The Facts

  • Although you may have only a few children with visual impairments in your school district, you are obligated to serve them appropriately under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • IDEA mandates that a continuum of placement options be made available to all students with visual impairments and that districts make students and their families aware of those options.
  • Early intervention can improve the educational outcomes for these children.
  • Visually impaired students need to learn disability-specific skills such as reading and writing with braille or using low vision devices, travel skills, career education, and independent living skills-from specially trained and certified Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS).
  • Access to instructional materials in appropriate formats is critical to assuring educational progress.

What Must Be Done?

  • Offer an array of service delivery options for children with visual impairments.
  • Support opportunities for partnerships among parents, the medical community, and school personnel that address early detection and services for children with visual impairments.
  • Ensure that a person with expertise in visual impairments is available to all students including those in early intervention programs.
  • Support the efforts of higher education facilities that train teachers to work in the field of visual impairments and hire their graduates.
  • Ensure that teachers who work with children with visual impairments have reasonable caseloads so that special skills can be taught to support educational programming.
  • Be aware of community resources, including rehabilitation agencies, consumer and parent organizations, as well as businesses, that can supplement your educational offerings.
  • Know the professionals in your area who have expertise in visual impairments-and use them!
  • Provide in-service training opportunities for staff who may work with visually impaired children.
  • Require efforts to provide timely access to quality materials in braille, large print, and taped formats.
  • Ensure that children with visual impairments receive comprehensive assessments under the guidance of personnel trained in visual impairments.
  • Require the teaching of disability-specific skills to students with visual impairments.

How Can You Get More Information?

Visit the National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities web site at: (includes contact information for your state coordinator and the OSEP Policy Guidance Paper).

Contact your state’s special school for the blind or visually impaired. If you are unsure of how to reach a special school, call Dr. Phil Hatlen at 512/206-9133; e-mail:

This material was prepared by participants in the National Agenda effort, which is endorsed by the American Foundation for the Blind, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Printing House for the Blind, the Council of Schools for the Blind as well as numerous other organizations of and for the blind throughout the United States.