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Sen. Boozman backs Braille literacy effort

June 12, 2012

The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for Braille literacy, last month commended Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who led a bipartisan group of 26 senators, including Sen. John Boozman, O.D., (R-Ark.), in sending a letter to Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, regarding improving access to Braille instruction for blind students.

The letter calls upon the Department of Education to work with stakeholders to develop new regulations for the individualized education program (IEP) of blind students and provide guidance to school districts to clarify the requirement contained in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that Braille be presumed appropriate for blind students unless there is specific evidence that Braille is not appropriate.

The letter stated in part: “Students with blindness or a visual impairment who are inappropriately denied or delayed Braille instruction find themselves struggling in middle and high school, falling further behind their sighted peers. As this achievement gap persists, the student’s ability to compete with sighted peers for post-secondary opportunities and employment is significantly compromised. This literacy gap is both unnecessary and preventable.”

“We applaud Senator Murray and her fellow senators for taking a stand for the equal education of blind students. Braille is the only reading and writing method for blind people, and there is overwhelming evidence that Braille readers go on to lead more productive lives —and yet currently only 10 percent of blind students are learning Braille,” said Marc Maurer, J.D., president of the National Federation of the Blind. “This cannot stand. We urge the Secretary of Education to heed this letter and begin work with the National Federation of the Blind and other stakeholders to develop new regulations that will reverse this downward trend in Braille literacy.”

“This is not just a problem for the blind community, this is a problem for our country as a whole,” said Sen. Murray in a statement from her office. “If we allow this to continue, it won’t just be one community that falls behind, we will all fall behind together. Making sure that we offer all our kids, regardless of disability, a world-class education is not only a moral obligation, it is an economic imperative for the U.S. to succeed.”

“As an optometrist, I recognize the importance of providing our blind and visually impaired students with the resources they need to learn how to read,” said Sen. Boozman. “Evaluation of students with disabilities is essential to providing an individualized education program that leads to literacy and readies these students for college and a career.”

For more information on the National Federation of the Blind, visit www.nfb.org.

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