Taipei, May 8 (CNA) Parents of visually impaired children in remote areas urged the government Tuesday to create better education opportunities for such students.
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.
At a legislative hearing, Chou said a special education teacher visits her fourth-grader twice a week, but besides that, there is no other support system 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 cried.
A mother from Taitung County agreed, complaining that she had to quit her job to be a full-time care taker who makes braille books and attends classes on a routine basis.
Lan Chieh-chou, secretary-general of the Parents Association for the Visually Impaired, 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 on the island 20 years ago, said "nothing much has changed over the years."
The option to study 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, said a teacher from Wuchang Elementary School in Taipei. The school is one of the few that offer an integrated education program for blind 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 Taipei City, said Legislator Chen Chiech-ju, who convened the hearing.
A senior Ministry of Education official at the hearing said the ministry is already looking at integrated education.
"We are working in the direction of implementing integrated education programs for the blind," the official said.
(By Nancy Liu)