RESOLUTION 2011-14

Education Policy Guidance

AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND
RESOLUTION 2011-14

SUMMARY:

1. This organization calls upon U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to take all steps necessary to update and issue policy guidance concerning the education of students with vision loss, to publish such guidance in the Federal Register no later than the close of calendar year 2012, and to set the DoEd on a course to regularly update such guidance thereafter.

2. The Department of Education will work with the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and similar parties with whom these organizations may make common cause, to ensure that, at a minimum, future policy guidance thoroughly addresses: students' rights to accessible instructional materials and states' and schools' obligations to offer accessible materials and technologies; a clear statement of states' and schools' obligation to provide assistive technology and the services necessary to use it properly, and clarification that such technology may be used in the student's home or otherwise outside of the classroom; the enforcement and other means open to students, parents, teachers and other advocates to ensure that students with vision loss receive instruction in braille as appropriate; a straightforward description of the criteria that should be used to determine when the establishment of an individualized education program (IEP) or a so-called 504 plan is warranted for a given student with vision loss; a statement affirming the role of the teacher of students with visual impairments as the indispensable professional necessary to the appropriate receipt of special education for a student with vision loss; practical examples of draft goals which might be incorporated in IEPs to achieve specific outcomes; clarification that IDEA's so-called least restrictive environment expectation cannot be used to thwart the provision of services meeting the unique needs of students with vision loss simply because such appropriate services happen to be readily available at special schools or in center-based settings; and the full appropriate availability of educational placements along a continuum of options, including specialized schools.

WHEREAS, formal policy guidance issued by the United States Department of Education (DoEd) entitled "Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students: Policy Guidance from OSERS" (65 FR 36586) has proven to be an invaluable awareness and advocacy tool for students with vision loss, their parents, teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs), and other advocates; and

WHEREAS, the DoEd's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) first issued such policy guidance on November 3, 1995 and last updated and reissued such policy guidance on June 8, 2000; and

WHEREAS, since the issuance of the policy guidance more than eleven years ago, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), its implementing regulations, and other laws affecting the education of students with disabilities, have undergone substantial change; and

WHEREAS, among other noteworthy improvements, such laws call for the provision of accessible instructional materials and technologies and create mechanisms for their delivery; and

WHEREAS, a host of matters, from the appropriate role of specialized schools, to the distinctions between orientation and mobility and travel training, to the widespread failure of students with vision loss to receive braille instruction, to the need for proper evaluation and assessment, to the provision of early intervention services in so-called natural environments, have also evolved, and in some instances devolved, in the eleven years since the policy guidance was last issued; and

WHEREAS, the DoEd's failure to keep such policy guidance up to date denies students, parents, TVIs and other advocates a current, clear and convincing Department Of Education-endorsed statement concerning the rights of, and public education system responsibilities to serve, students with vision loss; and

WHEREAS, as of this writing, the pending re-authorization of IDEA and the subsequent process for issuing related implementing regulations is expected to require at least four additional years.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled at the John Ascuaga Nugget Hotel Resort and Casino in Sparks, Nev. on the 15th day of July, 2011, that this organization call upon U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to take all steps necessary to update and issue policy guidance concerning the education of students with vision loss, to publish such guidance in the Federal Register no later than the close of calendar year 2012, and to set the DoEd on a course to regularly update such guidance thereafter; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the DoEd work with the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and similar parties with whom these organizations may make common cause, to ensure that, at a minimum, future policy guidance thoroughly addresses:

* Students' rights to accessible instructional materials and states' and schools' obligations to offer accessible materials and technologies;

* A clear statement of states' and schools' obligation to provide assistive technology and the services necessary to use it properly, and clarification that such technology may be used in the student's home or otherwise outside of the classroom;

* The enforcement and other means open to students, parents, teachers and other advocates to ensure that students with vision loss receive instruction in braille as appropriate;

* A straightforward description of the criteria that should be used to determine when the establishment of an individualized education program (IEP) or a so-called 504 plan is warranted for a given student with vision loss;

* A statement affirming the role of the teacher of students with visual impairments as the indispensable professional necessary to the appropriate receipt of special education for a student with vision loss;

* Practical examples of draft goals which might be incorporated in IEPs to achieve specific outcomes;

* Clarification that IDEA's so-called least restrictive environment expectation cannot be used to thwart the provision of services meeting the unique needs of students with vision loss simply because such appropriate services happen to be readily available at special schools or in center-based settings; and

* The full appropriate availability of educational placements along a continuum of options, including specialized schools.

Adopted.

Marlaina Lieberg, Secretary