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FOR PARENTS OF BLIND AND VISUALLY HANDICAPPED CHILDREN

C. EDUCATIONAL ISSUES

The Adaptech Project conducted an extensive study of student use of adaptive technology in higher education:
C.S. Fichten, M. Barile, and J.V. Asuncion. Learning technologies: Students with disabilities in postsecondary education / Projet Adaptech : L'Utilisation des technologies d'apprentissage par les etudiant(e)s handicape(e)s au niveau postsecondaire. Final report to the Office of Learning Technologies. Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada, 1999. 190 pages. ISBN 2-9803316-4-3. A full text version of the report is available in English in Adobe Acrobat format on the World Wide Web.

The American Foundation for the Blind Textbook and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum "works to ensure equal access to instructional materials for students who are blind or visually impaired." "Participants include textbook publishers, educators, access technology specialists, producers of braille and recorded textbooks, parents of children who are blind or visually impaired, and adults who are blind or visually impaired."

The Chancellor of the California Community Colleges has promulgated "Guidelines for Producing Instructional and Other Printed Materials in Alternate Media for Persons with Disabilities." The guidelines cover legal issues, audio/readers, braille, tactile graphics, large print and electronic text. Guidelines covering web-based instruction and software and hardware used in distance education courses were issued separately. [Note: before you download this, be aware that it is 417K, or 97 pages of text.]

Pamela Crane, et al. "Equals in Partnership: Basic Rights for Families of Children with Blindness or Visual Impairment" (Watertown, MA: Perkins School for the Blind, 1997). A manual from the Perkins School and the National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI), full of guidelines, checklists and strategies useful for parents trying to navigate the IDEA.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabiities and Gifted Education "gathers and disseminates the professional literature, information, and resources on the education and development of individuals of all ages who have disabilities and/or who are gifted." There is also an on-line question-and-answer service.

Gardner-Webb University (Boiling Springs, NC) has a Program for the Blind that aims to give visually impaired and blind students "an equal opportunity to compete in a sighted world" and that integrates visually disabled students into all facets of university life.

The text of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 is available at the OSERS (The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services) site, along with other relevant articles, speeches, updates, official letters and memos.

The regulations for the reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are available online at the site of the PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights), as is much other news about the legislation.

The Instructional Materials Accessibility Act of 2001 has been introduced into Congress. It "will, among other things, ensure that students who are blind or visually impaired, or who have other print disabilities, have access to instructional materials in formats they can use at the same time such materials are provided to students without disabilities by requiring states to develop and implement state-wide plans designed to meet this objective. The bill also provides for the establishment of a single national electronic file format to be used by publishers in the preparation of files corresponding to texts they publish to facilitate substantially more timely and efficient conversion of such files into braille, large print, digital audio and other specialized formats. The receipt, cataloging, storage and distribution of the publisher-provided electronic files would be the responsibility of a national electronic file repository to be established under the legislation." [From "Words from Washington," July 18, 2001, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind.]

"EEEN Triangle of Support: A Guide for Parents": This parent handbook was originally developed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in cooperation with the State Superintendent's Council on Exceptional Education. The handbook explains special education processes and procedures and the role and rights the parent has during the process of identification, evaluation, and placement of children with exceptional educational needs. It has been updated to be current with revised state requirements.

Illinois H.O.U.S.E. (Home Oriented Unique Schooling Experience) has an excellent discussion of homeschooling a special-needs child and how services may be obtained from public school agencies; annotated list of resources.

Barbara Nail-Chiwetalu, in "Guidelines for Accessing Alternative Format Educational Materials," provides both the legal foundation for the right to access alternative format educational materials as well as sound practical advice as to how to go about procuring them.

National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities: created by parents and teachers to redefine education for visually handicapped children.

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities: provides information and referrals on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators and other professionals; information specialists can answer specific questions (1-800-695-0285); publications, many available online; customized information database searches.

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, United States Department of Education, "Policy Guidance on Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students," Nov. 3, 1995.

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center: based in Minnesota, with a focus on education in that state but with much information and many links also applicable to Wisconsin parents and children.

Parent Education Project of Wisconsin, Inc. (PEP-WI), located in West Allis, "is a statewide program providing training, information, and consulting for parents of children with exceptional education needs." The Project has produced "Every Child Deserves a Chance: A Welcome to the Special Education Process," which is a kit consisting of a video and workbook ($79.00).

"Serving Students with Significant Disabilities in Two-Year Colleges: Six Highly Effective Approaches": Each of the six approaches used by two-year colleges selected for this project is described in a separate publication. Educators and advocates can use the approaches to stimulate their imagination and serve as a base from which to develop even more effective support services for individuals with significant disabilities who enroll in postsecondary education.

Special Education Technology British Columbia collects a wide variety of curriculum resources and user guides to technology, prepared by practicing teachers. Also valuable is their "Technology Guide to Assist Students [K-12] With Visual Impairments in Meeting Curriculum Goals," with its matching of goals, skills to be learned, grade levels and available technology.

Katherine Schneider, in "Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired in Postsecondary Education," discusses the major issues and includes useful tips for students and instructors and a substantial list of "Selected Resources."

The US Department of Education has issued "Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students; Policy Guidance; Notice," which covers the requirements for teaching braille to any child with visual impairments unless it can be shown to be inappropriate. The "Policy Guidance" also covers provision of adaptive technology and orientation and mobility training.

Cynthia Waddell, "The Growing Digital Divide in Access for People with Disabilities: Overcoming Barriers to Participation," is a comprehensive discussion of the legal and technological issues; the footnotes are an excellent guide to recent laws and research.

"wi-RSN" is "an alliance of CESA special educators promoting continuous school improvement to support full educational opportunities for children with disabilities" in Wisconsin.

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