The National Freedom of Information Day (March 16th) is a day Americans, with renewed energy, re-mind ourselves of the importance of government transparency. We the people have a right to information.
The very idea of “freedom of information” re-energizes and re-minds me that people who are blind AND people who have low vision have a right to information. They have a right to access stories, textbooks, recipes, charts, websites, notes, menus, labels, etc. They have a right to access this information efficiently and without physical strain. And you know what makes this possible? Braille, the code that changed the course of history.
Parents, I want to empower you to know the law and the rights of your child who is blind or visually impaired. You are your child’s champion.
What does the law state?
Special education law states children who are blind or visually impaired should be thoroughly taught braille unless there is an assessed and documented reason it is inappropriate. Here it is in writing.
This isn’t always happening in practice.
Teachers for students with visual impairments (TVIs) have high caseloads and limited time. It is common for TVIs to teach braille to totally blind students and to focus on print magnification for students with low vision. While this may appear reasonable and it is often well intentioned, there are real struggles for many people with low vision who are solely print readers. Common struggles include eye strain, pain from poor posture, slower reading, and long-term frustration. Successful adults with low vision, have a wide variety of resources in their literacy toolboxes. For many these tools include braille literacy skills.
Take it from an adult with low vision
Read this adult’s perspective; she has low vision and laments about not having been taught braille in childhood. She shares about the physical strain and frustration of reading print.
Speaking as a TVI
I know having your child learn braille seems daunting. It seems foreign and can seem unnecessary if your child is able to distinguish letters or read print. Consider, though, your child in adulthood. What sets them up for success?
According to the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research, blind and visually impaired individuals who read braille on at least a weekly basis have a higher likelihood of employment and higher earnings than blind and visually impaired print readers.
Maybe it is time to advocate for your child’s freedom of information.
TVIs do need the support of parents in order to advocate to administration for fewer students on their caseloads. Alternatively, they will not have adequate time to thoroughly teach braille to their students.
And be sure to sign your young child up for free braille books!
Because, as FamilyConnect has long since championed, literacy is a right and not a privilege.