Protect Critical Services for Students Who Are Blind or Low Vision
With schools under intense pressure to develop a plan to deliver high-quality instruction while making up for lost learning, education in the coming school year needs to be particularly inclusive of students who are blind or have low vision. Meanwhile, school systems are facing significant budget cuts and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic.
We urge policy makers to commit to the following principles:
Students are entitled to the full range of services and skill development outlined in their IFSPs, IEPs, or 504 plans. If students need compensatory education to make up for lost instruction, they should receive it.
Teachers should be empowered with the training, guidance, and resources to deliver instruction safely and effectively, whether in the physical classroom or via distance education methods.
If students with disabilities are the first students to return to the classroom, they and their teachers should not be used as test cases for safety practices. The rights of students with disabilities to participate in the general education classroom should also be protected.
All online, virtual, and remote education tools must be fully tested for accessibility and nonvisual inclusion before being purchased or implemented.
Accessible tools and access to assistive technology for students working remotely must be part of the discussion on digital equity alongside access to broadband.
Dedicated funds for IDEA are needed to ensure that schools, districts, and states are prepared to support the unique needs of students with disabilities.
Part C, Part D, and Section 619 (which cover early intervention for infants and toddlers, and professional development, technical assistance, and technology) are just as important as Part B of the IDEA and K-12 education.
Federal funds should be used to mitigate forthcoming state budget shortfalls, which could lead to educational cuts as high as 20% or 30%. Cuts of this magnitude will hurt all students but may impact students with disabilities the hardest.