Schools for the blind offer specialized education for people with impaired vision. Found across the United States, these schools offer instruction about Braille and assistive technology in addition to English and math.
From 2020–2021, 7.2 million individuals received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
IDEA mandates a free and appropriate public education for eligible individuals ages 3 to 21 years old. This includes individuals with disabilities ranging from autism to speech and vision impairments.
Children with visual impairments make up less than 2% of these 7.2 million individuals, according to the NCES data. Yet the necessary accommodations to ensure that someone who is blind can receive an appropriate education are significant.
To meet the educational needs of blind students, school systems have sometimes needed to rely on schools for the blind.
Schools for the blind are educational institutions specifically designed to meet the needs of blind students. They offer individuals the chance to socialize and learn with other peers in an adapted environment.
Schools for the blind are exclusively for individuals with visual impairments, but individuals attending a school for the blind may have other disabilities or health challenges as well.
Schools for the blind are one possible educational setting for individuals with a visual impairment. Many blind students are also integrated into regular public schools with the help of resource room programs and itinerant teachers.
When your child receives a diagnosis of visual impairment, a team of individuals will work with you to determine what educational supports are needed. This team will include special education staff from your local school district,
If it’s determined that the best educational option for your child is sending them to a school for the blind, the team can provide more information on the closest options.
Exact admission requirements will vary depending on the school.
Many public schools for the blind require that individuals:
- are younger than 22 years old or working below a college level
- are a resident of the state or area
- have medical documentation of a visual impairment that meets the state’s definition
Prior to admission, various documentation may be requested from doctors and local school officials to help determine whether the school has a program that will be a good fit for a student and can offer the appropriate support. Potential students may also need to be interviewed and observed by staff from the school for the blind.
In addition to subjects like English and math, students at a school for the blind are typically taught how to read Braille and use adaptive technology. They also have lessons in orientation and mobility based on their unique vision needs. They spend time learning how to do tasks needed for independent living.
Individuals with visual impairments are taught an expanded core curriculum that includes both academic and non-academic subjects. An instructor who specializes in teaching visually impaired individuals will cover:
- compensatory academics (skills that are necessary to be successful in school)
- social interaction (skills to respond appropriately and participate in social situations)
- sensory efficiency (skills to make the best use of their senses)
- career education (skills to move toward being an employed adult)
- use of technology
- self-determination (skills to advocate for oneself)
- orientation and mobility (skills to know where one is and how to get places)
- recreation and leisure (skills to enjoy leisure time and activities)
Do children live at schools for the blind?
Some schools for the blind offer residential programs. Families can work with school administrators, social workers, and others to determine the best living arrangement for a child. Whether a student lives at a school for the blind can depend on their age, needs, and family situation.
How much does it cost to attend a school for the blind?
Many schools for the blind are public schools. These institutions will offer their services for free to individuals who meet the criteria to attend. There are also private schools for the blind. These schools accept students for a fee that is often at least partially paid by the student’s local school district.
What is the most famous school for the blind?
Many consider Perkins School for the Blind (also previously known as Perkins Institution for the Blind) to be the most famous. Founded in 1829 in Massachusetts, it was the first school for the blind in the United States. Alumni of Perkins School for the Blind include Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller, and Laura Bridgman (the first deafblind individual to be formally educated).
Students with visual impairments may have educational needs that are best met in a classroom environment designed especially for them. Schools for the blind offer students training in reading Braille and using assistive technology in addition to traditional classroom subjects like math and science.
If you’re seeking more information or help to find a school for the blind near you, local special education leadership, your child’s vision specialists, or a school social worker may be able to assist you.