The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. One issue that a standard should address is access to information. For instance, under the Information and Communications Standards, schools and school boards must make information available to students using accessible formats. This mandate should mean accessible schooling for all students.
However, there is an important gap which an education standard should fill. In all other sectors, people know what accessible formats they need. However, young children do not yet know what formats will work best for them. Instead, teachers and specialists must choose which formats they think will work best for each child. Then, teachers must teach students to use those formats. Braille helps students with visual impairments succeed in school and in later life, but educators sometimes choose not to teach their students Braille. More Braille instruction in schools could help more students succeed as adults.
More Braille Instruction in Schools
Parents of young children with visual impairments need to find out what formats their child should learn to read. To do so, they need to consult specialized teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs), and/or eye specialists. Formats that children may learn include:
- Large print
- Electronic formats like Word or HTML files
- Tactile maps or pictures
Braille or large print?
Specialists recommend Braille for students who are totally blind, and large print for students who have some vision. Specialists may recommend large print because they believe that a student’s vision will stay the same. However, specialists may sometimes recommend large print for students who will lose their vision over time. In this case, the students will need to learn Braille in later grades or as adults.
In other cases, students can continue reading large print but have more and more difficulty doing so as they grow up. For instance, they may have eye strain or headaches when they spend more time reading print in later grades. Furthermore, they may read more slowly than students with full sight. In contrast, when students learn to read Braille at the age their sighted classmates learn print, they develop the same reading speed. Additionally, they can keep up with their classmates as they age because reading does not give them eye strain or headaches.
In Part 2 of this article, we will explore why specialists might choose not to recommend Braille. We will also outline how more Braille instruction in school can help children succeed later in their lives.