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Recognizing the true diversity of Perkins’ students

The diverse abilities of our students are what makes Perkins a powerful leader in educating the 6 million children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities.

We do more than educate children who are blind.

We’d like to introduce you to Kimi. She’s visually impaired with additional multi-sensory impairments and developmental disabilities. At Perkins, she learns important blindness skills — like how to navigate — but there’s equal emphasis on helping her build social and independent living skills. Skills that will help her after she graduates to advocate for inclusion and to stay involved in her community.   

In some ways, Kimi is like a lot of kids — she wants to make friends, have her voice heard and follow her passions. In fact, around the world, there are over 6 million children with visual impairments and additional disabilities who long for recognition and inclusion. Sadly, unlike Kimi, the majority of these children don’t go to school and don’t get any kind of social services support. They are invisible.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Perkins creates better futures for these children — like Kimi — no matter where they live. 

The true diversity of Perkins kids. 

In addition to visual impairment, many Perkins students  have additional disabilities: cognitive, developmental, hearing- or mobility-related. 

This diversity is reflected across our campus — you’ll see it in any of our classrooms.

There, you might find one student using technology, like an iPad, to communicate, another using sign language, and still another listening, thanks to a cochlear implant. 

Our students get around differently, too. They navigate on foot, relying on usable vision, a sighted guide or their white cane, while others use a wheelchair. 

All in the same classroom.

This means there’s diversity in how we work.

Strategies that work for a child who is blind don’t always work for children with multiple disabilities. So every effort we make to teach children must be individualized. 

In addition to academics, we help children build life skills related to things like independent living, social interaction and self determination. And we measure success on an individual basis, too. 

For example, for a student with multiple disabilities, success might be learning to pick up a spoon to signal that she is hungry. Another will go off to college, the workforce and live fully independently.

Beyond our campus, children like this are in tremendous need.

Think about that figure: 6 million children. That’s nearly nine times the size of Boston’s population and growing. But outside of the U.S., there’s a massive shortage of educators who have the skills to work with and for these children. 

Perkins is working tirelessly to address the global shortage of teachers for children who have multiple disabilities and visual impairments. Supported by critical donor funding, we welcome educators from all over the world to live and work on our campus. 

They learn from our educators and return home to identify and educate the most vulnerable children in their own communities, along the way sharing what they learned from us with their peers and families. To date, we have Perkins-trained educators working in 92 countries.

We also have a long history of forging extensive global partnerships with fellow international NGOs, schools, governments and health care providers in order to share our expertise with those who need it most. 

Yet, there is so much work to be done. 

Sharing our expertise is critical, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

We’re up against the all-too-common belief that children with multiple, complex disabilities don’t even have the potential to learn. We can change this attitude. But we need your help if we’re to continue reaching these children and change minds.

Join us, and together we will build a more inclusive world, one that recognizes all children, including those with multiple disabilities. They have so much to offer. There’s no time to wait. 

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