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Mary Randall

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article was prepared for broadcast on VoicePrint during White Cane Week, February, 1998.

Mary Randall knows a thing or two about education. The London, Ontario school teacher who has been blind since birth has been teaching students for almost twenty years Mary Randall specializes in special needs students, but points out that there is no reason a blind teacher cannot teach any student. Still, her own experience in the school system - at integrated schools and special schools for blind students - gives her terrific insight into the needs of all students.

Mary currently teaches at the London Ontario Separate School board. Her first experience in an integrated school goes back to her own high-school days, where she studied along with sighted students at Guelph Collegiate.

"I had never been to an integrated school," says Mary, who studied at Brantford's W. Ross Macdonald school for the blind before going to Guelph Collegiate. "It was pretty scary. The work was fine, but it was mostly the logistics, like finding someone to read for you." Mary says that getting around independently was a challenge at first and fitting into the social life was too. The Guelph school system was very welcoming, Mary says, but back in 1970 when she was there, they had no experience with blind students. Nowadays, Mary says most school boards have an integrated system in place. She remembers her experience was challenging and empowering, but adds laughingly that "like puberty" she wouldn't want to do it again.

After high school, Mary Randall went to the University of Western Ontario where she earned a degree in English and Psychology. She says that finding a mentor - in her case Murray Pott from Western - was crucial to her success. He found the best teachers for her and Mary urges other students with special needs to find someone to lookout for them too. "If you can latch onto someone like that," Mary says, "you're already ahead of the game." After university, Mary worked for a year at a school of the deaf, where she used finger spelling to communicate with her students.

Mary moved from there to work at her alma mater, the W. Ross Macdonald School for the blind. She spent five years working with both blind and deaf-blind students there. It may seem unusual to Canadians to hear about a teacher with a vision-impairment, but Mary points out that the U.S. has been accepting teachers with vision-impairments for years. Again, she adds that blind teachers are capable of teaching almost any subject.

"Flexibility is the key," she says, "I couldn't teach cursive writing, but I can teach a music class. "Organization is also key," says Mary. She says it can be scary for someone with a vision-impairment to try something new or different. But if you've got a good filing system, computer skills and a meaningful education, almost anything is possible.

She encourages others with vision impairments to make sure they get all they are entitled to from their educations.

Mary Randall has been sharing her vision for inclusive education - for students AND FOR TEACHERS - for almost twenty years. She currently teaches part-time at the London Separate School Board, where she has worked for eight years.

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