Passage of Two New Laws Impacting the Education of Students with Visual Impairments in Texas

Passage of Two New Laws Impacting the Education of Students with Visual Impairments in Texas

The Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans (AVIT) (http://alliancevitexans.org/), a coalition of 27 Texas organizations concerned about the rights of and resources for individuals with visual impairments, led the effort to pass two important education bills impacting students with visual impairments in Texas during the 83rd Legislative session. Both bills passed both houses of the Texas legislature and were signed by the Governor on June 14, 2013.  It was a united effort of professionals, parents, children, adult consumers, and other organizations concerned about the rights of individuals with disabilities.HB 590 (Naishtat) will require that all students with visual impairments, upon initial referral to special education, will be required to have an O&M evaluation by an appropriately certified orientation and mobility specialist. Currently in Texas, only 56% of students have received an O&M evaluation. The law also requires that an O&M specialist be part of the educational team for all students with visual impairments at each 3-year reevaluation to determine if an O&M evaluation is needed at that time. The bill requires that students be evaluated in a variety of lighting conditions and settings, including home, school, and community and in both familiar and unfamiliar environments. The bill was especially designed to make sure that infants, students with low vision, and students with multiple impairments all receive O&M evaluations and be recommended for services, if needs are identified.SB 39 (Zaffirini) has added specific language into Texas law that states that students with visual impairments should receive evaluation and instruction in all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). Although implied in IDEA, there is nowhere in special education law that lists the 9 areas of the ECC as critical components of the education of students with visual impairments. Texas law now states what these ECC areas are and that they should all be addressed as part of the educational program for students with visual impairments. This law was necessary because TVIs and O&M specialists are sometimes told by administrators that they are not expected to teach the ECC areas because it is not specified in law.Children who are blind and who have low vision in Texas will significantly benefit from both of these laws going forward. The united efforts of so many concerned about quality programming for these students made the passage of these laws possible. Multiple stakeholders stepped forward to testify at hearings, visit legislators and their aides, write letters, send emails, make phone calls, and respond to calls for action throughout the session. Passage of both HB 590 and SB 39 is a huge victory for the children of Texas with visual impairments and those who care about their education!


Texas HB 590

AN ACT relating to determining a child ’s eligibility for a school district ’s special education program on the basis of a visual impairment.BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

    • SECTION 1. Section 30.002, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsections (c-1) and (c-2) to read as follows:
      • (c-1) To implement Subsection (c)(1) and to determine a child ’s eligibility for a school district ’s special education program on the basis of a visual impairment, the full individual and initial evaluation of the student required by Section 29.004 must, in accordance with commissioner rule:
        • (1) include an orientation and mobility evaluation conducted:
          • (A) by a person who is appropriately certified as an orientation and mobility specialist, as determined under commissioner rule; and
          • (B) in a variety of lighting conditions and in a variety of settings, including in the student ’s home, school, and community and in settings unfamiliar to the student; and
        • (2) provide for a person who is appropriately certified as an orientation and mobility specialist to participate, as part of a multidisciplinary team, in evaluating data on which the determination of the child ’s eligibility is based.
      • (c-2) The scope of any reevaluation by a school district of a student who has been determined, after the full individual and initial evaluation, to be eligible for the district ’s special education program on the basis of a visual impairment shall be determined, in accordance with 34 C.F.R. Sections 300.122 and 300.303 through 300.311, by a multidisciplinary team that includes, as provided by commissioner rule, a person described by Subsection (c-1)(1)(A).
    • SECTION 2.
      • (a)  Not later than January 1, 2014, the commissioner of education shall adopt rules necessary to implement Sections 30.002(c-1) and (c-2), Education Code, as added by this Act.
      • (b) Not later than the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, Sections 30.002(c-1) and (c-2), Education Code, as added by this Act, shall be implemented.
    • SECTION 3. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2013.

Texas S.B. No.39

AN ACT relating to the evaluation and instruction of public school students with visual impairments. BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

  • SECTION 1. Subsections (b), (c), and (e), Section 30.002, Education Code, are amended to read as follows:
    • (b) The agency shall:
      • (1) develop standards and guidelines for all special education services for children with visual impairments that it is authorized to provide or support under this code;
      • (2) supervise regional education service centers and other entities in assisting school districts in serving children with visual impairments more effectively;
      • (3) develop and administer special education services for students with both serious visual and auditory impairments;
      • (4) evaluate special education services provided for children with visual impairments by school districts and approve or disapprove state funding of those services; and
      • (5) maintain an effective liaison between special education programs provided for children with visual impairments by school districts and related initiatives of the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division [Texas Commission] for [the] Blind Services, the [Texas] Department of State [Mental] Health Services Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division [and Mental Retardation], the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and other related programs, agencies, or facilities as appropriate.
        • (c) The comprehensive statewide plan for the education of children with visual impairments must:
          • (1) adequately provide for comprehensive diagnosis and evaluation of each school-age child with a serious visual impairment;
          • (2) include the procedures, format, and content of the individualized education program for each child with a visual impairment;
          • (3) emphasize providing educational services to children with visual impairments in their home communities whenever possible;
          • (4) include methods to ensure that children with visual impairments receiving special education services in school districts receive, before being placed in a classroom setting or within a reasonable time after placement:
            • (A) evaluation of the impairment; and
            • (B) instruction in an expanded core curriculum, which is required for students with visual impairments to succeed in classroom settings and to derive lasting, practical benefits from the education provided by school districts, including instruction in:
              • (i) [, the training in] compensatory skills, such as braille and concept development, and other skills needed to access the rest of the curriculum;
              • (ii) [communicative skills,] orientation and mobility;
              • (iii) [, and] social interaction [adjustment] skills;
              • (iv) [, and the vocational or] career planning;
              • (v) assistive technology, including optical devices;
              • (vi) independent living skills;
              • (vii) recreation and leisure enjoyment;
              • (viii) self-determination; and
              • (ix) sensory efficiency [counseling, required for those students to succeed in classroom settings and to derive lasting, practical benefits from the education in the school district];
          • (5) provide for flexibility on the part of school districts to meet the special needs of children with visual impairments through:
            • (A) specialty staff and resources provided by the district;
            • (B) contractual arrangements with other qualified public or private agencies;
            • (C) supportive assistance from regional education service centers or adjacent school districts;
            • (D) short-term or long-term services through the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired or related facilities or programs; or
            • (E) other instructional and service arrangements approved by the agency;
          • (6) include a statewide admission, review, and dismissal process;
          • (7) provide for effective interaction between the visually impaired child‘s classroom setting and the child‘s home environment, including providing for parental training and counseling either by school district staff or by representatives of other organizations directly involved in the development and implementation of the individualized education program for the child;
          • (8) require the continuing education and professional development of school district staff providing special education services to children with visual impairments;
          • (9) provide for adequate monitoring and precise evaluation of special education services provided to children with visual impairments through school districts; and
          • (10) require that school districts providing special education services to children with visual impairments develop procedures for assuring that staff assigned to work with the children have prompt and effective access directly to resources available through:
            • (A) cooperating agencies in the area;
            • (B) the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired;
            • (C) the Central Media Depository for specialized instructional materials and aids made specifically for use by students with visual impairments;
            • (D) sheltered workshops participating in the state program of purchases of blind-made goods and services; and
            • (E) related sources.
        • (e) Each eligible blind or visually impaired student is entitled to receive educational programs according to an individualized education program that:
      • (1) is developed in accordance with federal and state requirements for providing special education services;
      • (2) is developed by a committee composed as required by federal law;
      • (3) reflects that the student has been provided a detailed explanation of the various service resources available to the student in the community and throughout the state;
      • (4) provides a detailed description of the arrangements made to provide the student with the evaluation and instruction required under Subsection (c)(4) [orientation and mobility training, instruction in braille or use of large print, other training to compensate for serious visual loss, access to special media and special tools, appliances, aids, or devices commonly used by individuals with serious visual impairments]; and
      • (5) sets forth the plans and arrangements made for contacts with and continuing services to the student beyond regular school hours to ensure the student learns the skills and receives the instruction [training] required under Subsection (c)(4)(B) [(c)(4)].
  • SECTION 2. Subsection (e), Section 30.002, Education Code, as amended by this Act, applies beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.
  • SECTION 3. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2013.