By: Brandon Todd, Ward 4 Councilmember
Next week, the Council will reconvene until this legislative period concludes in December. Over the coming months, my colleagues and I will work feverishly on a wide range of legislative topics. One piece of legislation that I will focus on advancing is my bill to improve Braille education in the District.
The Blind Students Literacy and Education Rights Act of 2018 ensures that students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) include provisions for Braille education and consider both current and future literacy. It intendeds to fill the gaps in the existing Braille program, which blind and vision-impaired advocates tell me is not currently meeting students’ needs.
This bill responds to a concern that visually-impaired children are pushed to use visual aids and devices to help them read print. But when vision significantly deteriorates or is lost, they are left illiterate and forced to learn Braille as older children or adults. This can be extremely challenging.
The legislation establishes a robust Braille education program, including standards for Braille proficiency and instruction, a requirement that materials be capable of meaningful reproduction in Braille, and a requirement that teachers are certified in accordance with Braille literacy standards.
Our visually-impaired and blind students deserve the strongest possible start and a fair shot in life. This legislation ensures we’re providing them the education they need to live full and rewarding lives. We can and must do better for the District’s 17,000 residents living with a visual impairment, including the 1,000+ under age 17. This legislation is a meaningful step in the right direction, and I look forward to enshrining it in law.