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The GAP Attorneys Blog

Meeting the needs of people with disabilities, their families, educators & service providers

Posts Tagged ‘blind’

Current vision status does not determine need for Braille instruction

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Dear Colleague Letter, 61 IDELR 172 (OSERS 2013): The federal Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issued a guidance letter clarifying that a blind or otherwise visually impaired student should not be denied instruction in Braille absent “a thorough and rigorous evaluation” that determines “that instruction in Braille would be inappropriate for that child.”  The IDEA requires instruction in Braille for blind and visually impaired students, unless the child’s current and future reading and writing needs indicate that such instruction is inappropriate.  Since the child’s future needs must be taken into account, a school district cannot rely exclusively on a child’s current vision status to deny Braille instruction.

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Federal government enacts law to provide people with disabilities greater access to contemporary communication devices.

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, the “Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act.”  The law provides individuals with disabilities greater access to contemporary technology devices, including mobile phones and apparatus equipped for video programming (such as televisions).

Highlights of the bill include requiring mobile phone providers to ensure that any mobile phones equipped with web browsers, text messaging, and e-mail are accessible to individuals with disabilities (and individuals with visual or hearing impairments in particular).  For example, internet-enabled mobile phones must be hearing aid compatible.  Additionally, television manufacturers, as well as television programming services, must ensure that their devices, programs, and services enable individuals with disabilities, but visually impaired individuals in particular, to access on-screen guides and menus, as well as emergency broadcast information.  The law now requires that certain video playback devices include features to allow for real-time audio description of various on-screen features, including program guides, menus, and emergency broadcast information.

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Court overturned a determination by an impartial hearing officer that a residential placement was appropriate, when it was not recommended by the IEP team and not sought by the parent.

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Millay v. Surry School Department, 53 IDELR 292 (D. Me. 2009):  A federal magistrate judge determined that a hearing officer’s ruling that a residential out-of-district placement offered the student a FAPE was erroneous.  The student (who was deaf-blind, non-verbal, and had severe cognitive and neurological impairments) spent very little time at the residential placement, as she became self-injurious and was removed for safety and medical reasons.  Although the IEP team generally agreed that the educational program at the residential placement would benefit the student, the placement was ultimately rejected due to the student’s prior serious problems transitioning into the residential component.  As a result, the school district began reviewing alternatives (day treatment programs) and constructing its own in-district program.  The IEP team did not recommend the residential placement, and the parent sought a program designed to meet the multiple needs of the student in a public school setting (which would be the least restrictive of the possible options).  Nonetheless, the hearing officer decided the residential placement was appropriate and failed to engage any of the alternative placements discussed by the IEP team.

The magistrate judge recommended overturning the ruling, noting the student’s difficulty transitioning in the residential placement and the comments from that placement’s staff indicating that it was not appropriate for the student.  Since none of the alternative out-of-district placements offered by the IEP team could provide the services the student needed, the judge determined the school district did not offer a FAPE.  Although it appeared that the school district was well on its way to hiring the necessary staff and offering the necessary services to create an in-district program for the student (as sought by the parent), such a program was not ready in time for the school year in question and, thus, the school district could not offer a FAPE.

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