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On October 7 over 400 people attended the dedication of the statue of Helen Keller in The National Statuary Hall.http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/keller.cfm This was the first child and the first well known person with a disability to be depicted there.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) is a symbol and an icon for people with disabilities. She was born both deaf and blind yet with persistence and with the use of Braille she was able to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Radcliffe College in 1904. She is much beloved by people with disabilities as she was an inspiring political activists for the disabled. She worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people who were blind and deaf. She played a leading role in most of the significant political social and cultural movements of the 20th century and was world famous as both a speaker and a writer. Her story most people know from the play "The Miracle Worker ."
This quote was Helen's own approach to life and the advice she gave to a five year old blind child in 1932. For more information on Helen Keller and her extraordinary life go to: http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?sectionid=1 and for a site geared to children
This year we also celebrate the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birthday. He was the man who developed the Braille Code which enabled Helen Keller to learn to read. Before his development of the Braille code blind children and adults had no effective way to learn to read and write. But thanks to Louis Braille and his development of the Braille Code the possibility for literacy ,independence and self expression was opened up to blind people everywhere. http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=86lind
Braille was adopted as the exclusive means of teaching blind people to read and write in the United States in 1932. At the height of its use in the United States, it is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of blind children learned to read and write in Braille.
But now only about 10 percent of blind children in the United States are currently learning Braille. And the negative results are becoming apparent.
The reasons for the national decline are many, but the primary reasons are:
Mainstreaming of blind students, resulting in less time to learn Braille and to have less personal contact with Braille teachers. Teachers who were competent to instruct students in Braille were now forced to go from school to school instead of being under one roof with more students.
Increased technology, such as talking computers and electronic books. Which some felt could take the place of learning to read as they could impart information without students having to learn to read.
More books on tape. Again refuting that need to teach Braille as there was no need to learn to read itself.
Increased number of blind children born with additional physical or mental handicaps, often the result of premature birth. And a large percentage of these students were partly sighted .
There is a wonderful article explaining this so well in the Arizona Republic June 1, 2006 . The reporter interviewed Arielle Silverman. president of the Arizona Association of Blind Students. This is a must read . See link below .
Pressure from consumers and advocacy groups has led thirty-three states to pass legislation mandating that children who are legally blind be given the opportunity to learn Braille. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act also mandates that the teams who help to write educational plans for students with disabilities presume that all blind children should be taught Braille unless it is determined to be inappropriate.
The National Federation of the Blind (NF, the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States, is taking swift action to reverse this trend. Coinciding with the Louis Braille Centennial The National Federation of the Blind has announced specific action to address the education of America?s blind children so that every blind child who has a need for Braille will have the opportunity to learn it.
Below is the link to a special essay from a guest editor of JVIB to celebrate the Braille Bicentennial. The author is a mother of a child who became gradually severely visually impaired . She will take you on her journey with her child through school, college and her wonderful success . She describes the problems including the emotional difficulties that happened along the way . This is also a must read http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pubjvib.asp?DocID=jvib030502
This blog was a real learning experience for me. I have wanted to add visual and hearing loss problems and solutions on my blog of disability as I wanted it to be inclusive of all of us with disabilities. When I saw these two events of Helen Keller and Louis Braille it was a natural. But from it I just have learned so much. In fact I will be doing a future blog on visual loss with adults and how they can compensate with technology and modifications to their environment and more. ellie
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