Education

Bill Seeks Timely Supply Of Textbooks for Visually Impaired

By Lisa Fine — May 01, 2002 3 min read

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

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

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.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read