By Rebecca Sheffield and Eric Caruso
As project officers in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), we work with grant-funded projects and centers across the United States to support the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. We both came to OSEP after working in the field of visual impairments (Eric as an orientation and mobility specialist and Rebecca as a teacher of students with visual impairments), so a big part of our work involves focusing on the needs of students with visual impairments, blindness, and deafblindness.
This summer we began having conversations and collecting stories from across the United States to better understand the special education experiences of students who are blind or low vision and their families and teachers. OSEP’s policy guidance document Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students; Policy Guidance, was published in 2000, and though some more specific guidance documents have been published since them (e.g. – Eligibility Determinations for Children Suspected of Having a Visual Impairment under IDEA, 2017, and OSEP Dear Colleague Letter on Braille, 2013), we know there are many questions and concerns for which families, schools, and districts would still like more support.
Everyone is welcome!
On November 3rd and 9th, in partnership with APH’s FamilyConnect, we’re inviting families of learners who are blind/low vision – including students themselves! – to share their feedback in online listening sessions.
On November 3rd, we’ll focus on families of children served in early childhood/preschool and k-12 school systems (typically ages 3-21), and on November 9th, we’ll focus specifically on families of infants and toddlers served in early intervention systems.
Our discussions will range from challenges working with schools and service providers, to technology, braille, accessibility, orientation and mobility, and the Expanded Core Curriculum. We encourage you to consider local and state policies as well as OSEP policy documents and share your thoughts about what’s missing and what could be clarified, with particular focus on how we can support you at the national level.
Additionally, we’ll be hosting a separate listening session for professionals who serve students with visual impairments in partnership with the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Visual Impairments and DeafBlindness (November 2nd – stay tuned to the DVIDB website for more information).
We can’t wait to meet you! If you have any questions about registering, please contact [email protected].