July 26, 2017

Note: Updated on August 1 to reflect additional signatures to the sign-on letter

For further information, contact:

Rebecca Sheffield, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Researcher, AFB
(202) 469-6837

Action Taken! Response from our Field to OSEP Memo on Special Education Eligibility

In May, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) released a memo addressing special education eligibility for students with vision loss. The memo sparked renewed discussion of a range of issues including the eligibility of students with binocular vision disorders/convergence insufficiency, eligibility of students with cortical/cerebral visual impairment, and the provision of vision therapy in schools. To ensure that professionals, families, and advocates continue to have a seat at the table as key advocates in this type of decision-making from the Department of Education, the American Foundation for the Blind prepared a sign-on letter to Ms. Ruther Ryder, Acting Director of OSEP (click here to download the letter as a printable PDF). Supporting AFB's message, 17 organizations and 71 individuals signed-on, many of whom are leaders in the field of visual impairments. Given the numerous signatures of support, this letter makes a strong case for the Department to actively collaborate with professionals, advocates, students, and families moving forward.

Next Step: Opportunity for Feedback on Regulatory Reform

As a side, President Trump has recently released Executive Order 13777, "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda." This order establishes a Federal policy "to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens on the American people" (82 Federal Register 12285 (24 February 2017)). While this Order is part of the Trump administration's agenda to slash the government red tape and reduce regulations that are costly to the American people, it is important to note that the existing regulations in question support approximately 7 million American children with disabilities. With multiple OSERS-specific regulations and guidance documents (i.e. the 2000 Policy Guidance titled Educating Blind and Visually Impaired Students; the 2017 memo titled Eligibility Determinations for Children Suspected of Having a Visual Impairment Including Blindness under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ) at risk of "repeal, replacement, or modification" (82 FR 12285), it is important for professionals to make comments defending the current regulations and guidance documents that implement IDEA, which support students with disabilities, specifically students with visual impairments.

As provided on the Federal Register website:

The Department's regulations are codified in subtitles A and B of title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which are available in electronic format at www.ecfr.gov/​cgi-bin/​text-idx? ​SID=​0717200349ac02b730b4600ba4a5ed05&​mc=​true&​tpl=​/​ecfrb rowse/​Title34/​34tab_​02.tpl . A list of the Department's significant guidance documents is available at: www2.ed.gov/​policy/​gen/​guid/​significant-guidance.html . Other Department guidance may be accessed at www.ed.gov by program office.

Comments should be posted at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/06/22/2017-13157/evaluation-of-existing-regulations#open-comment and will be accepted until August 21st. We hope you will join us in taking action to defend the regulations and guidance letters that support the needs of our students.

Next Step: Opportunity for Feedback on Reorganization at Department of Education

In response to the President's Executive Order 13781 "Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch," the Department of Education is seeking feedback on how it can best serve the needs of America's students, rehabilitation consumers, families, and professionals. We have a very short time frame to submit comments. Please consider the following issues when providing your input:

  • New activities or functions the Education Department should initiate
  • Ways the Education Department can be more efficient in meeting the needs of students, families, and partners
  • Activities or functions the Education Department should consider combining or modifying
  • Activities or functions of the Education Department that duplicate what others are doing
  • How the Education Department could best deliver the education services or products you need.

Submit your feedback to EDReform@ed.gov by August 4 th.