Future Reflections Spring/ Summer1989, Vol. 8 No. 2

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by Peggy Finder

Editor's note: Peggy Finder is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, and a practicing attorney. The initiative Miss Finder discusses in this article is a very important one to all parents and educators of blind children. Please read it carefully and consider the action you ought to take.

The National Federation of the Blind, a nationwide organization of blind persons, is spearheading an initiative to create additional opportunities for educational materials and equipment for blind children in America's schools. The initiative deals with the Congressional appropriation commonly known as the Quota money.

In 1879, the Congress passed an excellent law providing that for each blind student in the United States, an annual allotment for books and supplies would be provided out of federal funds. This allotment is now approximately $ 111.00 per year per student. Each year Congress appropriates a lump sum, and the amount of the Quota is determined on the basis of the census of legally blind students. Each school district (or Area Education Agency) administers the funds for children in its district.

Rather than being dispensed as cash, the Quota is in the form of actual books and supplies from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky. (That is, for each blind student in 12th grade and below, the school can receive $111.00 worth of goods from APH per year without charge.) In 1879, the American Printing House was the only supplier of transcribed books and of aids and appliances for the blind. Today there are many such suppliers -yet the Quota can only be used for the materials at APH. Frequently a school finds that at APH a given item is more expensive or in a less convenient form than elsewhere-or not available at all-yet to buy these items elsewhere, the school must use its own funds.

One of the most exciting developments in the blindness field in recent years has been the appearance of small, "high-tech" firms, creating useful and inexpensive devices, or producing Braille at reduced cost. Quota money cannot be used to purchase these books and devices because they are not made or sold by APH. The Federation's initiative would open these opportunities to schools and to children.

The National Federation of the Blind is proposing that the law be changed to allow Quota funds to be used for the purpose of specialized materials from any. supplier, at the discretion of the school. We propose that the American Printing House for the Blind continue to administer the entire program, but that it be required to obtain items from other suppliers as well as from its own stock, as directed by the school. We are convinced that this modification will update this excellent law to make it even more helpful to blind students in the modern environment.

If you wish to help with this important initiative, please write your Congressional Representatives and Senators or get in touch with the National Federation of the Blind. Working together, we can continue to improve the education of blind children.

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