TROY — A recent graduate of Troy High School pleaded with the board of education to help her understand why the Braille device she was allegedly promised to keep after graduation was taken away at Monday’s regular board meeting.
Dawn Bilpuch has been legally blind since birth. Bilpuch graduated from Troy High School this spring. Due to her lack of vision, she used a BrailleNote Apex computer device to do her school work. She used this device to communicate with her teachers and any research needed to complete her school work. According to her mother Kaye Bilpuch, the device was her only way of independently accessing Braille, the Internet and turning in her school work.
“I have fought and worked extremely hard throughout both grade school and high school to graduate. One of the things that helped me be successful was a BrailleNote Apex, which allowed me to complete assignments and turn them in for the teacher to grade. When this device was purchased for me in 2010 my mother and I were told for six years that upon graduation the BrailleNote Apex would be given to me to keep. However, two weeks before I was to receive my diploma we were informed that the device had to be turned over,” Dawn Bilpuch told the board.
“Due to a lack of time being notified we were unable to make sure we had resources available to help fund the purchase of this piece of equipment. A BrailleNote Apex can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000. This price range makes the device unaffordable for most blind people and their families, such as myself and my family,” she said.
Dawn shared with the board that her post-graduation plans were to attend Edison State Community College and tranfer to Wright State University to obtain a teaching degree to help other students with disabilities.
“As I have previously stated, if we would have been notified in a timely fashion that this was going to happen we would have been able to be or get prepared. Because by taking my Apex, you have taken my life away from me. Again, I would like to reiterate how much I really want to attend college but cannot at this time without a piece of equipment. I had a BrailleNote MPower that SCC bought for me when I was in second grade. However, it is now and has been, inoperable for years. The school was very well aware of this situation,” she said.
Kaye Bilpuch said she and her daughter were notified weeks before graduation by Director of Pupil Services Beth Marshal at the board office, that the district needed the device back to give to another student. While Dawn and her mother said they understood that another student was in need, they were unable to financially plan or seek outside help to purchase Dawn’s own device.
According to Kaye Bilpuch, the board office referred her to two organizations that would buy a BrailleNote for Dawn. Kaye Bilpuch said she spoke with one, BSVI, who informed them they only help in securing her a job. The other organization SCC requires hours of volunteer work plus attendance at six meetings a year to receive a device. Kaye Bilpuch said the meeting are only once a month and not held in the summer. Dawn Bilpuch hopes to attend Edison State Community College this coming fall and they are running short on time and options to obtain this device.
President Doug Trostle thanked Dawn for having the courage to address the board. Trostle said the board would look into the matter and communicate with the family.
Superintendent Eric Herman said the device was returned to the board office and is not currently in use. Herman said the district wants “to help every student any way we can within the guidelines we are given.” Herman said the matter was only recently brought to his attention and he would research efforts to help.
Reach Melanie Yingst at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews