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New York University, in cooperation with the New York City Board of Education, has launched a new program designed to prepare physically disabled high-school students for college.

The three-year project, which began this month, is reportedly the nation's first "upward-bound program" for the handicapped. It is being funded by the U.S. Education Department and will be administered by the university's Metropolitan Center for Educational Research, Development, and Training.

In its first year, the program will enroll 45 high-school students from throughout New York City in basic computer, mathematics, and science classes, which will be held on Saturdays during the school year. University officials say they also plan to offer a full-time summer session.

In addition to classroom instruction, the students will receive career counseling and college-placement services. Lamar Miller, executive director of the university's Metro Center, said the upward-bound program attempts to address the "serious underrepresentation of handicapped students in America's colleges and universities."

Because many handicapped students do not have adequate technological skills, Mr. Miller said, the program "is designed to provide these skills and thus offer new opportunities" to them.

An interdisciplinary team of educators from two universities has developed a new system of teaching blind children to read. As a result, they say, blind children are learning to read Braille much faster, using what they describe as a coherent and simplified set of textbooks.

The project was commissioned by the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Ky., one of the major publishers of Braille materials in this country. It resulted in the creation of beginning readers that come with teachers' manuals.

"The task was to produce textbook materials to teach blind youngsters Braille, kids who are just learning how to read," said Eric Hamp, the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor in the departments of linguistics and behavioral sciences at the University of Chicago. He collaborated on the project with Hilda Caton, who teaches special education at the University of Louisville, and Eddy Jo Bradley, a professional textbook writer.

Although Braille is about 150 years old, Mr. Hamp said it has never been taught in a consistent manner. The textbooks, however, present the reading material in a way that does not assume students have knowledge of sighted print.

The Library of Congress has for the past 53 years operated a talking-books program for the blind. During that time, services have been expanded to include children and people with physical disabilities.

For information, contact the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Reference Section, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20542.--sgf

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