Legislation to Improve Educational Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

Americas, Misc., November 9 2017

WASHINGTON: Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.)  on November 7 introduced bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure that studnets with vision and hearing disabilities receive the best possible education. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will improve the effectiveness and personalization of education and services for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, and deaf-blind. The legislation would improve reporting and evaluation measures of special education in each state, increase training for teachers and other special education professionals, and reaffirm the Department of Education’s mission and responsibility to ensure an accessible and quality education for all students.

This bill is named after Alice Cogswell, the first deaf student to be formally educated in the United States, and Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s famous teacher. Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and Congressman David McKinley (WV-1) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

“More than one hundred years after Anne Sullivan Macy worked with Helen Keller at Massachusetts’s Perkins School, we are coming together to ensure that students in the 21st century receive the best education,” said Senator Markey. “I am happy to introduce this legislation with Senator Capito to help deaf, blind, and deaf-blind students across the country by improving access to quality education and offering them the chance to work with effective educators and trained professionals. Every student should have the opportunity to maximize their God-given abilities, and our bill will help thousands of students do just that.”

“It is essential students in West Virginia and across the nation who are deaf, hard of hearing or have vision loss receive the specialized services they need to reach their fullest potential,” said Senator Capito. “The Cogswell-Macy Act would help ensure the educational needs of these students are better met.”

Specifically, the Cogswell-Macy Act would:

  • Require states to identify and evaluate children who are vision and hearing disability so that appropriate services can be delivered to each student, and report instances when they fall short
  • Help parents and educators stay informed and up-to-date through written policy guidance released regularly from the Department of Education
  • Encourage states to plan for and commit to specialized instruction for all deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, and deaf-blind students, provided by trained personnel
  • Establish the Anne Sullivan Macy Center of Vision Loss and Educational Excellence within the Department of Education to function as a national resource to better support students with visual disabilities

“Since 1975, the law has worked wonders in terms of ensuring the right of every student with a disability to be included in our public education system,” said Mark Richert, Policy Director for the American Foundation for the Blind. “But what we’ve never done is to make sure that students, particularly kiddos who are blind, low vision, deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, get what they need once they get in the schoolhouse door. With Senate introduction of the Cogswell-Macy Act, we’re signaling to everyone that we’re not prepared to wait for the needs of another generation of students with sensory disabilities to be ignored before we work with our amazing champions on the Hill to change things.”

“This bill acknowledges and supports the various ways that children who are deaf and hard of hearing learn. There is no ‘one size fits all’ under IDEA, and the Cogswell-Macy Act will provide guidance to states as to how to tailor individualized education to these students, particularly in the areas of language and communication,” said Sandra Edwards, President of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) and Superintendent of the Mississippi School for the Deaf.

“We are thrilled that the Cogswell-Macy Act will be introduced in the Senate and thank Senator Markey for his leadership and passion,” said Dave Power, President and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind. “Perkins has been a fierce advocate in ensuring that blind, visually-impaired, and deafblind students have access to the highest quality services here in Massachusetts and nationally. Their ability to fulfill their unique potential requires the strongest possible IDEA and our ongoing commitment to seeing its execution.”

“When it becomes the law of the land, the Cogswell-Macy Act will empower students who are deafblind to succeed in the 21st century American classroom,” said Mussie Gebre, President of DeafBlind Citizens in Action (DBCA). “As deafblind people speaking for ourselves, we in DBCA know from personal experience how providing interveners, qualified teachers, and the whole range of instructional services and supports today will make it possible tomorrow for society to fully benefit from the brain power and drive that our community has to offer.”

 

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