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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter

December 1, 2023
(Revised February 16, 2024)

Dear County and District Directors of Special Education; Special Education Local Plan Area Directors; Adult Education School and Regional Occupational School Principals; and Charter School, Infant Program, Home School, Online School, and Private School Administrators:

Annual Registration of Legally Blind Students for the Federal Quota Program

The Federal Quota Program was initiated in 1879 by the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind. This program is a means whereby a per capita allocation is designated for the purchase of educational materials for each eligible student registered through an established Federal Quota account. These Federal Quota accounts are maintained and administered by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and its Ex Officio Trustees (state agency partners). The Federal Quota Registration is the census that records students who are eligible to receive materials. In order for students to be eligible for the Federal Quota Program, they must

  • meet the definition of blindness (MDB)—a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less (using a Snellen chart or an acuity determined in Snellen equivalents) in the better eye with the best correction or a peripheral field of vision no greater than 20 degrees; or

  • function at the definition of blindness (FDB)—when visual function meets the definition of blindness as determined by an eye care specialist (ophthalmologist or optometrist) or other medical doctor such as a neurologist.

IF NEITHER are met, students may also be eligible because they:

  • Qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) definition of blindness: an impairment in vision, that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance (34 CFR §300.8[c][13]).

Requirements for eligibility also include the following:

  • The student must be enrolled in a formally organized public or private, nonprofit educational program of less than college level and have a written education plan. The educational programs providing services to these students can include public, private, charter, home, adult, online, infant, and parochial schools.

  • School-aged students must be enrolled with the registering school or agency on the first Monday in January. Adult students in vocational or rehabilitation programs must be registered for at least 120 hours throughout the preceding calendar year.

The California Department of Education will be collecting information to enroll students who qualify for the Federal Quota Program and are enrolled in your local educational agency (LEA) as of January 1, 2024. Registration will be open from January 1, 2024, to March 29, 2024.

LEAs that registered students last year will receive instructions in a separate email on how to update the previously registered students on the online registration system.

LEAs that did not register last year and will register students this year must contact James Morrison at to obtain an LEA profile and password to the online registration system.

There is no action needed for LEAs that are not registering students this year.

As of the 2023 Census, the requirement for an eye report (for MDB) or a doctor’s note (for FDB) has been waived for this federal program per APH President Craig Meador. However, while the medical report is not necessary, it is still your responsibility to ensure students qualify as MDB or FDB. Therefore, an initial eye report or doctor’s note could be helpful in case of an audit.

A parent permission form for release of information must be signed and dated for each student. The signed form should be kept with the student’s record within the LEA. If the LEA has a copy of a signed and dated parent permission form for the student from a previous APH registration, a new form is not needed. The requirement for positive parental consent before releasing confidential student information is a provision of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 20 USC Section 1232g; Title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 99) and its counterpart, California Education Code Section 49060. These requirements extend to nonpublic schools operating under contract with a public school.

For questions regarding this letter, the APH Federal Quota Program, registering students for the first time, or registering new students, please contact James Morrison, Associate Governmental Program Analyst, by phone at 916-323-1329 or by email at, or visit the Clearinghouse for Specialized Media and Technology’s website,


Cheryl Cotton, Deputy Superintendent
Instruction, Measurement, and Administration Branch


Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 22, 2024

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