U.S. Department of Education "Dear Colleague" Letter on Braille
American Council of the Blind
Resolution 2013-02
This organization thanks the Department of Education for drawing attention to the need for braille instruction but also demands that the department provide regulations that circumscribe the circumstances regarding braille instruction.
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Education has recently issued a so-called "Dear Colleague" letter restating current special education law with regard to instruction in, and use of, braille; and
WHEREAS, the "Dear Colleague" letter on braille perpetuates the myth that the number of children and youth who are blind or visually impaired needing special education and related services is only approximately 30,000 students; and
WHEREAS, the letter utterly fails to describe the very real need that students with vision loss who also live with additional disabilities have both to be evaluated for, and to receive, braille instruction; and
WHEREAS, the number of students nationwide who are blind or visually impaired who also have additional disabilities is conservatively estimated to be more than 100,000 students; and
WHEREAS, the letter merely references, without specific actionable guidance, the fact that students with usable vision should not be denied braille instruction simply on the basis of their having remaining vision; and
WHEREAS, leading organizational voices in the vision loss community joined to successfully recruit 26 members of the United States Senate to formally call upon Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to initiate rule-making proceedings concerning braille; and
WHEREAS, such regulations must clarify the current requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which mandate that students who are blind or visually impaired are to be provided with instruction in and use of braille unless the individualized education program (IEP) team determines that such services are not appropriate for a given student; and
WHEREAS, such clarification is essential to ensure that IEP teams, schools, districts and states do not continue to engage in the pervasive practice of improperly denying braille to students with vision loss; and
WHEREAS, the issuance of the "Dear Colleague" letter on braille is well intentioned and potentially useful as a means for drawing greater attention to the need for braille instruction nationwide; and
WHEREAS, nevertheless, the "Dear Colleague" letter is an insufficient half-measure that falls well short of the demand for change called for by the blindness community and by more than a quarter of the United States Senate;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled on the 10th day of July, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, that this organization, and its affiliate, the Braille Revival League:

  1. Thank the U.S. Secretary of Education for embarking on efforts to draw much-needed national attention to the need for braille instruction; and
  1. Demand that the Department of Education act immediately to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to provide critical and authoritative regulations carefully circumscribing the circumstances in which IEP teams may properly make determinations that braille instruction is inappropriate for some students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to the 26 U.S. Senators who advocated additional braille regulations, and to the Secretary of Education, so that it can be clearly understood that a "Dear Colleague" letter, in and of itself, does not begin to constitute a remedy for the untold damage being done by the failure to teach braille in states and school districts throughout America.
Marlaina Lieberg, Secretary