[nfbwatlk] [Wcb-l] FW: historic braille literacy bill to pass

Kaye Kipp kkipp123 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 2 17:28:12 UTC 2015

Oh.  That's funny.  I was beginning to wonder for a minute.  

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Debby
Phillips via nfbwatlk
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2015 9:39 AM
To: nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org
Subject: [nfbwatlk] [Wcb-l] FW: historic braille literacy bill to pass

The first part of this is pretty funny, and even though this legislative
mandate doesn't come from NFB, it might be worthy of our consideration.  But
if nothing else, read the first part and 
have a laugh.    Debby

 ---- Original Message ------
From: "Sheri Richardson" <dsrichardson at mindspring.com
Subject: [Wcb-l] FW: historic braille literacy bill to pass Date sent: Thu,
2 Apr 2015 09:15:53 -0700

This is a day late, but it's still fun and informative.

Sheri Richardson

Braille Literacy Is Necessary Knowledge (BLINK) Act

In a surprise move early this morning, key leaders in both the U.S.  Senate
and House of Representatives have reached bipartisan agreement on brand new
landmark legislation requiring all sighted students across America to
exclusively learn and use braille.  The bill, entitled the Braille Literacy
Is Necessary Knowledge (BLINK) Act, was only introduced late last evening in
an attempt by the bill's champions to thwart mobilized opposition by
proponents of vision dependency.

Under the BLINK Act, which somewhat radically makes trafficking in printed
textbooks and inaccessible electronic instructional materials a federal
crime punishable by public humiliation on national network television, all
U.S.  sighted school children will be guaranteed issuance of braille
textbooks for every course offered in our nation's public school districts.
Braille instruction for all sighted youngsters will be mandatory and begin
in pre-K programs, with total immersion emergency braille instruction also
being required immediately for all sighted students in the later grades.
Under provisions of the BLINK Act that have even some of the staunchest
opponents of vision dependency concerned, all high stakes test takers,
whether blind or sighted, will be required, beginning in 2016, to sit for
such examinations administered exclusively in braille.

BLINK Act Opposition

Even as the BLINK Act moves along its apparent fast track toward passage, a
variety of interest groups are already lining up to oppose it.  
Once enacted,
the BLINK Act will mandate that schools must trade in SMART boards and flat-
screen televisions to make room for the additional shelving space needed for
braille texts.  A representative of the National Association of Put-Upon
Public School Facilities workers said, "Do these people in Congress know
what they're doing? Here's yet another unfunded mandate that micro-manages
our public schools, and it's going to be us over worked and underpaid
facilities guys who'll be the ones slaving away evenings and weekends to put
up all this expensive new shelving for all those bumpy books."

Support from Unlikely Partners

But still other special interests see a silver lining.  Many districts are
expected to issue sighted students with over-sized backpacks and roller bags
to aid them in carrying their textbooks home and between classes.  
from the luggage and hand truck industries are rumored to be behind the
striking bipartisanship that led to today's early morning accord.

"You know, these guys are so dumb, they think that braille has to be on
paper," said AFB's Director of Public Policy, Mark Richert.  "But hey, the
last time I tried describing to them what a refreshable braille display is,
their eyes just rolled right up in their heads.  Guess we gotta take our
champions as we find 'em."

Students with Vision Dependence

What has not as yet been completely hammered out in today's agreement is how
students whose print dependence is a bona fide disability will be treated.
A spokesperson for one advocacy group, Vision Dependent and Proud, said,
"We're not sitting still for this blatent disregard of sighted students'
civil rights.  What's more, our kids are just plain helpless unless they're
visually engaged.  My son just goes to pieces when he's not transfixed by
lots of graphics and moving pictures."

Still, proponents of the BLINK Act say that no sighted student will be left
behind.  Under the bill, students whose reliance on vision cannot be
corrected after extensive counseling or, in the most severe cases, light
deprivation therapy, will have their unique learning needs met.

The Role of TSSs and Printists

Specially trained TSSs (Teachers of Students with Sight) will be certified
through state personnel preparation programs in order to prepare these
sight-dependent students to hone their tactile skills and to prepare for
success in an auditory, tactile world.  However, critics of this approach
say that such teacher prep programs have never been funded adequately in the

Additionally, school districts will employ TSSs and "printists," 
who have
been trained in the print alphabet and specialized rules for print
production.  Using software expressly designed for sighted users, such as
Microsoft's print production tool, Word, the printists can hand-keyboard
documents that may be needed for sighted students on a one-on-one basis.
(Of course, classroom teachers will need to submit braille documents to the
printists in advance to give them time to transcribe the braille into
print).  The BLINK Act does allow delivery of these makeshift printed
materials up to six months after the braille versions are provided.
Advances in tactile scanning technology, including TCR (tactile character
recognition) will enable some braille documents to be scanned and translated
almost automatically into print, which can then be reproduced onto paper
using a machine called a printer (similar to a braille embosser but without
the pleasant sound).

Advocacy for the BLINK Act

Dr.  Rebecca Sheffield, AFB's Senior Policy Researcher, is eager to see the
BLINK Act implemented nationwide.  In a telephone interview with Mark
Richert, she asked "Shouldn't we be doing a full court press on this amazing
bill and call out the troops to contact Congress right away?" To which, Mark
replied, "April fools!!"

April Fools! But in all seriousness...

Of course, there is no BLINK Act, and we hope you got a smile out of our
irreverent take on the policy process today.

At AFB's public policy center in Washington, D.C., we are working with
advocates from the deaf/hard-of-hearing and deaf-blindness education fields
on legislation called the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act.  This
is the most comprehensive special education legislation ever drafted for
children and youth with vision or hearing loss.  For students with vision
loss, this Act:

*	supports identification, location, and evaluation
*	requires states to ensure evaluation of students by 
professionals using valid and reliable assessments
*	requires states to ensure they provide sufficient, qualified
personnel to support students
*	requires states to provide instruction that meets students 
learning needs, including assistive technology, social skills, career
skills, etc.
*	establishes a national Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Visual
Disability and Educational Excellence to conduct/fund research, continuing
education, enrichment projects, and personnel preparation.

The Cogswell/Macy Act was introduced in the previous Congress but has yet to
be reintroduced this year.  The bill's reintroduction will be an historic
declaration by the sensory disabilities community that America's current
special education system must innovate dramatically to be truly worthy of
the potential of all children and youth who are deaf, hard of hearing,
blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind.  Reach out to your two U.S.
Senators and your House of Representatives Member and urge them to support
the Cogswell/Macy Act.  Thank you!

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