When thinking about our children’s vision, we often rely on our school nurse to alert us when our child is failing a visual acuity or color blindness test. However, visual impairments can involve a variety of other issues such as tracking, processing, and convergence which are not assessed by these basic tests administered by school districts. Visual impairment is an eligibility category under IDEA and, in May 2017, the Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued policy guidance for children with visual impairments.
The visual impairment statement provides important guidance to parents and States when addressing children with visual impairments. First, a child does not need to be suffering from a “significant” or “severe” visual impairment to qualify under the IDEA. Moreover, a child would qualify even if the visual impairment is able to be corrected so long as it is still adversely affecting the child’s education.
Secondly, the policy statement makes clear that States cannot limit the visual impairments under the IDEA and that any visual impairment could qualify. This is important as many evaluations by school district’s do not test all areas of vision for children suspected of having a visual impairment. Indeed, the policy statement includes the guidance that such evaluations should be “thorough and rigorous” and that the testing should be closely linked to reading and writing assessments.
This policy guidance provides important resource to parents in working with their school districts when they suspect their child’s lack of progress in reading and writing could be due to previously undiagnosed visual impairment.