Teachers advocate for students with visual impairment to see their full potential
“Employment issues are a huge challenge for people with visual impairment,” said Shari Scott, instructor of special education at Missouri State University. “There are perceptions that modifications in the workplace are very expensive, so a lot of students do not get employed.”
But the department of counseling, leadership and special education at Missouri State is combating that by building a workforce of qualified teachers ready to teach and advocate for students who are blind or have low-vision. The department recently received renewed funding from Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to provide tuition and fee reimbursement for students pursuing this special certification.
Faculty in this program are preparing future teachers to relay all the subjects to their students (K-12) in a nonvisual manner, everything from literature to math to social studies. Scott also wants her students to teach life skills.
“As an educator in this program, it’s a focus of mine to keep my teachers pushing those students to get the advocacy skills, technology skills and just the basic social skills that they need to become gainfully employed,” she said. “Every human being needs a place to go every day, to do, to contribute, to give back, and employment provides that.”
This $100,000 grant that is renewed on an annual basis is allowing Missouri State to reach all areas of the state, noted department head Dr. Tami Arthaud.
“We’re also getting more and more students from really rural areas of Missouri where they have no access to persons with the skills,” said Arthaud. “The state has truly done a tremendous thing with this. They have funded a program that allows us to reach the farthest points in our state and provide highly qualified teachers to meet the needs of these children.”
The blindness and low-vision tuition grant is for students who are residents of Missouri seeking their credentials in this area, or for individuals interested in this program who live in a border state and work in a Missouri school.
Blindness and low-vision program
The program at Missouri State is competitive and the funding is split among 16 students.
“This year we were overwhelmed. We admitted 25 students, most of whom were from Missouri,” added Arthaud.
Ajuwon, associate professor, added that the program is tailored to individuals with full-time jobs as it is online.
“In terms of classroom adaptions and modifications, we take them through the unique experience of blindness so they can put themselves in the shoes of someone who is visually limited and understand how to make critical adaptations of a nonvisual nature,” said Ajuwon.
Being blind himself, Ajuwon noted that braille, which he teaches his students, is an integral part of the curriculum but also a major hurdle.
“Braille in itself is a challenge because it’s a new code to them. They will have to learn the uniqueness of the code so they can be able to teach the children,” added Ajuwon.
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