babies below 1,000 gram weight will have R.L.F. Many of these babies will become blind.

There are as many babies being blinded now as during the peak years of '43'53. At that time every blind school in the country was overflowing, and many mainstreaming programs were founded.

The first wave of Washington State three-year-old R.L.F. children will be eligible for pre-school next September. There are no adequate programs for these children.

We have a moral obligation to these children to assure that they have educational opportunities now and full first class citizenship as adults.

We need to strengthen mainstream programs across the state. All blind children must have access to Braille and early cane travel instruction. We must strengthen the Washington State School for the Blind. It will be needed for outreach to mainstream programs, schooling for rural children, those who "fall between the cracks " or need a little extra help. We must call for more Department of Services for the Blind family workers. There are two workers for the whole state, and they each have a case load of 600. Most important, we must work closely with our new local NFB parents affiliate, the Northwest Parents of Blind Children.

Together, we the blind and the parents of blind children can assure that the next generation has the needed opportunities. For further information on the medical aspects of the new R.L.F. wave see "A Re-Examination of the Role of Oxygen in Retrolental Fibroplasia" by Lucey Pungman in Pediatrics, January, 1984.