Inclusion. The blog for the Center for Disability Studies.

A way forward for students with blindness

By Debbie Harrington


Elizabeth Harrington (left) and Xavier Lawrence inspired legislators to take a stand on their education.

At long last, The First State may be poised to do the right thing where its students with blindness are concerned.

Presently, a 12-month academic program is not provided to all secondary school students with disabilities in Delaware. According to DE Title 14 section 1703(e), only those students with severe mental disability, trainable mental disability, autism, traumatic brain injury, deaf-blindness or a limited orthopedic disability are entitled to a 12-month secondary school education program, with appropriately allotted funding.

This puts students who are blind or visually impaired at a disadvantage. That’s because from the get-go, any number of them are, potentially, having to make their way through school with an 80 percent learning deficit, given that 80 percent of learning is, according to researchers, visually accomplished. Yet, unlike the students with disabilities I mentioned at the top of this post, students with blindness have to demonstrate cause to receive an extended school year (ESY). And that’s not something many parents or guardians of children with blindness are able to establish to the satisfaction of education officials.

Now, though, there’s reason for encouragement. The final report to the DE 148th General Assembly on Senate Concurrent Resolution #2 to study education for the blind and visually impaired made the recommendation on June 30 to include blindness among the disabilities that are guaranteed the 12-month academic entitlement.

Much of the credit for that long-overdue recommendation goes to two students who are blind and visually impaired: Elizabeth Harrington and Xavier Lawrence, respectively. They inspired legislators to take a stand on their education.

Now, it’s up to the Delaware Department of Education to begin the legislative process to change the Title 14 Education Code so that it reflects the recommendation. Parents and guardians of students with blindness, and, most especially, the students themselves, shouldn’t be made to wait any longer.

About the Author

Debbie Harrington is a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership and Innovation at Wilmington University. She’s also a retired U.S. Army colonel, having logged 25 years in transportation and logistics, and a former administrator for one of the largest African American churches in Delaware.

Read full author bio


  • Good news for students with blindness. Kudos to all those who worked hard to make this happen. Thank you for sharing!

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  • Deb (Colonel) I am so glad to see you taking an active role on this. Elizabeth has been very lucky to have you in her corner and now both of you are acting as role models to so many other who need this change. Keep up the great work!!

  • I am glad to see that maybe soon blind or visually impaired will receive the same treamtnent as persons with other disabilities. It would be amazing if this happens sooner rather than later. there have already been a lot of people who have gotten this support. I would like to see this happen today. Thank you very mcuh for your support.

    • I agree that sooner is better. The Dept of Education and Division for Visually Impaired are planning a Summitt to address these kinds of critical issues for our blind and visually impaired students. Stay tuned for how you can participate and support. Expect it to happen around mid October.

  • It is extremely hard to beleive that a 12 month educational program isn’t offered to students with visualimpairment. The school year is full of iinformationto learn and not enough time. To think a person that is visually impaired have ever more they have to learn and overcome. #allfor12monthprogram

    • These kids have an expanded core curriculum that they must tackle beyond academics. To me, the 12-month entitlement seems obvious.

  • I can’t believe it’s taken until 2015 for this to happen. Kudos to those self-advocates!

    • It is hard to believe. There is so much more we need to do to ensure students who are blind and visually impaired are prepared for a successful transition to career/college. Thank goodness we have some advocates who are pushing hard towards that end. Thank you for your comment.

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