Friday, April 20, 2012

Legislative Alert - Urgent Action Needed Regarding Braille Instruction for Blind Students

Fellow Federationists:

I am writing to inform you of a Dear Colleague letter that was circulated yesterday by Senators Murray, Boozman, and Harkin related to the instruction of Braille for blind students.

We have been working with Senator Murray on this issue, and are excited that the letter was released for other Senators to sign onto in support. As you know many blind students are not receiving Braille instruction today, despite the language contained in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which states that Braille will be the primary reading media for blind students. Senator Murray will hold her letter open through Friday, April 27, for other senators to sign onto, and then she will send the letter to the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Attached is a copy of the Dear Colleague letter that was circulated. We are asking you to contact your senators and urge them to join with Senators Murray and Boozman in support of instruction of Braille for blind students. Also attached is a state-by-state list of contacts for this issue. Please note that Republican offices should contact Ian Prince in Senator Boozman’s office, while Democrats should be directed to Jake Cornett in Senator Murray’s office. We are pleased that Chairman Harkin of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Senator Mikulski of Maryland have already joined as cosigners of the Dear Colleague letter.

Please contact me with any questions you may have. Thank you all in advance for your work on this important issue for blind students.


Jesse Hartle
National Federation of the Blind
Government Programs Specialist
Phone: 410-659-9314, Ext. 2233

Dear College Cosign Letter:

Support Braille Instruction for
Children with Blindness or Visual Impairment

Cosign Letter, Urging Secretary Duncan to Ensure Access to Braille Instruction

Dear Colleague:

We are writing to invite you to cosign an important letter to Secretary Duncan to improve the lives of students with disabilities. The letter encourages the Secretary to engage stakeholder groups to write a new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rule related to the development of an individualized education program (IEP) for a student with blindness or a visual impairment.
Research has clearly shown literacy is critical for success is school, life, and the workforce. For more than 93,600 school age children with blindness or a visual impairment in the United States, alternative instructional approaches such as braille literacy are necessary. Without providing these students access to specialized instruction, the grade-level curriculum will soon exceed the student’s reading proficiency therefore creating a literacy gap. As we know from research, these gaps are difficult to close and result in other negative academic and social outcomes. As this gap persists, the student’s ability to compete with sighted peers for post-secondary opportunities and employment is significantly compromised. Yet, these outcomes hinge on special educators and parents planning for a lifetime of literacy for the student, whatever the prognosis might be for their vision.
In acknowledging the importance of literacy for all students, Congress added a provision specific to students with blindness or visual impairment during reauthorization of the IDEA. This provision required the IEP team to assume that braille instruction is a necessary service for the student unless individual learning media and other assessments indicated the student would not benefit from braille in the future. It has come to our attention that in some circumstances, parents request braille instruction for their child with blindness or low vision but meet resistance. We believe that current regulation does not provide school districts adequate guidance in developing, reviewing and revising the IEP. We would like to see this important provision carried out according to Congressional intent.
Instruction in braille offers students with blindness or a visual impairment a path to literacy, college and career readiness, independence, and a productive future. We hope you will cosign this important bipartisan letter. For more information, or to cosign, please contact Jake Cornett in Senator Murray’s office at 4-2621 or, or Ian Prince in Senator Boozman’s office at 4-4843 or


Patty Murray John Boozman Tom Harkin
United States Senator United States Senator United States Senator

Senate Education Contacts:

Senate Education Contact List by State


Senator Mark Begich
Diane DiSanto, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3004,

Senator Lisa Murkowski
Karen McCarthy, Legislative Aide
(202) 224-6665,


Senator Jeff Sessions
Hunter Walton, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4124,

Senator Richard C. Shelby
Andrew Newton, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5744,


Senator Mark Pryor
Tate Heuer, Senior Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2353,


Senator Jon Kyl
Chad Heflin, Legislative Counsel
(202) 224-4521,

Senator John S. McCain
Greg Kuhn, Legislative Correspondent
(202) 224-2235,


Senator Barbara Boxer
Zachary Coile, Communications Director
(202) 224-8120,

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Ashley Eden, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3841,


Senator Michael F. Bennet
Joy Silvern, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5852,

Senator Mark Udall
Jack Waldorf, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5941,


Senator Richard Blumenthal
Meg Benner, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2823,

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Rachel Sotsky, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4041,


Senator Thomas R. Carper
Stephanie Kotin, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2441,

Senator Chris Coons
Rachel Bird, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5042,


Senator Bill Nelson
Marin Stein, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5274,
Senator Marco Rubio
J.R. Sanchez, Legislative Assistant/Director of Outreach
(202) 224-3041,


Senator Saxby Chambliss
Richard Gerakitis, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3521,

Senator Johnny Isakson
Glee Smith, Legislative Counsel/Senior Education Advisor
(202) 224-3643,


Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Robert Baptiste, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6361,

Senator Dan Inouye
Anthony Ching, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3934,


Senator Chuck Grassley
James Rice, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3744,


Senator Mike Crapo
Susan Stoner, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6142,

Senator James E. Risch
Rachel Burkett, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2752,


Senator Dick Durbin
Joanna Serra, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2152,
Senator Mark Kirk
Andrew Adair, Legislative Correspondent
(202) 224-2854,


Senator Dan Coats
Viraj Mirani, Legislative Director
(202) 224-5623,

Senator Richard G. Lugar
Conor Burns, Assistant Legislative Director
(202) 224-4814,


Senator Jerry Moran
Brian Perkins, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6521,

Senator Pat Roberts
Joshua Yurek, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4774,


Senator Mitch McConnell
Sarah Arbes, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2541,

Senator Rand Paul
Rachel Bovard, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4343,


Senator Mary L. Landrieu
Tasha Hensley, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5824,

Senator David Vitter
Michael Wong, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4623,


Senator John F. Kerry
Doug Frost, Legislative Correspondent
(202) 224-2742,

Senator Scott Brown
Marne Marotta, Legislative Correspondent
(202) 224-4543,


Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Jodi Schwartz, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4524,


Senator Susan M. Collins
Kenneth Altman, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2523,

Senator Olympia J. Snowe
Matthew Hussey, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5344,


Senator Carl Levin
Jackie Parker, Deputy Legislative Director
(202) 224-9112,

Senator Debbie Stabenow
Doug Messana, Legislative Aide
(202) 224-4822,


Senator Al Franken
Amanda Beaumont, Senior Education Counsel
(202) 224-5641,

Senator Amy Klobuchar
Elizabeth Frosch, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3244,

Senator Roy Blunt
Kristina Weger, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5721,

Senator Claire C. McCaskill
Corey Dukes, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6154,


Senator Thad Cochran
Will Todd, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5054,

Senator Roger F. Wicker
Bob Foster, Legislative Director
(202) 224-6253,


Senator Max Baucus
Heather O'Loughlin, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2651,

Senator Jon Tester
Alpha Lillstrom, Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel for Health Care, Education and Judiciary
(202) 224-2644,

North Carolina

Senator Richard Burr
Celia Sims, Senior Policy Advisor
(202) 224-3154,

Senator Kay R. Hagan
Simone Hardeman, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6342,

North Dakota

Senator Kent Conrad
Libby Schneider, Legislative Assistant/Assistant to the Chief of Staff
(202) 224-2043,

Senator John Hoeven
Emily Tryon, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2551,


Senator Mike Johanns
Ally Mendenhall, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4224,

Senator Ben Nelson
Charlie Ellsworth, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6551,

New Hampshire

Senator Kelly A. Ayotte
Daniel Auger, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3324,

Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Alison MacDonald, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2841,

New Jersey

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg
Kyle Brown, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3224,

Senator Robert Menendez
Jason Tuber, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4744,

New Mexico

Senator Jeff Bingaman
Sanjay Kane, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5521,
Senator Tom Udall
Fern Goodhart, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6621,


Senator Dean Heller
Leeann Gibson, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6244,

Senator Harry Reid
Jason Unger, Legislative Director
(202) 224-3542,

New York

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Michele Jawando, General Counsel and Senior Advisor
(202) 224-4451,

Senator Charles E. Schumer
Meghan Taira, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6542,


Senator Sherrod Brown
Marjorie Glick, Legislative Aide
(202) 224-2315,

Senator Rob Portman
Aja Brooks, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3353,


Senator Tom Coburn
Katie Bailey, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5754,

Senator James M. Inhofe
Erica Brettell, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4721,


Senator Jeff Alan Merkley
Susan Lexer, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3753,

Senator Ron Wyden
Laura Berntsen, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5244,


Senator Robert P. Casey
Christina Baumgardner, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6324,

Senator Pat Toomey
Tessie Abraham, Legislative Counsel
(202) 224-4254,

Rhode Island

Senator Jack Reed
Steven Keenan, Senior Policy Advisor
(202) 224-4642,

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Regan Fitzgerald, Legislative Counsel
(202) 224-2921,

South Carolina

Senator Jim DeMint
Erica Suares, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6121,

Senator Lindsey Graham
Courtney Titus, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5972,

South Dakota

Senator Tim Johnson
Carrie Johnson, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5842,
Senator John Thune
Jane Lucas, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2321,


Senator Lamar Alexander
Pete Oppenheim, Legislative Counsel
(202) 224-4944,

Senator Bob Corker
Hunter Bethea, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3344,


Senator John Cornyn
Michelle Chin, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2934,

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
Dana Barbieri, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5922,


Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Juliann Andreen, Legislative Assistant/Constituent Services Representative
(202) 224-5251,

Senator Mike Lee
Greg Sutherland, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5444,


Senator Mark R. Warner
Elizabeth Falcone, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-2023,

Senator James H. Webb
Maribel Ramos, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4024,


Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Kathryn Toomajian, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-4242,

Senator Bernard Sanders
Michael Behan, Legislative Director/Chief Counsel
(202) 224-5141,


Senator Maria Cantwell
Janel George, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3441,


Senator Ron Johnson
Elizabeth Schwartz, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5323,

Senator Herb Kohl
Jessah Foulk, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-5653,

West Virginia

Senator Joe Manchin
Lauren Alfred, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3954,

Senator Jay Rockefeller, IV
Barbara Pryor, Senior Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6472,


Senator John A. Barrasso
Amber Bland, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-6441,

Senator Mike Enzi
Chris Tomassi, Legislative Assistant
(202) 224-3424,


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