Resolution 2014-01 Regarding Orientation and Mobility Services for Children

WHEREAS, the delivery of orientation and mobility services (O&M) to blind children is essential to their successful transition to a full and productive life as adults; and

WHEREAS, local and state laws recognize the use of the long white cane as a tool for both safety and independence for blind people, yet too many local school systems do not promote the use of the white cane by blind and visually impaired students; and

WHEREAS, regulations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), [Section 300.34(c)(7), Related Services], clearly define O&M as “services provided to blind or visually impaired children by qualified personnel to enable those students to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community”; and

WHEREAS, although IDEA states that blind and visually impaired children should receive O&M services, too many children in Maryland are never evaluated, or are evaluated infrequently for these services because the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team assumes that these children do not need these services; and

WHEREAS, too many other blind or visually impaired children are denied O&M services due to insufficient evaluations, such as those which only examine a child’s movement in familiar areas, or those which fail to consider environments in different lighting, or those which do not request input from parents; and

WHEREAS, the IEP team should treat O&M services as it treats Braille, i.e. the team should presume that a blind or visually impaired child needs O&M services unless a proper evaluation demonstrates that the services are not appropriate for the child; and

WHEREAS, when making a determination about a child’s need for O&M services, the IEP team should also consider such factors as the child’s medically indicated expectation of further visual deterioration: Now, Therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this sixteenth day of November, 2014, in the city of Towson, Maryland, that this organization strongly urge the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland School for the Blind to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to ensure that all blind or visually impaired children who need O&M services receive those services as early as possible in their school careers by strengthening the evaluation process and enhancing IEP requirements.