Future Reflections March/ April 1983, Vol. 2 No. 2

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By Becky Bridges

Note: Another title for this article could be: "Spring Means ... It's Time to Get Ready for School!" Most parents need not think about preparing their children for the coming school year until August or so. That's not so for parents of blind children. At least, it's not if we want to be sure our child has all the necessary materials and educational aids they will need to begin on an equal basis with all the other children. Though the school is responsible for this, parents play in important, sometimes vital, role in making sure preparations are made in time. The following article then, is particularly appropriate and timely.

As their blind children prepare to enroll in school, parents are often confronted with understandable concerns regarding the expense and availability of appropriate educational materials. However, when parents are familiarized with a federal program referred to as the Quota System, many of their worries can be alleviated.

The Quota System provides funds which are designated exclusively for the purchase of educational aids and textbooks from the American Printing House for Blind. Many Braille and large print books are offered, plus a very few recorded items. In order to be eligible for quota funds, one must be enrolled in a formal educational program below college level, i.e. public, private and parochial schools; educational preschools or nursery schools; adult rehabilitation training programs, and must be registered as legally blind with the Department of Education in his state of residence. In January of each year, school superintendents are responsible for registering all legally blind students with the State Department of Education. To be considered legally blind, a student must meet one of the following visual criteria: visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction, or a visual field which does not exceed 20 degrees in the widest diameter. Each state is provided with a quota fund, based upon the number of legally blind students registered in the state. For each student registered in January 1982, the quota allotment was $123.00. This does not mean that each student will receive precisely $123.00 worth of special aids and materials. Some students will need much less, if any, and others will need much more. All students must be re-registered each year.

Within each school or school district, an individual is usually designated to coordinate the ordering of all quota materials. In order to ensure prompt delivery of materials, orders should be submitted in the early spring of the school year prior to that in which the materials will be needed. At the time of purchase, educational materials become the property of the state rather than of an individual student or school district. Therefore, when materials are no longer being used, they are returned to the state materials center for circulation to other students.

Often a student may need a textbook which is not currently available through the American Printing House. In order to meet this need, many states have organizations of volunteer and/or paid workers who transcribe standard print text books into large print, Braille, or tape. Some organizations have the capability to make photocopy enlargements of standard print texts. Although many of these materials must be purchased, they are often available for loan. To help in the location of such materials the American Printing House annually publishes a Central Catalog, which lists Braille, large print and recorded textbooks catalogued nation-wide. Any materials available from other than the American Printing House cannot be purchased with quota funds. However, most school districts have funds which can be allocated for such purchases.

To ask for further information, or to order free catalogs of Braille, large print, and educational aids, contact:
American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 895-2405

Becky Bridges is a Preschool Rehabilitation Teacher with the Missouri Bureau for the Blind. Although her job description does not include working with school-age children, Becky often serves as a resource and consultant to parents and school districts who have no one else to turn to.

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