Dear Mrs. Devos,
Now that you have the job you want this badly, let me introduce a new concept for you. Blind children don’t benefit from private education in charter or Catholic schools. I was one of those children, at the mercy of parents who wanted a perfect Catholic daughter to marry off to some purity obsessed xenophobe. The only way they’d have it their way was to send me to St. Teresa’s School, a small community in Titusville that didn’t have enough extracurriculars, except for choir and bells, which I wasn’t allowed to do. Mrs. Devos, you don’t want to send a blind child to St. Teresa’s School because Catholic children seem to be entitled these days. Part of why I left the Catholic church was the pope, of course, the sexual abuse of little boys and girls in said church, and the refusal of STS to provide services for blind students and students in wheelchairs. Mrs. Devos, I dare you to do the following things in Washington D.C. because I do this every day:
First, start by closing your little eyes. Close them, turn off the lights, make it dark. Feel what it is to be blind, and seek out ways you can see stuff other than your eyes. Second, make yourself a frying pan of scrambled eggs in your big kitchen, no cook allowed. Try using a NuWav Precision Induction Cooktop Gold Edition, something I use every time I want to make some delicious scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese. Then, experiment by cooking the eggs on medium high which is the second set of temperature buttons on the right side of the cooktop. Try making other things on there for lunch, pack your lunch, then try using a long white cane to go to the Metro to get to work. You might think “I’m too good for the Metro.” Not so fast, I sometimes take the bus or Lite Rail in Denver and it’s accessibly awesome. Mrs. Devos, I triple dog dare you to try using the D.C. Metro lines to go to your office, don’t use a limo and use a cane. You might want to feel the sidewalk, sweep with a wide arc with said cane so you can learn how your constituents find their way around Baltimore. Talk to people such as my friend Chris, Chris Nusbaum, a young man from Maryland who’s currently training at LCB, Louisiana Center for the Blind, where he learns how to use the tools to succeed in order to walk around Monroe, bus travel, getting a job, etc. Why you ask? Because blind children benefit from public free education, and nobody’s going to pay for Braille instruction, just as sighted kids don’t pay for free pencils and such. As a blind female, I was bullied in school as well, and your agency should be doing more to make sure children with autism, blindness, and other disabilities are not bullied. You have the job, but you need to be doing your job properly and learning as much as you can about the education system in America. Which I’m sure you know nothing about.
This is what we need in the DOE. First, enforce the IDEA, and ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1970, no ifs ands or buts. Don’t deny blind kids like Chris and other potential Chrises the right to training outside the state they live in. Informed choice should be the key here. NFB is trying to say something to you, and you should be learning Braille yourself, no wealthy maids allowed in this operation. If you want to try using a dog, try Florida State University’s School of Vision Rehabilitation. In Tallahassee, this school teaches TVI’s in Florida, some of the best TVI’s I know. They also have a guide dog expo, which they use to show students how to work with a guide dog. You can also consult guide dog teams who currently work. For instance, Deanna, a friend in Ohio, went to a school and obtained Mambo, her current guide. Talk to people who use guide dogs, and see that the health of guide dog teams is sought for. Talk to disabled kids’ parents who want the child to use a service dog but the school says no. Guess what? You need to say yes to service dogs, and this is because kids with autism or other disabilities benefit from the companionship of a dog. The dog works with autistic kids to ensure they’re balanced, I mean dogs can do that for people. Secondly, a lot of disabled kids need friends. Dogs can be like friends, companions. Ever had a beloved pet you lost to old age? Do you miss said beloved pets? I have friends who’ve put their guide dogs down because the dog was sick, and they talk about the life of that dog the same way you would talk about your great aunt. Please consider this when doing service dog in education policy.
We understand as a blind community that fake service dogs are bad, so make that distinction. But denying all guide and service animals to staff and students is a no no. It is also a big no no to deny blind children the chance to succeed. I am one of 70% of the blind who are currently unemployed or underserved with a job. I don’t see any meaningful jobs open to us except customer service. Fix that, please.
Anyway, if you see this letter, Mrs. Devos, by way of the Internet, read it. I dare you to hook up a Braille display and try reading it the way I do. Braille was invented by the Frenchman Louis Braille, who was in any case a student at the Paris institute for the Blind. Mr. Braille was very frail by the end of his life, and I’m sure he’s pretty much rolling in his grave because only 10% of the people he invented Braille for actually read it, including myself. It’s not that hard to read Braille. Ask Tom Anderson, the founding Braille instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind, recently retired and moved to Kansas. He and his wife Linda use Braille in their daily lives, to mark things, read books, cook, find recipes, etc. Both also use Text to speech, and so do I. Look at your computer. Then, I dare you to turn on the accessibility features of it, listsen to it read this letter. And others like it.
Please do as I am recommending, this way you can educate yourself about children with disabilities, including blindness.