CHICAGO — A teacher shortage in Illinois is threatening to derail the progress of programs for the blind and visually impaired.
Students who are blind or visually impaired are offered several special-education services by the public school system, the Chicago Tribune reported.
And while those services and technology have become more accessible, the national Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired is seeing fewer members nationwide, with 1,000 less than 10 years ago.
Administrators at Northern Illinois University and Illinois State University are the only two colleges in the state that that offer degrees specializing in teaching blind and visually impaired students. They said they’re graduating fewer teachers than Illinois’ students need.
Joan Allison is the administrator of the blind and visually impaired program for the School Association for Special Education in DuPage County. She said while she currently has a full staff, she’s concerned for three retirements she expects in the next couple of years. She said if the association can’t find replacements, then the “the quality of the education for the students will be compromised.”
“The shortage is a huge issue,” Allison said.
The association houses its high school program at Addison Trail and offers similar programs for the blind and visually impaired students from more than 93 school districts in the Chicago area.
There are more than 16,700 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the state with low vision or blindness. Only 212 teachers certified to teach them.