Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New laws in the works to help the visually impaired

Nearly 250,000 Pennsylvanians are either blind or visually impaired to varying degrees. 58,000 of them are children, and of those, only nine percent are literate.It is those statistics, among others, which prompted a group of about three dozen Pennsylvania legislators, from both parties, to propose the creation of a Commission for Employment and Rehabilitation for the Blind.One of the measure's sponsors is Democratic Representative Curtis Thomas of Philadelphia, who said, "Over 56,000 of these individuals are children, under the age of 18, and fewer than nine percent of them are literate. Over 150,000 of these individuals are of working age, and about 75 percent are unable to find meaningful employment."The group's efforts have the backing of James Antonacci, president of Pennsylvania's National Federation for the Blind. He says the lawmakers have pinpointed a serious problem. "Blindness rehabilitation in Pennsylvania continues to be based on a model of charity and low expectations rather than one of self-determination and appropriate behavior," Antonacci told Public Radio Capitol News' Damon Boughamer.The commission would work to enhance employment opportunities for the blind, and would be governed by a seven-member commission. Four of its members would be legally blind.


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