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Estimates of Severely Visually Impaired Children

The US Department of Education (ED) is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to report to Congress annually on the number of children receiving special education, by disability category, for ages 3-21 years. The count must be unduplicated - that is, children can only be counted in one category, regardless of the number of disabilities they experience. This has led to an underestimate of the number of children with visual impairment in this country.

Table 1. Comparison of Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) Annual Counts compares ED's IDEA count to the federal registry maintained by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Because the IDEA count does not include children with visual impairments who are counted in another category (primarily "multiple disabilities"), the number of children with visual impairments served by IDEA has steadily declined. Where IDEA defines visual impairment as "an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child's educational performance," the APH federal registry requires a diagnosis of legal blindness, a much stricter criterion, and includes students whether or not they have other disabilities. The APH federal registry count has steadily increased over the same time period.

Table 2. Range of Estimates of Severely Visually Impaired Children was prepared for a February 9, 2007 meeting with Alexa Posny, Director, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education. The table compares the range of estimates of severely visually impaired children from the U.S. Department of Education (school year 2001-2002), Digest of Education Statistics (Snyder, Tan, & Hoffman, 2006) (school year 2003-2004), American Printing House for the Blind, National Deaf-Blind Child Count, the National Plan to Train Personnel in Blindness and Low Vision (2000), and then computes the number of visually impaired children by multiplying the current population <18 years (US Census Bureau, 2007) by three estimates of the prevalence of visual impairment in children.

Prepared February 2007 and updated May 2009


Table 1. Comparison of Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) Annual Counts
Year
OSEP
APH
1976-77 38,247 28,131
1977-78 35,717 29,488
1978-79 (1) 32,607 31,161
1979-80 32,679 32,563
1980-81 33,005 34,050
1981-82 30,979 35,089
1982-83 (2) 28,000 37,513
1983-84 31,576 38,365
1984-85 30,375 39,254
1985-86 28,990 39,941
1986-87 27,025 38,865
1987-88 (3) 22,812 37,206
1988-89 22,697 39,055
1989-90 22,697 39,877
1990-91 23,633 40,795
1991-92 25,052 42,431
1992-93 23,639 43,774
1993-94 24,873 44,292
1994-95 24,708 45,556
1995-96 25,487 46,888
1996-97 25,759 47,642
1997-98 26,030 48,382
1998-99 26,095 49,637
1999-2000 26,383 48,774
2000-01 26,007 48,996
2001-02 25,845 49,577
2002-03 26,113 49,415
2003-04 25,879 49,270
2004-05 26,130 50,161
2005-06 (2) 29,000 49,820

(1) Deaf-blind and Multiple Disabilities added to count.
(2) Rounded numbers are taken from the Digest of Educational Statistics.
(3) No longer required to report 0-5 yrs by disability category.

 


Table 2. Range of Estimates of Severely Visually Impaired Children
Source
Age Range
Definition
Number
25th Annual Report to Congress (2005)
U.S. Department of Education (school year 2001-2002) 6-21 Visually Impaired 28,845
6-21 Deaf-blind 1,615

Digest of Education Statistics (Snyder, Tan, & Hoffman, 2006)
School year 2003-2004 3-21 Visual Impairment (.1% of school enrollment; .4% of all children with disabilities) 28,000
3-21 Deaf-blindness 2,000

Other Census Data
American Printing House for the Blind (2206) (January 5, 2004 census) B-21 Legally Blind 49,270
National Deaf-Blind Child Count (December 1, 2003 census) (NTAC, 2004) B-21 Deaf-Blind 9,853
National Plan to Train Personnel in Blindness and Low Vision (2000) based on Kirchner & Diament (1999) B-21 Visually Impaired and Deaf-Blind 93,600

Estimated, based on population <18 years (US Census Bureau, 2007)
Jones & Collins (1966) (.1%) B-19 Visually Impaired 73,510
Wenger, Kay, & LaPlante (1996) (.2%) B-19 Visually Impaired 147,020
National Health Interview Survey-Disability (1998) (.3%) <18 years Serious difficulty seeing (includes legally blind) 93,600

References

American Printing House for the Blind. (2006). Distribution of eligible students based on the federal quota census of January 4, 2004 (Fiscal Year 2005). Louisville, KY: Author. Retrieved February 7, 2007 at http://www.aph.org/fedquotpgm/dist05.html.

Jones, J. W., & Collins, A. P. (1966). Educational programs for visually handicapped children. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Kirchner, C., & Diament, S. (1999). Estimates of the number of visually impaired students, their teachers, and orientation and mobility specialists: Part 2. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 93, 738-744.

Mason, C., Davidson, R., & McNerney, C. (2000). The national plan to train personnel in blindness and low vision. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children.

National Center for Health Statistics. (1998). National Health Interview Survey on Disabilities, Phases I & II: 1994. (ASCII version). [CD-ROM]. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics [Producer and Distributor].

National Technical Assistance Center. (2004). National deaf-blind child count summary: December 1, 2003. Retrieved February 7, 2007 at
http://www.tr.wou.edu/ntac/documents/census/2003%20Census%20Tables%20Birth%20thru%2021%20(2004).doc.

Snyder, T. D., Dillow, S.A., & Hoffman, C.M. (2007). Digest of education statistics [Table 48]. Retrieved May 11, 2009 at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d06/tables/dt06_048.asp.

United States Census Bureau. (2007, January 12). State and country quick facts (USA). Retrieved February 7, 2007 at http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html.

United States Department of Education, (2005). 25th annual (2003) report to Congress on the implementation of the individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs.

Wenger, B. L., Kaye, H. S., & LaPlante, M. P. (1996). Disabilities statistics abstract No. 15: Disabilities among children. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

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