The College of New Jersey provides an outstanding program for professional preparation as Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Created to address the field’s ongoing national shortage of qualified professionals, TCNJ’s program is the only one offered at a NJ college or university. The Department of Special Education, Language & Literacy offers several options to become certified as a teacher of the blind/visually impaired.
Graduates will be prepared to serve as itinerant teachers in New Jersey’s public schools and will be skilled in the critical areas of Braille literacy, assistive technology, collaboration and teaming, and the specialized strategies that enable students who are blind/visually impaired to function independently in general education classrooms. Interaction with blind and visually impaired children and adults is an integral component of the program.
TCNJ’s Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired program is based on the fundamental position that a disability is simply a characteristic of a person and that the perceived lack of ability and barriers to learning commonly associated with disability are socially constructed. We reject educational practices based on a medical model of inability or a need to become “normalized” and instead base our practices on the understanding that disability is simply a unique feature of the individual. This view profoundly affects the way in which teachers and other professionals address the education of students with disabilities.
The program provides teachers with the knowledge and skills to create accessible learning environments that meet the needs of individual students within general education settings and to teach their students the skills necessary for optimum independence.
Students in the Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired Program will learn to:
- Hold high expectations for their blind/visually impaired students and assure that each student is sufficiently prepared to develop age-appropriate skills for academic success, independence, self determination, and autonomy;
- Promote expectations of students who are blind/visually impaired based on the same criteria as those for their sighted peers, and not on their ability or inability to see;
- Understand and apply a “skills approach” to blindness/visual impairment, which consists of the use of alternative skills and tools in addition to, or instead of eyesight to accomplish various tasks;
- Understand and offer to all students who are blind/visually impaired the continuum of skills and techniques, from the visual to the tactual;
- Have knowledge of the Braille provisions in the IDEA and of the research supporting the use of Braille as the pathway to literacy, academic success, and employment for individuals who are blind, including those who have residual vision;
- Promote expectations for independent movement and travel for their students as a pathway to independence, autonomy, and full engagement in all aspects of life, and promote the use of the long white cane as a tool and symbol of competence and independence;
- Have respect for and understanding of adaptive technology as a vehicle for access and independence for students who are blind and visually impaired, while also understanding that technology does not replace literacy;
- Understand that working in mutually respectful partnership with parents, classroom teachers, and other school personnel will set the stage for the blind/visually impaired student to make the most progress;
- Provide to their blind/visually impaired students and their families opportunities for interaction with blind/visually impaired adults and other families with blind/visually impaired children who can serve as role models, mentors, and providers of support, resources, and information;
- Work in partnership with organizations of blind/visually impaired adults and parents of blind/visually impaired children;
- Be familiar with laws and issues that affect students who are blind and visually impaired;• Keep abreast of sources of information and resources available locally, in the state, and nationally.