Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

This Mattered to Me

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

This Mattered to Me

Article excerpt

"A Personal Odyssey on Schools for Blind Children," by Philip H. Hatlen, published in the June 1993 issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Volume 87, Number 6, pp. 171-174.

Recommended by Kay Alicyn Ferrell

In the interest of full disclosure, I have always thought of myself as an inclusionist, continuing the struggle for equality of people who are blind that was documented so eloquently by the writings of Lowenfeld (1981) and Koestler (2004). When the U.S. Department of Education began its special education reform movement in the 1980s, and the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps adopted its hard line against specialized schools, part of my heart was there, too. During the time when I taught at the New York Institute for Special Education, I had first-hand experience of the best and the worst that separate, specialized education facilities had to offer.

In my mind, the argument for placing students with disabilities in general education classrooms centered on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution--which provides equal protection under the law to all citizens--and thus I saw no reason why every school could not educate every child. There was no need for separate schools in a society where everyone was treated equally. The reality is, of course, that few public schools can provide the range and intensity of services that students with visual impairments sometimes need, but I rationalized that fact as a failing of the public school system, rather than as an endorsement of specialized schools.

Then I read Phil Hatlen's lead article in the June 1993 issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, the Special Issue on Residential Schools: Past, Present, and Future. I must confess, also in the interest of full disclosure, that I like just about everything Phil Hatlen writes. But this article was different. Part personal confession and part critique of a generation, it caused me to reexamine my "ivory-tower" position on specialized schools and to truly understand not only the meaning of equality, but also the meaning of individualization of education and the continuum of educational services. …

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