BOSTON (WWLP) - Thanks to state special education funding, 17-year-old Kristin Turgeon, who is blind, has teachers that physically guide her through her high school in Grafton and provide her with accessible reading materials.
"I take all regular ed classes like all the other kids that go and the only reason that I am there is because I have an excellent team," said Kristin.
Eight groups representing the sightless fought through a Tuesday snow storm to ask lawmakers to continue services for students like Kristin. They want lawmakers to increase special education funding from about $230 to $255 million dollars this upcoming fiscal year. Advocates say only 12 percent of school-aged blind children in the U.S. can read and write. Literacy rates have gone down by more than 50 percent among children nationwide in the last 40 years and unemployment among blind individuals is at 74 percent.
Advocates are also asking lawmakers to fund about $4.5 million dollars to libraries, like the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library, which provide reading material to 25,000 people across Massachusetts
"We provide in every city and town in western Mass, books on tape, Braille, large-print books, newspapers and it's all sent through the mail," said Steven Rothstein, the president of the Library. "There are tens of thousands of people who are losing their sight who don't know about the library and we want to help them to get those services."
The blindness community is supportive of Governor Deval Patrick's tax increases to raise $2 billion dollars in annual education and transportation investments.
"There definitely a need for some kind of pretty major systemic proposal for transportation to really get us out of this every year we gotta raise the fares, we gotta raise the fares," said Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library Director Kim Charlson.