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Bridges Blog Information Resources

Blind/Low Vision Consumer Groups — ACB and NFB Statewide

With summer nearly upon us, we invite you to join us as we explore the two largest blindness/low vision groups in the United States throughout the month of May. Regardless of whether you plan to participate in a convention this summer, we will cover the ins and outs of these organizations and how they can provide support to transition-age students.

In this third installment of our organization exploration, we hear from state leaders in each consumer group.

American Council of the Blind (ACB) of Maryland

Jo Ann Kucic serves as president of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) of Maryland. In this interview, she shares information about what the ACB of Maryland does and how to contact them.

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Maryland

Ronza Othman serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Maryland. In this interview, she shares information about what the NFB of Maryland does and how to contact them.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog

Blind/Low Vision Consumer Groups— ACB and NFB 2022 National Conventions

With summer nearly upon us, we invite you to join us as we explore the two largest blindness/low vision groups in the United States throughout the month of May. Regardless of whether you plan to participate in a convention this summer, we will cover the ins and outs of these organizations and how they can provide support to transition-age students.

  • May 3: Overview of ACB and NFB
  • May 10: ACB and NFB 2022 National Conventions
  • May 17: ACB and NFB Statewide
  • May 24: Students in the ACB and the NFB
  • May 31: Parents and Families in the ACB and the NFB

In this second installment of our organization exploration, we share information about in-person and virtual options for the ACB and NFB conventions taking place this summer.

Why It Matters

National conventions are a great time for blind/low vision individuals to connect and learn from one another. Through various sessions, exhibits, and activities, the blind and low vision community shares resources, discusses best practices, and provides a massive support network that spans nationwide. There are also many opportunities for educators, rehabilitation professionals, friends, and family members of blind/low vision people to participate in and benefit from national convention. Bridges Helpdesk staff have attended and benefited from national conventions, and we welcome your questions about these exciting and transformative experiences.

ACB Convention

The 61st annual national convention of the American Council of the Blind will feature virtual-only sessions, in-person sessions, and combined virtual and in-person sessions. ACB is using this conference format for the first time at the 2022 convention.

NFB Convention

The 82nd annual national convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in person and also offers an online registration component for those who are unable to make it in person.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog

Blind/Low Vision Consumer Groups—About the ACB and NFB

With summer nearly upon us, we invite you to join us as we explore the two largest blindness/low vision groups in the United States throughout the month of May. Regardless of whether you plan to participate in a convention this summer, we will cover the ins and outs of these organizations and how they can provide support to transition-age students.

  • May 3: Overview of ACB and NFB
  • May 10: ACB and NFB 2022 National Conventions
  • May 17: ACB and NFB Statewide
  • May 24: Students in the ACB and the NFB
  • May 31: Parents and Families in the ACB and the NFB

In this first installment of our organization exploration, we will provide an overview of these two consumer groups and share how they can enrich the lives of those who are blind/have low vision.

Introduction

The two largest and most active blindness/low vision consumer-driven groups in America are the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Both of these organizations feature national conventions every summer, regularly advocate on Capitol Hill for accessibility and rights for the blind, and foster opportunities for mentorship for blind people across the United States. Many blind Americans choose to participate in these organizations in some capacity, whether they want to volunteer, need assistance or mentoring, are seeking community, or most often some combination of the three.

The Importance of Mentorship

Finding a community within the membership is part of what makes these groups so successful and effective. Maybe you are the only student at your school with blindness/low vision, or the only person in your family.

Many members of both of these organizations did not know any other blind people before joining. These organizations are an opportunity to connect with individuals who share similar life experiences, and with that comes a perfect place to learn from one another.

Members can have conversations about how they accomplish a task and trade ideas about how to navigate particularly visual situations. In this way, all members share information with one another, and everyone benefits as they add more tools to the toolbox. Mentorship, both formal and informal, is a cornerstone of both of these organizations in terms of practical and emotional support.

Special Interest Groups

Both ACB and NFB have special interest groups within their organizations. These groups are focused on a hobby, profession, or topic and allow all participants to learn and share about that particular subject. For example, both organizations have a Lawyers’ group where blind lawyers and prospective law students can network and learn from those in the profession. Both organizations also feature an art or crafting group where one can learn all about all this nonvisual creativity.

Usually, these special interest groups will have a meeting at the national convention. Even if you are not going to either convention, many of these groups meet virtually throughout the year, and you can feel free to reach out to the contact person listed on the website to learn how you can start attending meetings.

Explore the lists (ACB Special Interest Affiliates List and NFB Divisions, Committees, and Groups List) and see what matches your interests. You never know – someone out there may just have the nonvisual tip that you have been looking for or are ready to welcome you with open arms into their community!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog Series Assessment Accommodations April

Assessment Accommodations April: Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland

For individuals with disabilities, accommodations make the difference between access to opportunities and being shut out of those opportunities. Accommodations, while vital, vary from individual to individual and depend on many different factors. Join the Bridges Helpdesk as we explore understanding, identifying, and advocating for accommodations in the area of assessments, including quizzes and tests, state-required tests, and tests required for college admission and for earning college credit.

Join us as we explore blind/low vision-related accommodations, from definition through application on high-stakes tests.

  • April 5: Accommodations versus Modifications
  • April 12: Categories of Assessment Accommodations
  • April 19: Importance of Using Assessment Accommodations Consistently
  • April 26: Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland

In this fourth installment of our “Assessment Accommodations April” series, we share “Guides” to testing accommodations for tests required by the State of Maryland and “Guides” to tests required for college entrance and for college credit. These guides can help students, families, and educators understand which accommodations are available on any given test. This understanding will help all members of the IEP team identify and consistently provide needed accommodations to adequately prepare students for high-stakes testing and post-secondary education and employment.

Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland

College-related Exam Guides

College Entrance Exams (PSAT®, SAT®, and ACT®) for Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

College Board Credit-Earning Exam Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge Assessments Credit-Earning Exam Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

Maryland Assessments Guides

For Kindergarten Students

Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) for Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

For Students Grades 3-8 and High School

MCAP for English and Math for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

MCAP for Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, Social Studies, and Government for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

MISA (Science) for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

Alternate MCAP and MISA for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

For English Language Learners

WIDA Screener for Kindergarten for Maryland Blind/Low Vision for Students Guide

WIDA Screener for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide—Paper Tests

WIDA Screener for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide—Online Tests

WIDA Kindergarten ACCESS for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide

WIDA ACCESS for ELLs for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide—Paper Tests

WIDA ACCESS for ELLS for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Students Guide—Online Tests

WIDA Alternate ACCESS for Blind/Low Vision for Students in Maryland Guide

For Students with “Significant Cognitive Disabilities”

Alternate MCAP and MISA for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Guide

WIDA Alternate ACCESS for Blind/Low Vision for Students in Maryland Guide

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Bridges Blog Series Assessment Accommodations April

Assessment Accommodations April: Importance of Using Assessment Accommodations Consistently

For individuals with disabilities, accommodations make the difference between access to opportunities and being shut out of those opportunities. Accommodations, while vital, vary from individual to individual and depend on many different factors. Join the Bridges Helpdesk as we explore understanding, identifying, and advocating for accommodations in the area of assessments, including quizzes and tests, state-required tests, and tests required for college admission and for earning college credit.

Join us as we explore blind/low vision-related accommodations, from definition through their application on high-stakes tests.

  • April 5: Accommodations versus Modifications
  • April 12: Categories of Assessment Accommodations
  • April 19: Importance of Using Assessment Accommodations Consistently
  • April 26: Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland

In this third installment of our “Assessment Accommodations April” series, we discuss why it is important to use accommodations regularly.

Content is Key

Most assessments, from pop quizzes in class to the highest of high-stakes tests, are used to measure one’s grasp of content. In all cases, performance on assessments should relate to an individual’s knowledge of the content area. Assessments should NOT be measuring other factors, such as the individual’s familiarity with the testing platform or method used.

Use Accommodations Early and Often

By identifying needed accommodations and using them often, you will get familiar with their use. This can be especially true for electronic assessments because you don’t want to be struggling to understand the technology during your assessment. The more comfortable you are with the test’s format, the more likely your score will reflect your actual knowledge level.

Advocacy for Full-time Accommodations

Your school should make sure that you have many opportunities to use whatever testing accommodations you need, such as screen reading/magnifying software, QWERTY/six-key entry keyboards, tactile graphics, allowable online accessible calculators, etc. Even pop quizzes and regular classroom tests should be provided using the accommodations spelled out in your IEP.

In fact, both Maryland and federal law require that IEP documents specifically identify all accommodations you need on all state-wide and district-wide assessments. See COMAR 3A.05.01.09.A(1)(f) and 34 CFR §300.320(a)(6)(i). Additionally, the Maryland State Department of Education directs that: “The accommodations provided to a student must be the same for classroom instruction, classroom assessments, and district and State assessments. The administration of an assessment should not be the first time the accommodation is introduced to the student.” See Maryland Assessment, Accessibility, & Accommodations Policy Manual, page 2-2 (eighteenth page of the PDF document).

If You Don’t Use It, You Might Lose It

Using accommodations helps you become familiar with them, but that’s not all. If you do not use an accommodation, it may appear that you do not NEED the accommodation at all. Regular use of an accommodation is important to preserve your right to that accommodation – at school, on high-stakes tests, in college, and at work.

Of course, there may be some accommodations that you don’t need all the time. For example, you might not need frequent breaks when taking quizzes or tests during a class period. However, for extremely long tests (tests that take several hours each, perhaps two or three of them in a day), you might need frequent breaks and/or extended time. Also, you might need different amounts of time depending on the content (English versus math) or depending on the kinds of questions (multiple-choice, short-answer, etc.). If you find that your need for accommodations changes depending on the type or format of the test, it’s important to document that.

Reach Out to the Bridges Helpdesk

If you are unsure about what accommodations you have or need or how to advocate to your IEP team to document them, contact us. If you want to discuss these matters, including how to develop your own “Reasonable Accommodations Request,” reach out to us. We are ready, willing, able, and eager to help!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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