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The National Agenda: A Brief History and Summary
Information from:  Lincoln Intermediate Unit

The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities is a grass-roots reform movement aimed at improving the education of students with visual impairments as well as students whose multiple disabilities include visual impairment. The movement centers on a document by the same name and that outlines a set of priorities which are stated as goals (Corn, Hatlen, Huebner, Ryan, & Siller, 1995; Huebner, Merk-Adam, Stryker, & Wolffe, 2004).

As affirmed in the movement's 1998 Report to the Nation, "The National Agenda came about because of an acknowledgement that children and youths with visual impairments are not consistently or universally receiving the quantity or quality of educational services appropriate for their special learning needs" (Corn & Huebner, 1998, p. 3).

Stakeholders such as parents, professionals, organizations, and individuals with visual impairments participated in the development of the National Agenda and continue to work on achieving its goals. Its structure consists of a Steering Committee with parents and professionals serving as co-chairs, National Goal Leaders (NGLs), State Coordinators, and working groups.

The efforts of the movement are organized around several priorities related to the education of children and youth with visual impairments, and these priorities are stated as goals. They include those components of education for students with visual impairments that were identified in 1994 as most in need of improvement. Through a collaborative process that began at that time, hundreds of stakeholders in the field of blindness and visual impairment provided input on goals they believed had the highest likelihood of being achieved as well as the greatest potential for positive impact (Corn & Huebner, 1998). The number of goals identified and selected at that time totaled eight (Corn et al., 1995). Today there are ten (Huebner, et al., 2004):

Goal 1: Students and their families will be referred to an appropriate education program within 30 days of identification of a suspected visual impairment. Teachers of students with visual impairments and orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors will provide appropriate quality services.

Goal 2: Policies and procedures will be implemented to ensure the right of all parents to full participation and equal partnership in the education process.

Goal 3: Universities with a minimum of one full-time faculty member in the area of visual impairment will prepare a sufficient number of teachers and orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists for students with visual impairments to meet personnel needs throughout the country.

Goal 4: Caseloads will be determined based on the assessed needs of students.

Goal 5: Local education programs will ensure that all students have access to a full array of service delivery options.

Goal 6: All assessments and evaluations of students will be conducted by or in partnership with personnel having expertise in the education of students with visual impairments and their parents.

Goal 7: Access to developmental and educational services will include an assurance that textbooks and instructional materials are available to students in the appropriate media and at the same time as their sighted peers.

Goal 8: All educational goals and instruction will address the academic and expanded core curricula based on the assessed needs of each student with visual impairments.

Goal 9: Transition services will address developmental and educational needs (birth through high school) to assist students and their families in setting goals and implementing strategies through the life continuum commensurate with the students' aptitudes, interests, and abilities.

Goal 10: To improve students' learning, service providers will engage in ongoing local, state, and national professional development.

In 2007, the National Agenda Steering Committee agreed that these ten national goals should concentrate their efforts by aligning their priorities with Goal 8. This goal focuses on the educational needs of students with visual impairments in the expanded core curriculum (ECC), the total set of disability-specific skills which students with visual impairments need learn in order to lead full, independent lives. The need for instruction in each area of the ECC is determined through assessment of individual students. The nine ECC areas include:

  • Compensatory Skills such as Communications Modes

  • Orientation and Mobility

  • Social Interaction Skills

  • Independent Living Skills

  • Recreation and Leisure Skills

  • Career Education

  • Use of Assistive Technology

  • Visual Efficiency Skills

  • Self-Determination

Pennsylvania, like other states, has responded to the National Agenda and tailored it to meet its particular strengths and challenges. Pennsylvania's Approach to the National Agenda (PANA) is the customization of the National Agenda to the educational needs and priorities of children and youth with visual impairments, deafblindness and visual and multiple disabilities in the Commonwealth.

 

For additional, up-to-date information about the National Agenda go to the website of California School for the Blind.

 

References

 

Corn, A. L., Hatlen, P., Huebner, K. M., Ryan, F. & Siller, M. A. (1995). The national agenda for the education and children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. NY: AFB Press.

 

Corn, A. L & Huebner, K. M. (Eds.). (1998). A report to the nation: The national agenda for the education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities, revised. NY: AFB Press.

 

Huebner, K. M., Merk-Adam, B., Stryker, D., & Wolffe, K. (2004). The national agenda for the education of children and youths with visual impairments, including those with multiple disabilities. NY: AFB

 

For additional Information on the National Agenda please visit the following:

American Foundation for the Blind

AFB - National Agenda: A Parent's Perspective

AFB - National Agenda: A Teacher's Perspective