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Congressman Matt Cartwright

Representing the 17th District of Pennsylvania


Rep. Cartwright Introduces Bill to Address Education for Students with Sensory Disabilities

Feb 16, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Representative David McKinley (R-WV) re-introduced the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. This bipartisan bill would improve educational services for students with sensory disabilities.

Named after two pioneers in sensory disability education, the Cogswell-Macy Act would amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to require states to identify, evaluate, and provide special education and related services to students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, regardless of whether they are categorized under a different disability.

Passed in 1975, IDEA requires schools to serve the educational needs of students with disabilities. Although the best available data reports that upwards of 350,000 students are deaf or hard of hearing and 100,000 students have vision loss, less than one third of those populations are reported under IDEA. The Cogswell-Macy Act strengthens IDEA provisions to better meet the educational needs of students with sensory disabilities. 

“Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed in school and achieve his or her potential,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Students with sensory disabilities require specialized services to meet their unique, diverse needs, services which are often not available in today’s schools. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this crucial bill.”

The Cogswell-Macy Act also assists parents and educators with accessing up-to-date policy resources from the Department of Education.

This legislation is endorsed by the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Association of the Deaf, the National Coalition of Deafblindness, the American Council of the Blind, and more than 100 other organizations.

"Our national special education law has been a success at getting kids with disabilities into their neighborhood schools, but what we haven't done yet is to make sure that students with vision loss get the education they deserve once they get in the schoolhouse door," said Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy for the American Foundation for the Blind.  "We've waited forty years, and we're not waiting another forty to give kids who are blind or visually impaired an education that is worthy of their tremendous potential. That's why the Cogswell-Macy Act is imperative."

“Deaf and hard of hearing children need better access to a quality education, and this Act provides a significant improvement towards the goal of a fully accessible quality education based on the communication needs of each deaf and hard of hearing student,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, Esq., CEO of the National Association of the Deaf.

"When implemented, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will focus each deaf or hard of hearing child’s education program on that child’s unique language and communication needs, as intended by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” 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.

"The Cogswell-Macy Act brings much-needed reform to our schools we have not seen in decades. It empowers students who are deafblind to succeed in the 21st century American classroom,” said Mussie Gebre from DeafBlind Citizens in Action. “By providing them with essential support services such as interveners and qualified teachers to meet their unique needs, America ensures that they are able to communicate and learn effectively in order to achieve in school and lead independent and productive lives.”