Parents of visually impaired children in remote areas urged the government to create better educational opportunities for such students at a public hearing in Taipei earlier this week.
Education opportunities for blind students are very limited in rural areas, said Chou Chiu-yen, the mother of a blind child from Chiayi City, where there are no schools for the visually impaired.
Chou said that a special education teacher visited her fourth-grader twice a week, but besides that, there was no other support in her neighborhood.
“I love my child so much that I didn’t want to send her away to special schools in big cities, but it seems so difficult,” she said.
A mother from Taitung County agreed, complaining that she had to quit her job to be a full-time caregiver who makes braille books and who routinely attends classes.
Parents Association for the Visually Impaired secretary-general Lan Chie-chou (藍介洲) said the government should facilitate the establishment of an integrated education program in rural areas.
Under this program, blind and sighted children are put in the same classroom, with a special education teacher on hand to offer assistance when needed.
Lan, who attended one of the two blind schools in the country 20 years ago, said: “Nothing much has changed over the years.”
The option of studying close to one’s family is still out of the question, he said.
Visually impaired children can benefit a lot from interaction with sighted students, a teacher from Wuchang Elementary School in Taipei said.
The school is one of the few that offer an integrated education program for visually impaired children.
“From our experience, it also helps sighted students to develop empathy,” he said.
However, the program is not cheap and requires the financial support of more well-off local governments like the Taipei City Government, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chiech-ju (陳節如) said.
In response to the appeal, a senior Ministry of Education official said the ministry was already looking at integrated education.
“We are working in the direction of implementing integrated education programs for the blind,” the official said.