Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 along with the Individuals with Disabilities Educations Act of 2004 (IDEA) require that public schools provide children with visual impairments the same access to a comparable education as other students. An individualized educational plan (IEP) will detail what is needed, such as providing Braille textbooks.
A recent documentary follows four California students who are blind. They share their ambitions of studying abroad and joining a skateboard team, but also their difficulties.
One of the students tried laser surgery to improve her visual impairment. Instead of helping the surgery left her completely blind. She has struggled to get her high school to follow through with an IEP. Often Braille textbooks are not available making it difficult for her to keep up with classes.
Tense IEP meetings
The documentary cameras are not allowed into an IEP meeting. However, a smartphone camera secretly records some of the tension. When the issue of Braille textbook availability comes up, the school questions the student’s less than perfect attendance record.
During the credits, statistics roll showing the challenges facing blind students. Thirty percent of blind adults never received a high school diploma. Without a diploma, blind adults face much higher unemployment rates.
The IEP process from initial evaluation to implementation should not have to be a fight at each step. Unfortunately, tension is all too common in IEP meetings.
Parents need to understand special education regulations and the IDEA statute to effectively advocate for their children. However, if a school district becomes increasingly difficult to work with, seek assistance from a special education attorney.
Source: Education Weekly, “Documentary Shows the Challenges Facing Four Blind Teenagers,” Mark Walsh, Mar. 14, 2016