Texas' twisted excuse for removing Helen Keller

Sara Novic is a Deaf writer and assistant professor of creative writing at Stockton University. Her first novel, "Girl at War," was released by Random House in 2015. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. The Deaf community uses a capital "D" to differentiate between people who identify with Deaf culture and identity, and the physical lack of hearing. The views expressed in this commentary are solely hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.

On September 14 the Texas State Board of Education made a series of key votes that could transform the way students learn to understand the world around them -- and themselves. Texas wants to remove some content from the social studies curriculum, said board chairperson Donna Bahorich, so that teachers can delve more deeply into certain topics.

Sara Novic

Billed as an effort to "streamline" the curriculum, the move spared Baptist pastor Billy Graham, the impeachment trial of former President Clinton and Moses from the chopping block -- while Hilary Clinton, Barry Goldwater, Thomas Hobbes and Helen Keller were eliminated.

Perhaps the most overtly dogmatic cut was the deletion of the phrase, "such as holding public officials to their word" from a fourth-grade unit on how to participate in civic affairs. But the erasure of Helen Keller, an iconic advocate for the deaf and blind whose social activism also included women's suffrage, birth control and pacifism -- who is currently taught as part of a third-grade unit on citizenship -- is an underhanded play with a troubling message: that homogeny is normal and exposure to outside perspectives should be limited.

To remove Keller from the curriculum also means to eliminate the single touchstone for deafness and disability for most mainstream students. Earlier this week, I asked a room of 35 of my own college students if they'd ever met a deaf person who wasn't me. Four or five raised their hands—they worked retail and had seen deaf customers. Many of these students are considering fields like social work, education, criminal justice, occupational and speech therapy and law, where knowledge of deafness and disability will be integral to their work, and still their exposure is extremely limited long past the third grade. This is the norm in a society that constantly tells us to avert our eyes from disabled people, to separate out "normal" and "other."

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Access for All

With the help of a Teaching Tolerance Educator Grant, this teacher created a space where DeafBlind students could be themselves and teach the larger school community about DeafBlindness.

Wendy Harris wanted to start a DeafBlind club at her school. 

An educator for the deaf and blind, Harris noticed that her DeafBlind students at the Metro Deaf School in St. Paul, Minnesota—one of the top schools for the deaf in the United States—were missing out on some key academic and social experiences. The club, she imagined, could fill those gaps and also raise the overall cultural competency of the school.

Read the original article here.

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How Fitness Helped This Woman Cope with Going Blind and Deaf

Rebecca Alexander was just 12 years old when she was told that she'd completely lose her vision by the time she was an adult. After she had trouble seeing the chalkboard in class, her parents decided to take her in for a series of tests. She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic disorder of the eyes that causes vision impairment. 

She continued on, not understanding the magnitude of what it would mean to lose her eyesight by the age of 30. "It's nearly impossible for a 12-year-old who can pretty much see to understand, let alone try to comprehend what it would mean to be losing my vision," Alexander said on Megyn Kelly TODAY while promoting her new book, Not Fade Away.

Read more at the article here.

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Deaf Students Education Services

The Department provides additional guidance about part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (section 504) as they relate to the provision of appropriate education service to students who are deaf.  This guidance is issued in response to concerns regarding Departmental policy on the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students who are deaf. Many of these concerns were expressed in the report of the Commission on Education of the Deaf.  This guidance is intended to furnish State and local education agency personnel with background information and specific steps that will help to ensure that children and youth who are deaf are provided with a free appropriate public education.


#TakeBackDeafEd


State Representative Patricia Haynes Smith

Louisiana Department of Education

Governor John Bel Edwards

Schools for Deaf, Blind Feel Effects of Teacher Shortage

The Arizona Capitol Times reports that more than 200 teachers currently serve approximately 2,000 children in two schools for the deaf, one school for the blind and at statewide cooperative programs in local public schools.

The Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind has 13 teacher vacancies and will need 21 more teachers if a proposal from Gov. Doug Ducey to provide $1.6 million in additional money to the schools' early childhood program is approved by lawmakers, agency spokesman Ryan Ducharme said.

About half of the agency's teachers will be eligible for early or full retirement within the next five years, Ducharme said.

The schools have used relocation stipends and sign-on bonuses to sweeten the deal for teachers who may want to work for them.

The agency spent $33,500 — more than any other agency — this year on relocation expenses aimed at enticing teachers to come work in Arizona, according to figures from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

This year, 26 agency teachers got a $1,500 stipend to relocate from out-of-state, Ducharme said. New teachers to the agency also get a $1,500 sign-on bonus.

The agency's average teacher pay — $47,636 — is slightly higher than the state's average for teachers overall, $47,218. The majority of the schools' teachers, nearly 83 percent, have master's degrees because of the specialty training required to work with students who are deaf or blind, Ducharme said.

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The strange reason deaf children aren't taught sign language

“For most of these families, their children’s birth is the first time they’ve met anybody deaf. So they go to the early intervention system, which focuses on what they call ‘communication’ — meaning, being able to speak,” Wyatte Hall, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, said through an interpreter. “But ‘communication’ is usually secondary to having language, and language is what is necessary for true cognitive development.”

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Program helps blind women get her life on track

When Heidi Propp was young, she always thought she lived a normal life.

Blind since birth after her optic nerves never formed, Propp relied heavily on her parents for most things. Her parents cooked, did her laundry and drove her around, or she used HandyDart to get from one place to another.

In grade school it never seemed odd, but it wasn’t until she graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Victoria that Propp slowly began to realize she wasn’t like her peers.

 

“I did not feel good about it [relying on her parents] at all. I wanted to have a normal life just like everybody else … that was a really difficult struggle,” said Propp, who grew up in Langford and lived there for more than 20 years.

“Though it wasn’t my parents’ fault, I felt like my dependence on them held me back socially and professionally.”

In an effort to gain back her independence, Propp was of the first participants to enroll in the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind’s blind people in charge program in 2014, which recently won an award. The only one of its kind in Western Canada, the program has served more than 40 blind, deaf-blind and low-vision adults through a non-traditional model of instruction where blind people are the teachers, planners, directors and administrators.

As part of the two-year program, Propp learned skills such as how to cook, travel, do laundry, take B.C. Transit and picked up financial skills that taught her how to take care of herself.

Read more from original article here - https://www.vicnews.com/news/program-helps-blind-woman-get-life-on-track/

Source: http://https://www.vicnews.com/news/progra...

Newly Released Videos on HKNC Website

The Helen Keller National Center announces two new training videos for deaf-blind individuals and family members. These videos were developed and are presented by deaf-blind individuals and are fully accessible with captioning and transcripts.

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