What Is the National Agenda?

The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) has been most persuasively articulated by The National Agenda for the Education of Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Including Those with Multiple Disabilities. The National Agenda is a historical summary and broad grass-roots consumer and professional expression of consensus concerning the systemic changes in education policy and practice required to effectively meet the needs of all students living with vision loss.

Initially crafted more than fifteen years ago and significantly revised in June 2003, the National Agenda intends to effect change in 10 primary areas: referral, parental education and involvement, personnel prep, staff development and caseload, placement, assessment, instructional materials, ECC, transition, and professional development.

As part of the last reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, the objectives of Goal Seven of the National Agenda concerning appropriate access to instructional materials were substantially accomplished by the addition of federal requirements ensuring that K-12 textbook publishers make their materials available to the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in a standardized electronic file format. The new provisions of law facilitate distribution of texts and other materials that can more readily be rendered in a variety of specialized formats, such as braille, large print, and a variety of digital formats. These new provisions of national policy are beginning to significantly improve the timeliness and quality of instructional materials provided to students with vision loss throughout the nation.

In 2007, the National Agenda Steering Committee agreed that its 10 focus areas would best be advanced through coordinated alignment with Goal Eight, the focus area concerning the ECC. Although there are no state or federal laws or regulations specifically mandating the provision of instruction in the ECC as such, aspects of the ECC may be identifiable throughout the national special education landscape, such as the emphasis in federal law on the needs of all students with disabilities for appropriate transition services. However, the aim of Goal Eight of the National Agenda is to infuse specialized disability-specific instruction in each of the domains of the ECC throughout the educational program provided to students with vision loss to ensure that such students in fact receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

As a result of the National Agenda's commitment to this priority, the field of blindness and visual impairment is mobilizing to formulate and implement policy and practice strategies designed to ensure the availability of specialized instructional methods that truly meet the unique needs of all children and youth living with vision loss. Advocacy around Goal Seven resulted in significant improvements; therefore, we believe that advocacy around Goal Eight will have a similar effect.