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School for Blind Announces Effort to Train 1 Million Teachers


Catalina Devandas Aguilar is UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. United Nations members met recently to discuss issues including educating children with multiple disabilities.


A school for the blind in Massachusetts has announced an effort to train one million teachers for disabled children around the world.

The Perkins School for the Blind launched the effort as United Nations members gathered this week for a meeting on the rights of disabled persons.

The goal of the meeting was to bring attention to the issue of including and educating people with disabilities—especially children.

Experts say more than six million children with more than one disability are not being served by education systems around the world. A disability could be blindness, deafness or other inabilities to do things.

Educating disabled children important for society

Dave Power is the president of Perkins School for the Blind. The school is the oldest academic institution for people who cannot see or who are blind and cannot hear.

He said children with more than one disability often do not receive an education.

“These children for the most part don’t get an education – something on the order of 90 percent,” said Power.

He and other experts say children with more than one disability have a lot of potential. But, they need the right education to realize it.

Gopal Mitra is an expert on disabilities at UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. He says there are many barriers to disabled children.

“The stigma and discrimination that exists around disabilities – it is the attitudinal barrier – it has a wide ranging impact,” he said.

A lack of resources is another problem. Governments do not set aside enough money for people with disabilities. Also, families often lack the ability to provide an education for disabled children.

Mitra said, “Within the family, often parents do not see the value of educating the child who cannot see or cannot hear.”

Roseanne Silberman is an educator. She said, “I think that the greatest challenge across the world is to get the government involved in the need for teacher training.”

School seeks to standardize its programs to train teachers

This week, Perkins School for the Blind announced its effort to train one million teachers by 2030 to educate children with multiple disabilities.

Michael Delaney is the executive director of Perkins International, a division of Perkins School for the Blind. He described the effort as providing important training to teachers.

“We want to do that in a way that supports teachers who are in public schools and teachers that are in special schools, so all children will have a quality education,” Delaney said.

He noted the program will have three levels with courses lasting from two days to nine months. These classes would train teachers in international standards.

Perkins School for the Blind has a history of training teachers from other countries to work with blind, deaf and blind, and low-vision children. Dave Power now says the school wants to standardize its program to reach more people.

The school is seeking to fund the program by combining government support with private donations.

“Because we already have the knowledge and know-how and have done it, we can do it very efficiently,” he said.

UN also brings attention to women with disabilities

Another issue discussed at the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was women with disabilities.

The World Report on Disability estimates that one in five women are likely to experience a disability in their lifetimes. It says disabled women and girls face many barriers and discrimination that prevent them from getting education, economic opportunities and from taking part in politics.

One success story is Maricar Marquez who was born deaf. At the age of seven, doctors said she had Usher syndrome, a disease that causes a loss of sight over time.

Today she is deaf and blind. Her sister has the same condition.

Although she was born in the Philippines, Marquez’ family moved to Canada. There, both girls received specialized education.

Marquez did not listen to people who said people with disabilities cannot learn. She went to college and earned a Master’s Degree.

“Had I not gotten the services I did, I would not be where I am,” she said using sign language.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Margaret Besheer reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

potential – n. a possibility that something can be developed and made better

stigma – n. unfair negative beliefs

attitudinal – adj. related to attitudes or demonstrated feelings people have

challenge – n. something that is difficult to do

standard – n. a level of quality that is considered acceptable

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