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Save the Date! Conferences & Trainings for 2019-2020 


Deafblind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT), September 27-29, 2019, Atlanta, GA. Sponsored by National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH). 


14th International CHARGE Syndrome Conference, August 2 -5, 2019; Hilton Anatole, Dallas, TX.


Braille Boot Camp, August 6-9, 2019, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX. Braille Boot Camp: Braille Document, Tactile Graphic, and Music Production


Adults with Albinism Weekend, Septeer 27-29, 2019.


Intervener Team Training, October 10-11, 2019, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX.


“Lead On!”, the 2019 Southwest Orientation and Mobility Conference (SWOMA), November 1-3, 2019, Fredonia Hotel, Nacogdoches, TX. 2019 Southwest Orientation and Mobility Conference


Advanced Practitioner Series Studies in DeafBlindness, November 13, 2019, TSBVI, Austin, TX. Advanced Practitioner Series Studies in DeafBlindness


Getting in Touch with Literacy International Conference, November 13-16, 2019, Seattle, WA. 


Game of Life, December 12 -15, 2019, TSBVI, Austin, TX. Game of Life


Texas Focus 2020 - Self Determination: Building Positive Futures for Every Child". February 27-29, 2020. Hyatt Regency Houston Intercontinental Airport, 425 N. Sam Houston Parkway East, Houston, TX 77060.


In the Driver's Seat:  Introduction to Safe Driving with Low Vision, March 6-8, 2020, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX In the Driver's Seat:  Introduction to Safe Driving with Low Vision


TAER 2020, April 2-4, 2020, Embassy Suites, San Marcos, TX. 


Low Vision Conference, May 1, 2020, James C. Durkel Conference Center, TSBVI, Austin, TX. 


NOAHCon2020, National Conference of the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), July 9-12, 2020, Orange County, CA. 

Announcing! A FREE Nemeth online resource is now available for Pre-K through 8th
grade levels on the TSBVI Online Learning webpage! It is designed to provide easy
access to support learning or reinforcing Nemeth braille code skills for families, teachers
or paraeducators working with students who are braille readers.  
These modules are a companion to the TSBVI publication, Nemeth at a Glance. Dr.
Derrick Smith, professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was the creator of
this series, with sections by Janet Bean, Lead Teacher in the TSBVI Curriculum
Although presented in the grade level order that symbols are typically introduced to
students in school, you can dip in at any level to find specific symbols and examples.  
Modules include an explanation of the symbol, relevant rules, and examples of how to
use the symbol in math examples. There are multiple samples of using Nemeth
within UEB contexts. Short, ungraded quizzes following each module will help
document mastery of the material and provide useful feedback. Completing these
optional quizzes will lead to a certification of completion. 
Modules for PreK - 1st grade, 2nd - 3rd grade, and 4th - 6th and 7/8 grade are already
available.  Look for the upper level math grades to be posted in the fall of 2019.


General Information about Nemeth Braille Courses

Dr. Kitra Gray; Sponsored by Region 11 ESC


Introduction, Adapting the Content and Adapting the Methodology

In working with Local Education Agencies (LEAs: school districts and charters) for many years, the question seems to arise as to how specially designed instruction differs for students with visual impairments from other students with disabilities. Since the population of students with visual impairments is a very diverse group that includes all age ranges, levels of cognitive and physical abilities as well as a wide range of vision abilities, all components of specially designed instruction potentially may apply to any child with a visual impairment. Yet, there are some unique needs of students with visual impairments that may be unfamiliar to some educators because of the low incidence of this population. Thus, this article will focus on these unique needs rather than the broad topic of specially designed instruction which is required for every student with a disability who receives special education services.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) definition of Specially Designed Instruction indicates that:

“Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an

eligible child under this part, the

  • content
  • methodology or
  • delivery on instruction” (IDEA § 300.39 (b)(3).).

The definition continues by indicating that the three components listed above: content, methodology and delivery of instruction should be adapted to: 

  • “address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability; and
  • ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards…” (IDEA § 300.39 Special education (b)(3)(i-ii).).

The definition above combined with the stated Purpose of IDEA:

“To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services:

  • designed to meet their unique needs and 
  • prepare them for further education, 
  • employment, and 
  • independent living” (IDEA § 300.1 Purposes, (a).),

help us understand the role of education in relation to students with visual impairments. 

“Specially designed instruction (SDI) is planned, organized and meaningful in that it is an intentional and systematic process that specifically addresses the student’s needs as expressed in the IEP” (Auburn Public Schools, n.a.). “The LEA must provide a child with a disability specially designed instruction that addresses the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability, and ensures access by the child to the general curriculum, even if that type of instruction is being provided to other children, with or without disabilities, in the child’s classroom, grade or building” (Musgrove, M., 2012). For a student to be considered to need special education services, the student must require specially designed instruction to make progress in the curriculum and these components should be reflected in the student’s IEP.  Thus, this article will explore the three components of specially designed instruction as described in IDEA in relation to a student’s visual impairment. The three components are: 

  1. Adapting the content, 
  2. Adapting the methodology 
  3. Adapting the delivery of instruction. 

Component I: Adapting the Content

Usually when educators think of adapting the content, they focus on the state curriculum content standards. However, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), 2017 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas (2017, p. 6) state that “in addition to the general education curriculum all students with visual impairments, starting at birth, also need an expanded core curriculum (ECC) to meet needs directly related to their visual impairment (TEC 30.002, Subsections (c-1) and (c-2).” Thus, when considering adapting the content for students with visual impairments, the ARD committee must consider two content areas:

  1. General education curriculum
  2. Expanded core curriculum (ECC). 

This additional content area, known as the Expanded Core Curriculum, is essential for students with visual impairments so they can graduate ready for further education, employment and/or independent living as required by the purpose of IDEA.  Meeting this IDEA purpose “is a key role of the TVI [teacher of students with visual impairments] and the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments…” (AFB, n.d., p. 5).

According to the 2017 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas (TEA, 2017, p. 6), the expanded core curriculum includes:

  • Compensatory skills that permit access to the general curriculum (such as braille and concept development, tactile graphics, Nemeth Code, and specialized communication skills) 
  • Orientation and mobility skills 
  • Social interaction skills 
  • Career education and planning 
  • Assistive technology, including optical devices 
  • Independent living skills 
  • Recreation and leisure skills 
  • Self-determination, and 
  • Sensory efficiency (including visual, tactual and auditory skills). 

The guidelines do not indicate that one area of the ECC is more important than another area. They are all equally important for students with visual impairments. Therefore, for the ARD committee to appropriately develop an IEP for a student with a visual impairment, the committee must have access to four types of evaluation/assessment data:

  1. Functional vision evaluation (FVE)
  2. Learning media assessment (LMA)
  3. Expanded core curriculum (ECC) assessments (in all areas)
  4. Orientation and mobility (O&M) evaluation.

“The FVE, LMA and ECC assessments are the main specialized assessments for students with visual impairments that form part of a comprehensive evaluation for eligibility” (Zebehay, 2017, p. 39). In addition, in Texas, the Orientation and Mobility Evaluation is also a requirement of the initial and continuing eligibility of a student with visual impairments (SBOE § 89.1040 (12)(B).). So, all four evaluations/assessments are required both at the initial evaluation and at the three year evaluation. IDEA is clear that a comprehensive evaluation must address both eligibility and “content of the child’s IEP” (IDEA § 300.304 (b) (ii).). Furthermore, “these specialized assessments should be considered a ‘living document,’ meaning that they should be updated frequently enough to maintain a record of the student’s functioning and to assess current and future needs that may change with age, grade level, or visual prognosis” (Zebehay, 2017, p. 39). 

Therefore, specially designed instruction for students with visual impairments must consider “two equally essential and interrelated curricula, the general curriculum and the expanded core curriculum….The first is the core curriculum which consist of all skill areas that are common to all students” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 205). The second curriculum, the ECC, is important because “after analysis, there is evidence that there are numerous significant relationships between the receipt of instruction in expanded core curriculum (ECC)-like content areas and meaningful outcomes, such as employment, postsecondary training, and engagement in social activities” (Wolffe & Kelly, 2011). Thus, the expanded core curriculum is an “integral and indispensable component of the [general] curriculum, not skills that are considered extra or for enrichment” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 205). 

When devising an IEP for a student with a visual impairment, the ARD committee needs to address both curricular areas because one area can impact the other. For instance, the general curriculum may need to be adapted because the braille reading curriculum is commonly not aligned with the general education reading curriculum. Braille instruction includes learning symbols and contractions of words that frequently need to be introduced in a different order than letters and words in the traditional reading curriculum.

 Another example is sometimes a student with a visual impairment may not be reading on grade level because of proficiency with braille, not because of the student’s ability to learn. Braille takes more time and practice than visually reading print. Learning braille also can be impacted by other disabilities or the age when the student’s vision was impaired. So consideration of adaptations of both curricula, general curriculum and braille curriculum (part of the ECC), must be addressed simultaneously as one can impact the other.

Component II: Adapting the Methodology

The second component of specially designed instruction is adapting the methodology for students with visual impairments. There are two questions that need to be explored in regards to methodology:

  1. What instructional strategies are needed for students to learn/access the content?
  2. What materials need to be adapted or provided for the student to learn/access the content?

According to Holbrook and Rosenblum (2017, p. 205), while “the elements of the expanded core curriculum serve as the basis for what teachers of students with visual impairments teach…the instructional strategies and materials the teachers use to instruct students with visual impairments are also unique.”  Therefore, adapting the methodology, including instructional strategies and materials, should to be addressed in the IEP. 

Adapting instructional strategies

The ARD committee needs to address the unique instructional strategies that may be required for the student to access both the general curriculum and the expanded core curriculum. Some examples of specific instructional strategies that may be required for a student to access the general curriculum are:

  • The TVI may need to pre-teach concepts because the classroom will be addressing concepts that the child has not observed (i.e. what birds look like when they are sitting vs when they are flying)
  • The student may need hand under hand instruction or may need to touch and examine objects being shown in the classroom
  • The student may need to sit at a specific place in the room to reduce glare, use their peripheral vision or move closer to the focal point of the instruction
  • The student may need additional time to complete assignments because of visual fatigue or slow reading of braille material

In addition, after the ARD committee reviews the ECC assessment data and determines the priority goals for the student, the IEP will need to address what specific instructional strategies are needed to access/learn these goals. Some examples of instructional strategies that may be needed for the ECC curriculum are:

  • A student who does not learn through incidental learning because of limited sight, may require instruction in a community setting rather than in an on-campus setting to develop orientation and mobility skills, career education, social skills, etc. 
  • The instructional sequence of learning technology may need to be revised so that the instruction meets the needs of an auditory or tactile learner.
  • The instructional strategies for teaching social skills may need to be adapted because of the student’s classroom setting, age or visual impairment.

One specific instructional strategy that may need to be adapted is whether the student will need technology to access the curricula. Does the student require assistive technology (AT) to participate in the instructional process? Does the student require AT to meet the expectations of the IEP goals and objectives? “Technology is critical for individuals with visual impairments….Technology is used to access information, communicate, increase productivity, and organize information” (Kamei-Haman, Lee & Presley, 2017, p. 613).

The IEP will need to address whether the student needs low tech, high tech or optical devices to access both curricular areas. Does the student require a laptop with accessible features, an electronic brailler or something as simple as a braille ruler? The list of assistive technologies that may be required for students with visual impairments can be extensive. Sometimes the TVI must work together with the LEA AT team and the school technology specialist to devise a plan that will be functional for the student as well as conducive to the classroom setting. 

In addition, many students with visual impairments require a low vision evaluation by an Optometrist who specializes in prescribing optical devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, or specific CCTVs. These evaluations are the responsibility of the LEA to address the appropriate accommodations and instructional strategies for the student.

Technology is essential to the lives of people with visual impairments, yet “the ability to use technology does not come readily, and it requires specific attention” (Kamei-Haman, Lee & Presley, 2017, p. 613). Thus, the IEP team should document the student’s AT needs, devices, and instructional strategies as a part of specially designed instruction, related services, and/or supplementary aids and services.

Furthermore, in order for a student with visual impairments to access and learn the curriculum, the TVI will need to work with the classroom teachers to assure the curriculum is presented in a way that the student can understand it.  All instructional strategies that need be adapted to meet the individual needs of the student, should be addressed in the IEP as part of the student’s specially designed instruction.

Adapting instructional materials

Another part of adapting the methodology is adapting the instructional materials. “Educational materials can be modified in three ways: visually, tactilely, and auditorily” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 242). The functional vision evaluation in conjunction with the learning media assessment conducted by the TVI provide critical data for the ARD committee to determine these needs. Any required adaptation of instructional materials should be documented in the IEP as part of the student’s specially designed instruction. In addition, the IEP should indicate who will provide instruction in the use of the adapted materials/equipment.

Often students with low vision may use a combination of visual adaptions. “Visual adaptations are generally accomplished through:

  • enlargement of materials [including magnification devices]
  • electronic enlargement of text
  • increased clarity and contrast
  • increased illumination, 
  • decreased glare, and
  • decreased visual clutter” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 243).

Which visual adaptations are necessary, depends on the environment and educational requirements. For instance, sometimes it may be more efficient to use a magnification device to enlarge text, but at other times, it may be more effective to scan a document and enlarge it electronically.

For students who use their tactile sense for learning, materials may be adapted by:

  • transcribing written materials into braille including text, handouts and tests 
  • providing tactile representation of maps, graphics and pertinent pictures
  • providing three-dimensional models.

Even students who use their vision for some activities may find it more efficient to use their tactile sense for other tasks. Details in pictures can be difficult to see; thus, providing a 3-D model or a real object (when possible) may be needed for a student to explore and to truly understand all the details.  For example, it is very difficult in a picture to discern the difference between a cat and a dog, such as that cats have whiskers. However, once the student tactually learns about this detail, the student can use a magnification device to examine the picture and look for subtle details such as whiskers on a cat.

Of course, for students with little to no vision, tactile adaptations become critical to learn about even the simplest of objects or to read text. Therefore, knowing the student’s best sensory learning modality is very important for a student with limited vision.

Besides adapting materials visually or tactilely some materials may need to be adapted auditorily. “The use of auditory materials is critical for the success of students with visual impairments, especially for large quantities of written materials that must be read in a short period of time” (Holbrook & Rosenblum, 2017, p. 246). Visual and tactile learners often have to supplement their learning using their auditory skills.  They may use:

  • auditory materials from sources such as:
    • Bookshare
    • Learning Ally
    • National Library Service
    • Books from the local library
  • teacher recorded materials
  • same classroom materials as their peers.

For some students to use their auditory skills effectively, they may need instruction and practice in using these auditory materials. Just because the student’s sight is reduced, does not automatically mean the student is a proficient auditory learner. 

After determining what materials need to be adapted, visually, tactilely or auditorily, the ARD committee also needs to include IEP goals and instructional time that may be necessary for the student to master the use of these adapted materials. 


Adapting the Delivery of Instruction, O&M, Mainstreamed Students, Summary

Part I of this article focused on the first two components of specially designed instruction (SDI): Adapting the Content and Adapting the Methodology. Part II of this article will focus on the third component of SDI which is Adapting the Delivery of Instruction. In addition, a short paragraph regarding SDI and O&M will be addressed (a more detailed article is needed to fully address O&M) and information from the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook regarding services to student who are mainstreamed will be cited. Finally, this section of the article will summarize both Part I and Part II of this article. 

Component III: Adapting the Delivery of Instruction

To address the third component of specially designed instruction related to adapting the delivery of instruction, this article will specifically focus on the unique needs of students with visual impairments in regards to the instructional arrangement of services from a TVI.

IDEA § 300.115 (a-b) indicates that: 

Each public agency must ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services. The continuum required in paragraph (a) of this section must include the alternative placements listed in the definition of special education under §300.39 (instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and 

instruction in hospitals and institutions); and make provision for supplementary services (such as resource room or itinerant instruction) 

to be provided in conjunction with regular class placement.

This IDEA requirement is true for all students with a disability including students with visual impairments because “students who are visually impaired comprise a diverse population in terms of age, cognitive abilities, and type of eye condition” (Levack, 1994, p. 6). Thus, instructional arrangements and services for students with visual impairments will vary depending on the identified least restrictive environment. In addition, “since placement must be reevaluated at least annually, it is likely that the placement for a particular student will change as the student’s needs, abilities, and strengths are appropriately addressed” (Lewis & Allman, 2017, p. 296).

Besides other identified specially designed instructional options such as settings, supports, and related services a student receives, the IEP should clearly indicate what type of services the student will receive from the TVI.  Some students may need both TVI support in the form of direct instruction to focus on deficiencies in expanded core curricular areas and collaborative consultation to address identified content modifications/accommodations, and/or adapted instructional strategies and materials.  Yet other students with visual impairments may not need direct services from a TVI, but will require collaborative consultation to assure all aspects of their IEPs are addressed in a way that benefits them.

Specially designed instruction from a TVI is critically important for students with visual impairments as so much of learning both instructionally and incidentally is based on visual information. “Students with visual impairments face unique challenges because of their limited access to incidental information gathered through casual observation…and challenges imposed by environmental (barriers) and societal barriers” (Wolffe, 2017, p. 146).

“Students who don’t have the benefit of incidental learning may require a different approach” (Sacks, 2016, p. 27). The TVI may need to assure the student has the same concepts regarding a topic as their peers with sight. Something as simple as that apples are different colors may not be addressed in the classroom as it would be assumed that all children know this from casual observation. However, a child with a visual impairment may need to be given the “opportunity to explore and taste the difference between red, green, or yellow apples” (Sacks, 2016, p. 27).

Also, sometimes students are limited by people’s perceptions. For instance, a PE teacher or an Art teacher may not want a student to participate in an activity because of safety concerns. The TVI can address these concerns by suggesting adaptations for the activity or providing appropriate resources so that the student can safely participate. Thus, the TVI is very important to assure the student can access/understand the educational curriculum.

Data of the student’s strengths and weaknesses from the comprehensive evaluation including the functional vision evaluation, learning media assessment and the expanded core curriculum assessment will assist the ARD committee in devising appropriate goals for the student in the two curricular areas. Then the committee identifies the least restrictive environment for the student and the type of specially designed instruction needed from the TVI:

  1. Direct instruction and collaborative consultation or
  2. Collaborative consultation.

In addition, the ARD committee determines the frequency and amount of TVI services that are needed for the student to make progress and be successful both in the general educational curriculum and in the expanded core curriculum.

The type and amount of services can vary depending on the students’ needs. Some students will need:

  1. Short term intensive direct service with collaborative consultation for integration
  2. Ongoing direct service with collaborative consultation
  3. Intermittent direct service with collaborative consultation or
  4. Collaborative consultation

Notice that the first 3 options are a type of direct service but each one also includes collaborative consultation. If a student receives direct service from a TVI, the student should also receive collaborative consultation. Consultative assistance is needed to assure the accommodations in the IEP are effective and are being implemented appropriately to allow the student to make progress toward the IEP goals. The fourth option applies when a student may not require direct service, but still needs collaborative consultation. Let’s examine these 4 specially designed service delivery options in more detail.

Short term intensive direct service with collaborative consultation

Sometimes students may need short term intensive direct service so that they can participate in the classroom activities.  For instance, a student may already know how to use the computer keyboard but not know how to use the text to speech software that will be needed for a computer course. The student may require intensive service for a short time in order to master the software application prior to the course. Collaborative consultation should be included to assure the student learns what is needed for the course and to verify that guided practice is being provided/integrated by other service providers. The IEP should clearly reflect the amount of direct service and collaborative consultation that are needed including the frequency and duration of the service such as how many weeks are needed, how many sessions per week and the amount of time of each session.

Some other examples of when short term intensive direct service with collaborative consultation might be needed are to address:

  • visual efficiency skills in authentic settings
  • concept development so that student has an experiential and conceptual basis for learning
  • new braille or Nemeth math code symbols that were not previously applicable for the curriculum.

Ongoing direct service with collaborative consultation

Ongoing direct service with collaborative consultation is frequently needed to teach the ECC and/or concept development such as:

  • Braille reading and writing
  • Abacus and Nemeth braille code
  • Notetaking skills
  • Assistive Technology
  • Social skills
  • Visual efficiency and low vision devices

Ongoing direct service usually will be from a daily to a weekly service depending on the intensity of the needs of the student, the ability of the student to receive guided practice between sessions and/or the student’s ability to remember skills taught over a period of time. If a student needs to learn a skill such as braille to be successful in the classroom then more frequent, intensive service is needed. Occasionally, a district may develop a resource room specifically for students with visual impairments when there are several students on the same campus with similar needs. The TVI is the main teacher during this daily resource time. 

However, sometimes a student may only need weekly services. For instance, one way to address social skills is for the TVI to work with the student on a specific skill once a week and then collaborate with the other service providers to incorporate daily practice of the skill.

Intermittent direct service with collaborative consultation 

Intermittent direct service including collaborative consultation is used:

  • to provide generalization of mastered skills:
    • in different settings
    • with different people
  • to address skills that may require:
    • classroom practice/implementation between sessions such as implementing a daily routine with a student who has significant delays
    • the student to complete activities between sessions such as transition activities (e.g. contacting a caseworker or transportation office)

Intermittent direct service may be delivered every other week or once a month.  However, a student should not receive this type of infrequent service unless another service provider is consistently implementing the IEP goals.  For instance, a TVI may work on a routine with a student several times during one week while simultaneously training the classroom service provider to implement the routine so that it can be consistently done on a daily basis. Then the TVI continues to provide consultation the following several weeks to determine if all elements of the routine are being implemented successfully. Afterwards another routine may be developed which requires direct services and collaborative consultation follow up.

Another scenario is if a TVI is working on transition skills with a Jr. high or high school student. The student may need to do some research or make multiple phone calls between sessions. In this case the student may receive direct service every other week or once a month.

Yet, even with this type of specially designed instruction, the IEP needs to clearly identify how much and how often the service will be delivered so that all parties understand the type and amount of service being delivered by the TVI as well as by other service providers. Furthermore, the IEP should indicate who will collect/report the data regarding the progress on the goals.

Collaborative consultation

Collaborative consultation is imperative for the success of a student with visual impairments. “Consistent communication with the classroom team is vital in conveying information about how a student’s learning relates to [the] visual impairment” (Erin, 2016, p. 91). “Consulting, when successful, and effective, is a method of providing robust services that involves frequent visits with the student and the educational team” (Chang, Kamei-Hannan, O’Connor, Toelle, 2017, p. 390). Collaborative Consultation entails:

  1. Assisting school personnel
  2. Locating, providing and coordinating appropriate resources and materials
  3. Being a liaison with parents or community resources.

Assisting school personnel

Assisting school personnel can vary from frequent in-class observations and discussions with classroom teachers to coordination between teachers and related service providers. A TVI might assist school personnel with:

  • developing an integrated IEP to enhance student’s classroom functioning 
  • understanding and adjusting accommodations/adaptations/modifications
  • interpreting eye medical reports
  • understanding student’s visual impairment and unique educational implications
  • developing routines to include multi-sensory activities
  • developing visual efficiency within daily routines
  • understanding and infusing ECC skills into daily activities
  • arranging the physical environment for visual/auditory/tactile access.

It is vital for the TVI to have time to collaborate with multiple team members and observe lessons for each student on the caseload in order to assure that appropriate instructional techniques are being implemented and accessible materials are provided in a timely manner.

Locating, providing and coordinating appropriate resources and materials

The TVI also spends a great deal of time assessing the immediate classroom needs of the student and locating/procuring specific resources so that the student can access and participate in required educational activities. In addition, the TVI must adapt materials or locate similar materials, to those used in the classroom, that the student can tactually explore or see. These tasks have been compounded by the use of digital materials that frequently are not accessible and by the fact that many LEAs no longer use state adopted textbooks which are available in braille or large print. 

Other types of resources/materials that a TVI may assist with procuring are:

  • American Printing House materials
  • large print materials and equipment
  • braille materials 
  • adaptive equipment/software and technology
  • braille, large print or auditory textbooks
  • low vision devices.

Being a liaison with parents and/or community resources

Because “families are the guiding force behind all life decisions for the child or youth with visual impairments” (TSBVI, n.d.), the TVI must maintain a healthy connection with the families of their students. TVIs assist parents in understanding their child’s abilities and to set long range goals. As skills in the expanded core curriculum are learned, it is important that these skills are generalized to the home setting whenever applicable and possible. In addition, the TVI can assist parents in navigating the many community resources and programs that are available to children with visual impairments.

This type of collaborative consultation may take on many forms such as:

  • Assisting parents in understanding child’s abilities/progress
  • Assisting parents in generalizing skills at home
  • Connecting parents with community resources such as: 
    • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
    • Texas Workforce Commission
    • Texas Health and Human Services Commission
    • Programs from other agencies such as Regional Education Service Centers or Lighthouse for the Blind

So, as you can see that the specially designed instructional service of collaborative consultation is equally important to the success of students with visual impairments as direct service. Furthermore, collaborative consultation can take the same, or frequently, more time than planning and delivering direct service. In fact, if you examine the caseloads of a TVI, both for ARDed consultation time and other time spent on behalf of the student, you will find this may exceed all the time spent on direct services. Lewis and Allman (2017) indicate that “consultation does not necessarily imply limited time commitment….Time is needed to:

  • Become acquainted with the student and the family
  • Understand the student’s complex needs,
  • Learn about the student’s educational environment
  • Meet with other team members for planning, explaining unique learning experiences…evaluating the impact of interventions” (p. 289).

Therefore, it is incorrect to believe that collaborative consultation is not as effective as direct instruction or that it takes less time. Collaborative consultation is as valuable to student success as direct service and can require the same or more time than ongoing services. Thus, both direct intervention and collaborative consultation may equally be a part of a student’s specially designed instruction.

Orientation and Mobility Services

While this article mainly has focused on the unique instructional arrangement of TVI services, there is another distinctive type of specially designed instruction that students with visual impairments may require which is typically identified as the related service of Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training. This service is for students with visual impairments who need assistance in learning to negotiate their environment safely and efficiently. O&M is provided in much the same way as TVI services. Instructional strategies and materials may need to be adapted. The student also can receive both direct service and collaborative consultation. 

Some final thoughts regarding mainstreamed students

One area that frequently causes confusion for LEAs is understanding the specially designed instruction for a student that is mainstreamed. Hopefully this training has assisted with this analysis. In addition, the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook also provides guidance in this regard. 

4.7.10 Code 40 - Special Education Mainstream

This instructional setting code is used for a student who is provided special education and related services in the general education classroom in accordance with the student’s IEP. The term “special education” means specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability. “Specially designed instruction” means content, methodology, or delivery of instruction that has been adapted, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child, to:

  • address the unique needs that result from the child’s disability
  • ensure access of the child to the general curriculum. 

Examples of special education and related services provided to a student in the mainstream instructional setting include, but are not limited to,

  • direct instruction, 
  • helping teacher, 
  • team teaching, 
  • co-teaching, 
  • interpreter, 
  • education aides, 
  • curricular or instructional modifications or accommodations,
  • special materials or equipment, 
  • consultation with the student and his or her general classroom teacher(s), 
  • staff development, 
  • and reduction of ratio of students to instructional staff members…. Requirements

For a student to be coded with an instructional setting code of 40 (special education mainstream), the student must have:

  • special education and related services provided in a general education classroom on a regularly scheduled basis;
  • an IEP specifying the special education and related services that enable the student to access the general curriculum and to make progress toward individual goals and objectives; and
  • certified special education personnel involved in the implementation of the student’s IEP through the provision of direct, indirect, and/or support services:
  • to the student in the general education classroom and/or
  • in collaboration with the student’s general education classroom teacher(s) (TEA, 2018, p. 106).

So, all three specially designed instructional components that have been discussed previously also apply to students who are mainstreamed. If they require adaptation of the content (general or ECC), the methodology (instructional strategies or materials) and delivery of instruction (such as services from a TVI), then the student is a special education student who requires specially designed instruction.

Nevertheless, the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook also clarifies that just checking in on a student is NOT specially designed instruction. 


Monitoring student progress in and of itself does not constitute a special education service. If certified special education personnel are only monitoring student progress, mainstream special education funding must not be generated. In order to report this instructional arrangement, document the details of the specially designed instruction that is being provided in the student’s IEP (TEA, 2018, p. 106).

Thus, there must be an IEP with goals and documented specially designed instruction including the type and amount of services from the TVI. Furthermore, the goal cannot be that the student will “Meet 70% of the TEKS” as this is not specially designed instruction. Students who do not need support from a TVI or other specially designed instruction may need to be considered for 504 services.


Specially designed instruction for all students who require special education services includes adapting the content, the methodology and/or the delivery of instruction. However, students with visual impairments have some unique IEP considerations that may not be inherently in other students’ programs. First, the ARD committee must consider two content areas: general curriculum and the expanded core curriculum for students with visual impairments. Second, the ARD committee must address adapting the methodology of instructional strategies and materials so that the student may access the curricula visually, tactilely and/or auditorily. Third, the type and amount of support from a TVI (and other related service providers such as Orientation and Mobility specialist) needs to be documented as part of adapting the delivery of instruction. Thus, if a student with a visual impairment needs specially designed instruction in any of the following areas, the student needs special education services.

Expanded Core Curriculum to meet unique needs of students with VI:

  • Compensatory or functional academic skills, including communication modes 
  • Orientation and mobility 
  • Social interaction skills 
  • Independent living skills 
  • Recreation and leisure skills 
  • Career education 
  • Use of assistive technology 
  • Sensory efficiency skills
  • Self-determination 

Access to the General Curriculum:

Adapting Methodology

  • Instructional strategies including AT
  • Adapting materials:
    • visual adaptations
    • tactile adaptations

auditory adaptations

Adapting Delivery of Instruction

  • Settings and services
  • TVI support
  • O&M support

Each component of the student’s specially designed instruction must be clearly documented in the IEP so that everyone on the educational team, including the parents, understand what special education services are required for the student to be successful and make continued progress.

References for Module II, Specially Designed Instruction for Students with Visual Impairments


American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) (n.d.). IEP and 504 Plan: What’s the Difference and Which is Most Appropriate for My Visually Impairment Child. Family Connect. Retrieved from:


Auburn Public Schools. (n.d.). What is Specially Designed Instruction? Retrieved from:


Chang, Y., Kamei-Hannan, C., O’Connor, K. E. & Toelle, N. (2017). Consultation and Collaboration. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume I: History and Theory of Teaching Children with Visual Impairments. (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


State Board of Education Rules. (2017). Retrieved from:


Erin, J. (2016). The Role of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments. In Sacks, S. Z. & Zatta, M. C. (Eds,). Keys to Educational Success: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities. New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Holbrook, M. C., & Rosenblum, L. P. (2017). Planning Instruction in Unique Skills, and Supporting Differentiated Instruction and Inclusion in General Education. In

Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. (2004). Retrieved from:


Kamei-Hannan, C., Lee, D. B., & Presley, I. (2017). Assistive Technology. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Levack, N. (1994). Low Vision: A Resource Guide with Adaptations for Students with Visual Impairments. (2nd ed.). Austin, TX: Texas School For the Blind and Visually Impaired.


Lewis, S. & Allman, C. B. (2017). Educational Programming. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume I: History and Theory of Teaching Children with Visual Impairments. (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


McCarthy, T. & Holbrook, M. C. (2017). Compensatory Skills. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Musgrove, M. (2012). Office of Special Education Programs, Letter to Chambers. (2012, May 9). Retrieved from:


Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. (2013). Section 6: Writing Assistive Technology into the IEP. Assistive Technology Resource Guide. Retrieved from:


Sacks, S. Z. (2016). Educating Students with Visual Impairments Who Have Multiple Disabilities: An Overview. In Sacks, S. Z. & Zatta, M. C. (Eds.). Keys to Educational Success: Teaching Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities. New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Texas Education Agency (TEA). (2017). 2017 Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas. Developed with Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved from:


Texas Education Agency (TEA). (2018). Student Attendance Accounting Handbook. Retrieved from:


Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired [TSBVI]. (n.d.). Family Engagement. Retrieved from:


Wolffe, K. E. (2017). Growth and Development in Middle Childhood and Adolescence. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume I: History and Theory of Teaching Children with Visual Impairments. (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press.


Wolffe, K. & Kelly, S. M. (2011). Instruction in Areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum Linked to Transition Outcomes for Students with Visual Impairments. Retrieved from:


Zebehazy, K. T., Kamei-Hannan, C., Barclay, L. A. (2017). Overview of Assessment. In Holbrook, M. C., McCarthy, T., & Kamei-Hannan, C. (Eds.). Foundations of Education, Volume II: Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments (3rd ed.). New York, N.Y.: AFB Press


By the Texas Workforce Commission

Abstract: The article describes the Texas Workforce Commission’s campaign to promote career exploration and hot Texas jobs for individuals with disabilities.

Keywords: vocational rehabilitation, VR, career exploration, Texas Workforce Commission, TWC, Jobs Y’all

The Texas Workforce Commission’s “Jobs Y’all: Your Career. Your Story” campaign is designed to raise awareness among young Texans ages 14 up to 24, including those living with disabilities, about how to plan and prepare for high-demand careers. By profiling and linking to the state’s top career exploration tools, the campaign offers young Texans a great place to start exploring career paths and determine which occupation is right for them. Information such as potential earnings, required certifications and even a quiz to help determine career fit is all contained in one accessible user-friendly site.  

The campaign originated from a need to create a stronger link between jobs and education, as identified by Tri-Agency partners. As a result, TWC, the Texas Education Agency, and the Higher Education Coordinating Board partnered with employers, industry association representatives, workforce developers, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of fast-growing industry sectors and address the skills gap. 

The campaign focuses on eight industry clusters: Advanced Technologies and Manufacturing; Aerospace and Defense; Biotechnology, Life Sciences and Healthcare; Construction; Energy; Information, and Computer Technology; Petroleum Refining and Chemical Products; and Transportation and Logistics. The campaign is being promoted to young Texans through an advertising campaign, reaching them online and through the social and digital channels they use including Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.  

Jobs Y'all is all about giving students the information they need to explore careers and education options in Texas. Career exploration tools like Texas Career Check, Texas Reality Check, and Texas Internship Challenge are free, easy-to-use websites to help individuals learn about, plan, and apply for opportunities. Texas Career Check is a great place to start career exploration. Students can take a quiz to identify occupations relevant to their interests. They can conduct a side-by-side occupation comparison and learn which occupations will be in demand in years to come. They can also research and compare education options to find the training program, college, or university that's right for them. Texas Reality Check will show how much living expenses will cost and if individuals will be able to afford the lifestyle they want. Finally, the Texas Internship Challenge will help students search and apply for internships with Texas employers. 

The Jobs Y’all campaign is intended to provide helpful information and resources to all students, including those with a disability. The campaign is seeking success stories representing a range of young Texans succeeding in these high-demand industries, with plans to feature young professionals with disabilities and also to invite those young professionals to help share the campaign message through a video communicating in American Sign Language. Success story nominations can be submitted to: .  

 Explore the Jobs Y’all campaign and related tools at

Jobs Y'all Logo

Kathalene Gale, Field Supervisor for the Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program 

Abstract: It is important for parents and guardians to work with their Blind Children’s Specialist to ensure that their child receives wraparound supports. Learn the steps to help plan and prepare for your child’s needs.  

Keywords: coordination, support team, wraparound supports, in-home training, Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program, BCVDDP, Blind Children’s Specialist               

Coordinating your child’s support team can be challenging. The Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program (BCVDDP) is here to help by being an active partner in your child’s support team. After sharing your top priorities with staff, you can receive support in accessing services to enhance your child’s future development and independence. 

  1. Be open and ask for help from your Blind Children’s Specialist and Rehabilitation Assistant team.
  • Your child’s needs are always changing. When you need support, let your specialist know so that together you can assess new needs and plan new services. 

  1. Communicate outside of your scheduled visits.
  • Reach out to your Blind Children’s Specialist every time information about your child changes. 

  1. Invite others into your support team.
  • You don’t have to do it alone. Reach out for support from your team. 
  • The program can connect you to other families and community resources.

  1. Share your Blind Children’s Specialist’s contact information.
  • Your specialist can work with other members of your child’s support team to ensure needed services are received.

The Blind Children’s Program offers a variety of services that can include:

  • Support at Admission, Review and Dismissal meetings 
  • Community resources
  • Statewide services and information            
  • In-home training
  • Conferences and workshops                        
  • DeafBlind services
  • Personal futures planning  
  • Networking

If you are not currently in the Blind Children’s Program and would like to connect with a Blind Children’s Specialist, please email us at .

WHEREAS, Mr. William E. Daugherty is retiring from his position as superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) after 12 years of outstanding service; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty has worked in the field of blindness, visual impairment and DeafBlindness for 39 years, including 5 years as an itinerant Teacher of the Visually Impaired/Orientation and Mobility Teacher, 2 years as a lecturer/research assistant at the University of Texas and at Texas Tech University while also serving as an independent orientation and mobility contractor, 2 years as a career education supervisor at TSBVI, 4 years as assistant principal at TSBVI, 14 years as superintendent of Kansas School for the Blind; and 12 years as superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty successfully led the School through a particularly challenging time as the entire TSBVI campus was reconstructed; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty dedicated his professional life to serving students with visual impairments who attend the School as well as those across the state; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty significantly increased services for students in Short-Term Programs and developed an effective distance learning program for students to receive instruction while remaining in their local districts; and 

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty helped extend the reach of the TSBVI throughout the state and nation through his strong support for hiring staff with distance learning expertise, including building the world-wide resource of WWW.TSBVI.EDU; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Daugherty’s work with stakeholder groups and partners helped to strengthen the statewide connections of the campus with local and regional programs;  

BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED BOARD OF TRUSTEES hereby expresses their sincere appreciation to Mr. William Daugherty for his devotion to the School and to the students, for his exemplary leadership and for his outstanding collaboration with the Board of Trustees of TSBVI.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED BOARD OF TRUSTEES congratulates Mr. Daugherty on the occasion of his retirement and extends to him their sincere best wishes for the future.

Joseph Muniz, Board President

on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees of 

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

May 31, 2019

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


Abstract: TSBVI Superintendent William Daugherty is retiring and he highlights his career at TSBVI.  

Keywords: collaboration, parents, families, retirement, Teacher of the Visually Impaired, TVI, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist, COMS, DeafBlind, National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired, NAPVI, Texas Education Agency, TEA, Education Action Committee, Personnel Preparation Advisory Group, PPAG, Education Service Center, ESC, HHSC, TWC  


Bill Daugherty

Bill Daugherty


I will be retiring on July 31, 2019, as the Superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). My wife, Della, and I are moving to Denton, where she will be on the faculty at Texas Woman’s University starting in August. This milestone in my life has me reflecting quite a bit about how the visual impairment, blindness, and DeafBlind world has changed in Texas since I began as an itinerant TVI and COMS in 1980 at the Region XVII Education Service Center (ESC) in Lubbock. 

In 1980, the University of Texas, Texas Tech University, and Stephen F. Austin State University were all three preparing visual impairment professionals. The Regional Education Service Center (ESC) system began to hire TVIs and COMS, and many had several such professionals. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) had at least four consultants in the area of visual impairment. The Texas Commission for the Blind was a stand-alone agency. The Texas School for the Blind (not yet “and Visually Impaired”) was a fairly conventional residential school campus without much of an outreach or technical assistance role. About that time, a professional in our field who was also the parent of a student attending TSB led a collaboration to begin what would become the National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired (NAPVI).  

For those of us just beginning our careers, the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s were a time of great growth and energy. Although many had come before us and had done outstanding work that formed the foundation of our field in Texas, our professors instilled a sense in us that we were pioneers of sorts. I certainly felt like a pioneer when I started, as there was very little guidance and we were mostly on our own to figure it all out. I made many mistakes that largely went unnoticed because no one was quite sure what it was I was supposed to be doing. Little by little, I learned and got better at it. 

In 1980, the concept of functional vision—what it was, how to assess it, how to adapt for it, and how to improve function—was an important and relatively new focus for VI professionals. It was a time of considerable trial-and-error on interventions like early vision stimulation. My first, home-built, battery-powered, vision stimulation devices to attach to cribs with black lights and rotating fluorescent visual targets, would not pass muster today. But both VI professionals and parents (99.9% moms) were hungry for innovation and were supportive of any well-meaning efforts. The concept and importance of Daily Living Skills for our students took firm hold, and some ESCs teamed with their area school districts to offer mini-camps where cooking, cleaning, personal care, and home management training opportunities took place. 

Many good things came out of our work in the early 1980s, and many who went on to become some of our field’s key leadership educators were then in their early stages of professional development. TEA was heavily involved in monitoring VI programs, and I can well remember the consultants from Austin coming to ESC XVII with their clipboards and checklists, interviewing us, looking into files, and even checking on equipment storage closets. Our statewide “vision conferences” often had as many rehabilitation staff from the Commission for the Blind as there were educators. I recall that as a really good thing for our field and am sorry it doesn’t happen much today.  

In hindsight, among the things that were either lacking or were in their infancy back then was coordination and collaboration at the statewide level and the involvement of parents as partners in the education of their children. Today, both of these areas are vastly improved and are in constant search for continuous improvement. 

A couple of great examples of the growth and evolution of our collaborative efforts in Texas is the Education Action Committee and the Personnel Preparation Advisory Group. Both just recently met on the TSBVI campus, as they do twice a year. The groups bring together stakeholders representing school districts, ESC’s, TSBVI, state agencies, families, consumers, universities, and related organizations. These groups don’t just meet, they do. Beyond spreading the word about our state’s needs and how effective programs are trying to meet those needs, the groups pursue initiatives that provide real, tangible resources and support to the state.  

 Family involvement in the above two committees is always sought and encouraged, and the groups are made better when parents and guardians are at the table. TSBVI has partnered with the ESCs, HHSC, and TWC to conduct family leadership training around the state with the intention of helping parents and guardians become more informed and active in their children’s education, and to build a system where parent-to-parent training happens with more frequency. Texas now has several family organizations around the state. How large and active these groups are can ebb and flow as their members have children graduating and moving on. Some of the most active and enduring groups have been formed by parents and guardians of children who are DeafBlind or have additional disabilities. I’m not totally sure what the key to their success has been, but it is easy to see that when they are gathered, their level of mutual support to all members in the group is impressive and celebratory. 

All of this above is to say that we should be really proud of how our state has improved and met the challenges and opportunities of ensuring that we have qualified TVIs and COMS in our schools, that our students have access to a quality education, and that parents and families are our partners in improving outcomes for their children. Our system for doing so is, and always will be, imperfect. We have to be diligent and committed to seeking out solutions to our challenges, and the more we do this in a unified, collaborative manner, the better off we’ll be. Collaboration has somewhat become our trademark by which we are known by other states who recognize how our collective efforts have led to one of the best and most dynamic visual impairment systems in the country. 

Katherine Trimm, Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, Humble, TX

Abstract: Kathy Trimm describes the art program Creating With Blind Abandon and how the program has grown since its conception in January of 2018. This tactile art program for students with visual impairment was also featured in the Summer 2018 issue of TX SenseAbilities.

Keywords: Creating with Blind Abandon, art, tactile art, accessible art, Houston, community

The Creating With Blind Abandon art program met for the first time on January 13th, 2018. We began the program to offer students who are blind or have low vision the opportunity to create accessible art. Art is often considered a visual experience and is not often presented in an accessible format for those with visual impairment. Works of art, whether in museums or on public display, are usually strictly “hands-off.” In addition, many classroom art teachers are unaware of ways to make art class adequately accessible to students who are visually impaired, which has left these kids without exposure to many artistic experiences. It became our mission to raise public awareness of the need for inclusion of this population within the art community and to provide an avenue through which our students can explore the world of art, as well as their own creativity! 

Kathy Trimm sits between two student artists. Materials on the table in front of them include glue, feathers, masks, sequins, beads, and paint.

Creating with Blind Abandon organizer Kathy Trimm discusses a piece with two participants.

In the past year and a half, we have had a whirlwind of activity for our group! We participated in the 2018 Houston Art Car Parade (see our article in last summer’s issue: and were spotlighted on ABC TV Channel 13 for our program. We participated in Houston’s White Cane Safety Day and the Houston Area Visual Impairment Network (HAVIN) Expo, and we were contacted by the assistant to Christine Ha, the blind chef who won the MasterChef competition regarding our art. We are looking forward to taking advantage of every opportunity to spread the word that we are here for the kids!  

Multi-media art created by students displayed at Houston’s White Cane Safety Day

Creating with Blind Abandon’s art on display at Houston’s White Cane Safety Day.

Through May 2019, we have met in the R. B. Tullis Library in New Caney, TX. We have been approached by people from various surrounding communities such as Katy, Sugarland, Pasadena, and Spring, stating that the distance to New Caney may be a deterrent for some families. We determined that having a more central location would benefit many more students; therefore, we made arrangements to begin meeting at the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center at 1475 W Gray St, Houston, TX 77019. Beginning on June 15, 2019, we will meet at this location on the third Saturday of each month from 2:00-4:00 PM. 

We would love to welcome guest artists to participate in our program!  For our first meeting at the central Houston location, we will have Rudy Anderson, an artist from Austin, who will work with our group to create a stained glass art piece! We are hoping to have more “professional” participation in our program.  

Ultimately, our program is for the kids with visual impairments! It is our understanding that the Houston area has the highest concentration of students with visual impairment in Texas. We would love nothing more than to reach the kids in the Houston area to let them know that we are here and that our program is free to the participants!  

3. Annelise working diligently

Creating with Blind Abandon participant Annelise works on her fleur-de-lis with the help of her bioptic low vision device. 

You can find additional information about our program and see the kids in action by visiting our website: We can also be found on Facebook at If you have any questions, please email us at .

Melanie White, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Abstract: Students, adults, and volunteers from North Texas gather with community members each year to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. They learn about safe and efficient modes of travel for individuals with blindness and visual impairments, including the use of guide dogs, white canes, and public transportation. This article describes some of the activities for the 2018 North Texas White Cane Safety Day and provides suggestions for others on creative ways to celebrate White Cane Safety Day in 2019. 

Keywords: White Cane Safety Day, Guide Dogs for the Blind, guide dog puppy training, public transportation, white cane, Texas White Cane Safety Law, Orientation and Mobility, O&M

White Cane Safety Day is a yearly event to celebrate and explore independent travel for individuals with blindness and visual impairments in their communities. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the first White Cane Safety Day proclamation in 1964. White Cane Safety Day is now a national observance on October 15 of every year to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind/visually impaired and the white cane, which is a tool for independence. Legislation followed to protect the safety of pedestrians using a white cane. Today, there is a variant of the White Cane Law on the statute books of each state in the United States.

The North Texas White Cane Safety Day Committee arranges a variety of activities to celebrate White Cane Safety Day each year. The Committee is made up of individuals who are blind and visually impaired, certified orientation and mobility specialists, Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind staff, Texas Workforce Commission staff, the Fort Worth Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, members of local Lions Clubs, the current chair of the Lions Organ and Eye Bank, the staff of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, City of Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on Persons with a Disability, Alexander Vision Center, and Trinity Metro staff. The committee meets monthly beginning in January of each year. The mission of the committee is to educate the public about the White Cane Safety Law and to promote independent travel of individuals with a visual impairment. The committee has three goals: 

  • Host a North Texas White Cane Safety Day event on or close to October 15 in recognition of White Cane Safety Day.
  • Educate the community about the White Cane Safety law at the event, at a Fort Worth City council meeting, at a meeting of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, and by speaking to local Lions Clubs and local media.
  • Promote independence by including activities during the White Cane Safety event that allow for independent travel.

This formal event began 10 years ago with a few people from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, the Texas Workforce Commission, the American Council of the Blind – Fort Worth chapter, and Tarrant County staff.  Each year the North Texas White Cane Safety Day event has become more organized and has grown in numbers. The 2018 event had 480 students, adults, and volunteers. It is anticipated that more than 500 people will participate in 2019. A theme is chosen for each year’s activities, and the theme for 2018 was MOBILITY TECH: THE NEXT FRONTIER—To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before. 

Participants and volunteers gathered in the Fort Worth Stockyards on October 18, 2018 to celebrate White Cane Safety Day. Although October 15th is the official day for White Cane Safety Day, it was celebrated in North Texas on a Thursday so that school children could more easily participate. Students from 27 school districts in Region 11 ESC and Region 10 ESC attended. 

Participants at the celebration enter Stockyards Station in Fort Worth. A sign has a picture of a folding cane with the words “YES I CANE!”

Participants at the 2018 White Cane Safety Day celebration at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

The day consisted of a scavenger hunt where participants walked a route to various locations where puppy raisers from Guide Dogs for the Blind - Fort Worth Puppy Raisers were waiting to tell them about the skills a puppy must learn to become a dog guide. There are nine phases of skills that puppies must learn, and it is important information for dog guide users to know as well. Each of the puppy raisers was marked with a beacon so that participants could locate them with their mobile phones. Verbal directions and maps were also provided. As the participants located each destination, the puppy raisers told them their piece of the skills a puppy needs to learn. At the last destination, participants met an individual who travels with a dog guide. She informed them of the skills that a dog guide user must have in order to learn to travel with a dog guide.

Black lab puppy wearing a green sign with white letters which says “Guide Dog Puppy”. He has a muzzle and his leash is held by a puppy trainer.

Puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind with his puppy raiser.

After the scavenger hunt, participants had an opportunity to explore a stationary city bus in order to compare how it is different from a school bus and to practice for a bus ride. Some of those differences were coin or rider card machines, seats that face the center, stairs, front and back doors, and strips to push to alert the driver that you want to exit. They also explored the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind’s Independent Living RV which shows how to set up your home if you are blind or visually impaired. Finally, participants had an opportunity to ride a city bus. This is an important transportation option for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. 

Participants line up to explore the Independent Living RV from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind. A Fort Worth city bus is parked in front.

White Cane Safety Day participants preparing to explore the Independent Living RV from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind. 

During the day, those who attended the 2018 North Texas White Cane Safety Day also had the opportunity to visit with a variety of  vendors: Ambutech Cane, the Fort Worth Chapter of the American Council of the Blind, Christal Vision, City of Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities, Community Eye Clinic, Computers for the Blind, Cornerstone Assistance Network, Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, Guide Dogs for the Blind – Fort Worth Puppy Raisers, Lonestar Roadrunners Beep Baseball team, the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, Sports Extravaganza – Region 10, Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Trinity Metro – A.C.C.E.S.S. 

Then, after all the White Cane Safety Day activities and events were completed, participants gathered in the Stampede Room of the Fort Worth Stockyards for a group picture and BBQ lunch provided by Risky’s BBQ. A short program was presented that included a review of the White Cane laws, a trivia game, and some important awards that are awarded each year to individuals and teams that excel in meeting the goals of the North Texas White Cane Safety Day event. Dave Jepson with Computers for the Blind also awarded three students refurbished computers that had been outfitted with appropriate software. To round off the day of technology, Shawn Keen from the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind demonstrated AIRA glasses (for more information on AIRA, please see Chris Tabb’s article in the previous issue of this newsletter,

We would like to thank all of the groups that volunteered to help make the 2018 North Texas White Cane Safety Day such a success. They included:  AT&T, Bryon Nelson HS FFA Puppy Raisers, Cook Children’s Alexander Resource Vision Center, ESC - Region XI, ESC - Region X, Lions Clubs (Benbrook Lions Club, Forest Hill Lions Club, Lions Organ and Eye Bank, Southeast Fort Worth Lions Club), Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Fort Worth Puppy Raisers, the Fort Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, Tarrant County, Texas Workforce Solutions, Trinity Metro - A.C.C.E.S.S., TruHorizon Environmental Solutions, and many individuals who are interested in the meaning behind White Cane Safety Day. We appreciate the support from all of these great people and organizations!

The North Texas White Cane Safety Day started out small with a few individuals who wanted to bring attention to the White Cane laws and celebrate the independence of individuals who are blind and visually impaired. It has grown over the past ten years, and each year has been better than the previous one. This will be the 10th year for our area-wide celebration, and students and adults alike are looking forward to a day of exciting activities on October 15, 2019. We hope that this article provides information and suggestions on how others can celebrate White Cane Safety Day. Please check out our website at and “Like” us on Facebook at North Texas White Cane Safety Day. Stay tuned for even more information and ideas on ways to celebrate White Cane Safety Day after our 2019 celebration!  

Sara Athans, Director of Programs, UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum

Abstract: Sara Athans discusses the process she has been exploring to create an accessible art experience for patrons who have visual impairment or blindness.

Keywords: art, accessible art, touch tour program, accessibility, Aesthetics of Access, UMLAUF Sculpture Garden, San Antonio Museum of Art, SAMA 

The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden in Austin, TX has the largest collection of touchable bronze sculptures in the state. It provides an incredible opportunity to create programming that takes advantage of our unique collection. This is the context in which we are revamping our touch tour program.


A close up of a bronze warthog.

I was inspired by Graeae Theatre ( in London that pioneered and continues to champion a way of practice and performance called the Aesthetics of Access. This concept is essentially to create art with accessibility constantly in mind. Accessibility is considered along with every other choice in the development of a performance. When a person with a disability attends a performance, they experience a show that was made for them, rather than a show that was adapted for them. 

I used this approach as a jumping off point for revitalizing and launching our touch tours. I wanted to develop a tour program that considered, first and foremost, how it would be experienced by guests who are blind and visually impaired. So, rather than adapting our current tour offerings, I decided to create a new program. Before I developed any part of the program I wanted to have expert advice. I started by reaching out to the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). 

In early January, Scott Baltisberger, TSBVI Outreach VI Specialist and Gretchen Bettes, TSBVI TVI and Fine Arts Instructor, came to the UMLAUF. Members of the UMLAUF’s Program Department led them through our prospective new touch tours. Scott and Gretchen gave us feedback as we went, and it became clear that we had made the right choice to involve them from the beginning! Scott and Gretchen introduced us to foundational concepts in working with people who are blind and visually impaired. We learned about how to best guide someone’s hands as they experience a sculpture, the best group size per docent, and how valuable it is to let the guests experience the art physically before we describe what it is and what it looks like. Scott and Gretchen sent us a “Best Practices” document that will continue to serve as foundational information as we develop this program.

Scott directed us to an existing program on which he had consulted at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). A few key UMLAUF staff members visited SAMA and participated in one of their accessible tours. It was so exciting and helpful to see the concepts applied in a real-world situation. The drive through heavy traffic on a Friday afternoon also reminded us of the huge value in having an accessible tour available in the heart of Austin. While programs like this can be seen in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, none of Austin’s museums publicly offer anything similar to this...yet. We are hoping to change that.

The UMLAUF is excited to be pioneering this program with support from TSBVI and SAMA. We’re currently in the training and planning process, but we expect that we’ll be able to fully launch this program in the coming months. Stay up to date by signing up for our emails at, following us on social media (, or becoming a Member (!