National Federation of the Blind Files Complaint with Maryland Department of Education
Advocates Say Baltimore Schools Not Educating Blind Children
Baltimore, Maryland (July 29, 2009): The National Federation of the Blind and its Maryland affiliate have filed a complaint with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and parallel state law by the Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS). The complaint addresses systemic problems that prevent blind students in the BCPS from receiving a free, appropriate public education as required by law. Among other things, the BCPS has failed to:
- Properly assess students who are blind or have low vision to determine their educational needs;
- Properly train blind students in the skills of blindness, especially Braille and travel with a white cane; and
- Provide access to appropriate assistive technology, such as Braille printers, Braille note-taking devices, print magnification devices, and text-to-speech screen access technology for computers.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind students can compete on terms of equality with their sighted peers and go on to lead productive and successful lives, but only if they are provided with an equal education. The National Federation of the Blind will do everything in our power to ensure that every blind child receives the educational services he or she needs to succeed, and that is why we have taken this action.”
Melissa Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, said: “Baltimore schools have produced blind students who are functionally illiterate, cannot travel independently outside of their homes, and do not possess other critical skills that they need to compete on an equal basis with their sighted peers. The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland has a responsibility to advocate for the needs of blind students, and we cannot and will not tolerate the failure of the BCPS to abide by state and federal law and provide these students with the education they need in order to live independent and productive lives. We hope that the BCPS will accept our proposals to expand and improve their programs for blind students and work with us to ensure that blind children in Baltimore receive the equal education to which they are entitled.”
A press conference about this action will be held today at 1:45 p.m. in the Members Hall of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230.