Special Education Column
Many class projects undertaken in college are forgotten almost immediately after they are graded.
But an exercise trail for handicapped people that was designed by two University of Florida students is likely to be remembered--and used--long after the two have graduated.
The special mile-long course, one of only eight in the country designed for the handicapped, is the first exercise trail for disabled people in the southeast region of the country.
Located in Gainesville, the Disabled Special Health Parcourse was financed by local civic groups.
Initially designed as part of an assignment for a recreation class, the paved pathway includes 15 exercise stations designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs, the aged, and those temporarily disabled.
The parcourse will eventually have braille signs, guardrails for the blind, security lights, and a shelter.
The Safety and Fitness Exchange, an educational organization that conducts workshops on self-protection for people in schools and other community groups, is collaborating with the Victim Services Agency in New York City to teach disabled persons to defend themselves.
Its most recent project has been working with students at a private school for the deaf.
Although most of the deaf students understand the threat of unexpected violence, those involved in the project contend that deaf people are most vulnerable to crimes because they are unable to detect the presence of danger through the sense of hearing.
They also recognize that many deaf children, because they have been protected by their parents and families, consider themselves immune from dangers, and lack the experience to react decisively when threatened.
Through demonstrations and signed interpretations, the students are shown several potentially dangerous confrontations and are encouraged to discuss how best to respond in various situations.
After several attempts to reach an agreement with its parent group, the Council for Learning Disabilities has announced to its members that as of July 1 it will no longer be a part of the Council for Exceptional Children.
The CLD, which has about 8,000 members, is the largest group within the CEC, a professional membership organization and advocacy group serving handicapped persons.
Gaye McNutt, professor of education at the University of Oklahoma and the CLD's executive secretary, said the executive committee of the exceptional children's group had rejected her organization's first request for affiliate status and a subsequent petition by 1,300 of CEC's members in support of the idea.
Because of the split, the CEC plans to launch a new division for professionals in the field of learning disabilities.
Ms. McNutt said the CLD board of directors is encouraging its members to support the CEC despite the break because "there needs to be a general special-education division."--sgf