Future Reflections Winter/Spring, Vol. 14 No. 1
FACT 1.-Braille is literacy!
Literacy: An individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society; to achieve one's goals; and to develop one's knowledge and potential.
For blind and visually impaired students, Braille IS literacy!
Tragically, however, for decades our schools have downgraded Braille to the level of just another information-gathering tool. This has led to a nationwide crisis.
FACT 2.-Thousands of blind and visually impaired students are functionally illiterate.
These students cannot read, write, or compute independently and efficiently. Currently, there are about 50,204 elementary and secondary level students who have only 10 percent or less of normal vision. Of these, only 4,385 read Braille. The vast majority of the remaining students use print materials even when reading with sight is inefficient, inadequate, and a never-ending daily struggle.
FACT 3.-Something MUST be done!
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind have been engaged in a nationwide Braille Literacy Campaign to eliminate illiteracy among blind and visually impaired children and youth. Last year, that campaign went national as we sought to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, that effort was put on hold when it became apparent that action on IDEA would not be taken until 1995.
By the time you receive this issue the Braille Literacy Campaign at the federal level will have shifted from the back burner to the front burner. Sometime this spring Congress must begin tackling the re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This, then, is the ideal time to push to get strong Braille literacy provisions added to IDEA. It is the best opportunity we will have for many years to get strong language at the federal level which confirms the right of all blind children to basic Braille literacy skills.
FACT 4.-You can help. Write a Letter!
Whom To Write:
a.) The two senators from your state (address: U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C., 20510);
b.) your member of congress in the House of Representatives (address: House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515);
c.) *Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515; and *Senator Bill Frist, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.
*Congressman Cunningham and Senator Frist chair the key committees to which IDEA will be assigned.
What To Say: Tell them how you feel about the importance of this issue. It does not need to be a complex or lengthy letter (in fact, a one-page letter is best). Just tell them who you are, why you are interested in Braille literacy, and specifically urge them to support the addition of strong Braille literacy provisions to IDEA. The letters may be the same, they can be hand-written or typed, and they must include your name and address.
Send A Copy: Take one more extra moment and send a copy of your letter to Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
For more information call Mrs. Cheadle at (410) 659-9314