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Spring 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By William Bill Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: Superintendent Daugherty discusses the legislative session and legislative advocacy.

Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, deafblindness, Texas, legislation, advocacy, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Judith Zaffirini, Florence Shapiro, Robert Duncan, Royce West, Scott Hochburg, Elliott Naishtat

This legislative session has pointed out what a great state we live in. I know that we sometimes take a perverse pleasure in complaining about Texas politics but, as a returning Texas expatriate, I've been really pleased at what I've seen in the hearings so far. The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has fared well, so it is only natural that I'd be upbeat about it all, but it is the rest of the story that has made the biggest impression on me and makes me proud to be a Texan.

What seems special about Blindness, Visual Impairment and Deafblindness in Texas is the network of professionals, parents, consumers, agencies and organizations that seems to pull together more so than in many other states.

First of all, there is some fabulous blindness and visual impairment legislative advocacy going on, and it has made a real difference. Texas is so lucky to have knowledgeable people who are willing to volunteer their time and to put their reputations on the line in public hearings. The second part of the equation is that Texas is lucky to have political leadership that understands our issues and is willing to put their reputations on the line to sponsor or back our field's most important issues. Just to name a few: Senators Zaffirini, Shapiro, Duncan and West, and Representatives Hochburg and Naishtat. In watching these and many of their colleagues work, it is amazing to see how much information they can keep up with. Blindness and Visual Impairment is such a relatively small issue within the larger context of state government, but somehow we manage to get treated as if we mattered.

What seems special about Blindness, Visual Impairment and Deafblindness in Texas is the network of professionals, parents, consumers, agencies and organizations that seems to pull together more so than in many other states. This didn't happen by accident or on its own-it's been built by many hands over many years. As a person who has had opportunity to wander around the field (blindness, not pasture) a bit, this view of Texas is widely shared.

What I'm trying to say here is only partially a congratulations to us letter. The main message is that we have to continue to nurture and grow this network. Some of the foundational people will be taking less active roles in the future, although most of them are not retiring by nature. Our parent advocacy groups are coming on strong and there is a very promising new generation of educators and adult service professionals now entering the field. The perennial issues of full access to education, employment and community integration will not fade during our lifetimes, but there is no place better to be than Texas to shape the future through our combined efforts.