Topic:
LITERACY TESTS; HANDICAPPED;
Location:
HANDICAPPED;

OLR Research Report


March 19, 1999

 

99-R-0405

BRAILLE LITERACY LAWS IN OTHER STATES

 
 

By: Susan Price-Livingston, Research Attorney

You asked about Braille literacy laws in other states. You were particularly interested in the most “cutting edge” of those laws.

SUMMARY

Thirty states have Braille literacy laws. According to the National Federation of the Blind's director of governmental affairs, Arizona and Texas have the farthest-reaching. Both states require:

1. schools to develop individualized education programs using Braille literacy assessments and presuming that proficiency in Braille is necessary for satisfactory educational progress;

2. teachers of blind and visually impaired students to demonstrate competency in Braille reading and writing; and

3. textbook publishers to provide state education agencies with computer diskettes of the books in a format that can be used to translate them into Braille.

Texas also created a commission to facilitate the textbook conversion process.

Copies of the Arizona and Texas laws are enclosed.

ARIZONA

The Arizona legislation contains an explicit legislative finding that literacy for most persons who are blind or visually impaired means the ability to read and write Braille proficiently. And it requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules that (1) assure that each blind pupil receives an individualized Braille literacy assessment and appropriate educational services, (2) establish standards of proficiency and instruction, (3) require that certified teachers of visually impaired pupils be proficient in Braille, and (4) provide materials in a computer-accessible format capable of Braille reproduction.

Individualized Braille Literacy Assessment

Arizona requires an individualized Braille literacy assessment for each blind pupil. These are students who (1) cannot successfully use vision as a primary and efficient channel for learning, (2) exhibit such a low degree or amount of visual acuity or visual field that vision is not considered as a primary mode of learning, or (3) have a medically indicated prognosis of visual deterioration. The law does not specify what areas the assessment must cover.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

All special education students must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). For blind students, Braille instruction and use are required IEP components unless all team members agree that the student's visual impairment does not adversely affect his ability to read and write. And other special education services can be combined with Braille instruction where appropriate.

IEPs for blind students must specify:

1. the results of the Braille assessment;

2. the methods and dates by which Braille instruction will be implemented;

3. how long Braille instruction will be provided and the frequency and duration of each instructional session;

4. the level of Braille competency to be achieved how it will be measured;

5. the materials and equipment the student needs; and

6. if Braille instruction is determined not to be appropriate, the rationale for that decision.

Standards of Proficiency and Instruction

Schools must offer sufficient Braille instruction to enable blind students to communicate as effectively and efficiently in all subject areas as their sighted peers. Teachers certified to educate blind children must also demonstrate their competence in Braille, either by passing (1) a nationally validated Braille test or (2) a Braille test developed in the University of Arizona's visual impairment program.

Textbook Requirements

The law requires textbook publishers (including those supplying such books to community colleges and universities) to furnish the appropriate state educational agency with computer diskettes for literary subjects in a standard format from which Braille versions of the textbooks can be produced. When Braille translation software for nonliterary subjects (such as math and music) are developed, publishers will be required to provide computer diskettes for them also.

TEXAS

The Texas law specifies that each blind student is entitled to Braille reading and writing instruction that is sufficient to enable him to communicate as well as his sighted peers.

IEP Requirements

The IEP for functionally blind students (as determined according to criteria set by the state's Central Education Agency) must be developed with the presumption that proficiency in Braille reading and writing is essential for their satisfactory progress. Instruction in Braille can be combined with other special education services.

In developing the IEP, students must be assessed, and the strengths and weaknesses of their Braille skills must be documented. Each person assisting in the development of a functionally blind student's IEP must be given information describing the benefits of Braille instruction.

And each IEP must:

1. specify the appropriate learning medium based on the assessment and

2. ensure that a teacher certified to teach students with visual handicaps will provide Braille instruction.

Teacher Certification Requirements

Each teacher certified to teach functionally blind students must demonstrate competency in reading and writing Braille. The State Board of Education (SBE) must adopt competency standards and develop a test to assess them.

Textbooks with Computer Diskettes

The publisher of any textbook adopted by the SBE must furnish the state's Central Education Agency with computer diskettes for literary subjects in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) from which Braille versions of the textbook can be produced. Publishers of nonliterary subject textbooks must do the same thing when Braille specialty code translation software is available.

State Commission to Expedite Textbook Conversion

The legislation required the SBE to establish a commission to:

1. work with textbook publishers on developing a procedure for converting formatted text files into ASCII files;

2. survey ongoing efforts to develop computer software needed to convert publisher text files to ASCII;

3. work with publishers and software developers to prioritize conversion efforts; and

4. study the feasibility of transmitting by modem ASCII data files directly from publishers to the computers of the organization producing Braille textbooks.

The SBE appointed the commission members. Computer software developers, Braille textbook producers, Braille education specialists, publishers of elementary and high school textbooks, Braille consumers or their advocates, and representatives of the Texas Education Agency were all represented. The law contained a sunset provision dissolving the commission on September 1, 1993.

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