Bill Seeks Timely Supply Of Textbooks for Visually Impaired

By Lisa Fine — May 01, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Connecticut high school student Jessie Kirchner had bigger problems in her geometry class last year than figuring out the area of a trapezoid.

She was operating without a textbook.

Like other blind and visually impaired students around country, Ms. Kirchner, an 18-year-old junior at Guilford High School in Guilford, Conn., experienced major delays in obtaining Braille, electronic, or audio versions of the textbooks she needed.

“I had no book while I was waiting for it to be translated,” Ms. Kirchner said last week. “I took most of the class without a book.”

A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., on April 24 aims to speed up the way students with visual impairments receive instructional materials. Under the measure, states would be required to ensure that Braille and electronic learning materials are available at the same time materials are provided for students without disabilities.

“I ask myself what I would want for my daughter Grace, if she had a disability?” said Sen. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families. “I expect this bill will have 100 percent support. My colleagues just need to look at their children and grandchildren. If they were blind, what resources would you want for them?”

Though 28 states have some sort of law guaranteeing blind students access to materials they need, school districts often receive no guidance to on how to make such access possible in a timely manner. No federal law addresses the subject.

Under Mr. Dodd’s proposal, publishers would be required to make textbooks and materials available in a national, uniform electronic-file format. In that format, the material can be converted more easily to Braille, or used on a computer that reads text aloud.

The bill also would require the establishment of a national repository that would be a clearinghouse for such files. Then, each time a publisher produced a new book or new materials, copies of the electronic files of those materials would be sent to the repository for students and schools to access.

State Programs

In addition, the bill would require states and school districts to develop and run programs ensuring that blind and visually impaired students had quicker access to the materials. States could apply to the federal government for grants to set up such programs.

About 100,000 blind or visually impaired students are currently in special education around the country, according to the American Foundation for the Blind.

The bill’s proposed funding would include $5 million a year for the grants to states to set up programs and $1 million to establish the national repository.

“That’s chump change in this town,” Sen. Dodd said at a press briefing last week. “But it will make such a huge difference in the lives of these kids.”

Co-sponsoring the bill are Sens. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa., and Reps. Tom Petri, R-Wis., and George Miller, D-Calif.

Why do blind and visually impaired students encounter such delays in getting their version of textbooks and materials?

Sometimes, schools don’t order the books far enough in advance. Other times, problems occur in providing electronic versions to schools that can be read on computers, said Stephen D. Driesler, the executive director of the school division of the Association of American Publishers, based in Washington. After a textbook company completes a book, he said, converting it to an electronic format for the visually impaired typically takes another three months. A Braille version requires about six months, he said.

Ms. Kirchner, the Connecticut student who is blind, said the bill, if enacted, would be helpful.

“Even though I only have one more year left of school, I am glad it will help students who come after me,” she said at the press briefing. “This year has been better for me. But there are still problems. When I went to play the tape of last week’s history chapter, the tape was blank.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week as Bill Seeks Timely Supply Of Textbooks for Visually Impaired


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Working Smarter, Not Harder with Data
There is a new paradigm shift in K-12 education. Technology and data have leapt forward, advancing in ways that allow educators to better support students while also maximizing their most precious resource – time. The
Content provided by PowerSchool
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education School Bus Driver Retires After 48 Years Behind Wheel
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick sat behind the wheel for the final time last week, wrapping up a 48-year career for the district.
3 min read
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick poses with one of her farewell signs. Flick has been driving for Charles City School District for 48 years.
Betty Flick quickly fell in love with the job and with the kids, which is what has had her stay in the district for this long.
Courtesy of Abby Koch/Globe Gazette
Education Briefly Stated: December 1, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read