Braille and Low Vision Services in Special Education
Resolution 2016-03
Whereas, for nearly twenty years, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has required that every student who is blind or visually impaired shall have instruction in and use of braille unless the student’s individualized education program (IEP) team determines, after appropriate evaluation, that instruction in and use of braille is inappropriate for the student; and
Whereas, this so-called braille presumption in IDEA, though indispensible as the clearest statement in current education law supporting braille instruction for students with vision loss, has not, as yet, yielded national systemic increases in braille literacy, in the number of available teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) prepared to teach braille, or in awareness among parents of students with vision loss of their children’s right to learn and read braille; and
Whereas, it is imperative that the current braille presumption in IDEA be preserved and, if possible, strengthened so that students with vision loss can truly be guaranteed a free and appropriate public education; and
Whereas, a small cohort of respected but over-zealous professionals and academics are seeking to promote the delivery of clinical low vision evaluations, instruction using large print, and the use of optical devices or other low vision-related assistive technologies, by advocating that the braille presumption in IDEA be weakened, eliminated, and/or commingled with low vision-specific statutory requirements; and
Whereas, such advocacy would, if successful, put students’ right to braille at significant risk and needlessly pit braille instruction against low vision devices and instruction; and
Whereas, notwithstanding this misguided strategy, it is vital that the needs of students with low vision be fully honored and that education funding and policy compel educational systems to meet these nationally neglected needs; and
Whereas, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) has joined with more than 100 major national, regional and community-based organizations of and for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind, to endorse the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, comprehensive special education legislation to fundamentally transform America’s special education system and improve results for students with sensory disabilities, including those students who may have additional disabilities; and
Whereas, the Cogswell-Macy Act, once enacted, would preserve the current braille presumption in IDEA but, for the first time, also provide formal federal statutory status and recognition for low vision services and devices in America’s special education system; and
Whereas, ACB has long affirmed that the current provisions of IDEA concerning instruction in and use of braille must be held inviolate and, if possible, strengthened so that no blind or visually impaired student in America is denied their right to learn and read braille;
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled on the 7th day of July, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that this
organization repudiate any effort to alter or modify IDEA’s existing braille provisions that would in any way, either actually or as may be perceived, impair IDEA’s currently uncompromising approach to the provision of braille; and
Be it further resolved that, as an endorser of the Cogswell-Macy Act and a lead proponent of its prompt enactment, ACB reaffirm its unwavering commitment to see low vision services and devices get their due recognition in federal special education law so that all students who should benefit from such services and devices can finally receive them.
Ray Campbell, Secretary