Group wants law changed regarding education of blind students - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Group wants law changed regarding education of blind students

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OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

One group says Mississippi needs to change the law to help blind children succeed in the classroom.

The Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind is urging Mississippians to support two bills in the state legislature. Both bills are pushing for more qualified Braille teachers and better resources.

Kelly Sloan has been legally blind since birth. Every day, the sophomore at Ocean Springs High learns to type and read Braille.

Kelly works one-on-one with an assistant teacher who has taken some Braille courses. One man believes every teacher who works with blind or visually impaired children in Mississippi should be fluent in Braille.

Kendrick Kennedy is president of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. He is trying to rally South Mississippians to support state House and Senate bills that would require school districts to hire certified Braille teachers.

"Just as if when teachers go and they take the practice for English or Math, they're certified. So we're pushing that teachers that teach Braille are certified," said Kennedy.  "There's a 70 percent unemployment rate amongst the blind, and it's directly linked to blind people being able to read Braille."

The bills also deal with making sure children get textbooks on time. Kennedy says if textbooks need to be converted to Braille or larger print, sometimes, children with vision challenges are forced to wait weeks or even months to get their books.

"The child is left behind," said Kennedy. "I mean they haven't had the tools to actually be at the same progression as their sighted counterparts."

"Federal law is already on the books," he added. "The legislation that we're pushing here in Mississippi mirrors the federal law, and it holds districts and educators accountable not to let those blind children fall behind in school."

Kennedy says it's a matter of fairness and holding school districts accountable in the education of blind children.

"It's really stressful on them, but we have an obligation for our children to actually make this right," said Kennedy.

The latest numbers show public schools in Mississippi served 356 students who are blind or visually impaired.  Both bills are now headed to the House and Senate floors for debate.

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