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Reps. Cartwright and Rutherford Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Children with Hearing and Vision Disabilities

Markey and Capito leading companion legislation in the Senate

Today, U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and John Rutherford (R-FL-05) and U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), reintroduced the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act which would strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and ensure that blind, deaf, deafdisabled, and deafblind children receive the same education as their peers, and are able to achieve and thrive.

All too often, students with hearing and vision disabilities miss out on critical information in the classroom, leaving room for gaps in their education. Named for the first deaf student to be formally educated in the U.S. and for Helen Keller’s beloved teacher, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act would shine a light on the unique educational needs of these students and enhance accountability.

The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act would improve services and educational opportunities for students who are blind, deaf, deafdisabled, or deafblind. The legislation would also enhance reporting and evaluation measures for 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.

“A high-quality education is about opening the doors of opportunity for every child in our nation, including those with hearing and vision disabilities. I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort to provide the resources, full range of services, and personnel training, to ensure every single student has the chance to reach their full potential in our education system,” said Rep. Cartwright.

Specifically, the Cogswell-Macy Act would:

·   Ensure that every blind or visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, deafdisabled, or deafblind, student is properly identified and served, regardless of the disability they are categorized under;

·   Strengthen existing IDEA requirements regarding state-generated strategic plans to guarantee that students receive specialized instruction from qualified personnel and bolster accountability measures to ensure compliance;

·   Assist parents and educators with up-to-date policy resources from the Department of Education; and

·   Establish a national collaborative organizational resource to proliferate evidence-based practices.

This legislation has been endorsed by the Lackawanna Blind Association, Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children Alabama Association of the Deaf, Alaska State School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Alliance of and for Visually Impaired Texans, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB), American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, American Society for Deaf Children, Arkansas Empowering Families with DeafBlindness, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Beginnings SC, California School for the Deaf, Riverside Center on Deafness Inland Empire, Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization, CHARGE Syndrome Foundation, Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf, Cleary School for the Deaf, Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, Communication Service for the Deaf, Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf, Council for Exceptional Children – Division on Visual Impairments and Deafblindness, Council for Exceptional Children – Division for Communication, Language, and Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Council of Schools and Services for the Blind, Deaf Community Services of San Diego, Deaf Focus, DeafBlind Camp of Texas, DeafBlind Citizens in Action, Deafblind Services Minnesota, Flagler College, Florida & Virgin Islands Deaf-Blind Collaborative, Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Gallaudet University Alumni Association, GLAD, Inc., Global Foundation for Peroxisomal Disorders, Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, Inc., Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind, Illinois Advocates for the DeafBlind, Indiana School for the Deaf, Iowa Association of the Deaf, Iowa School for the Deaf, Jayne’s Interpreting LLC, Kansas School for the Deaf, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Lafayette Athletic Association of the Deaf, Lexington School & Center for the Deaf, Lighthouse Louisiana, Louisiana Association of the Deaf, Maryland School for the Deaf, Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and the Blind, Missouri Deaf-Blind Technical Assistance Project, Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, National Association of the Deaf, National Braille Press, National Coalition on Deafblindness, National DeafBlind Intervener Initiative, National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (NFADB), National Intervener Association, New Mexico School for the Deaf, Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, New York Institute for Special Education, Noah’s Endeavor, Inc.: Inclusive Community Recreation, North Dakota School for the Deaf, North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Persons, Oklahoma School for the Deaf, Orange County Deaf Equal Access Foundation, Overbrook School for the Blind, Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter, Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (Penn-Del AER), Pennsylvania Partnership for the Deafblind, Perkins School for the Blind, Pinellas Public Library Cooperative – Deaf Literacy Center, Rhode Island School for the Deaf, Rochester School for the Deaf, Salish Sea Deaf School, , South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, South Dakota School for the Deaf, South Dakota Association of the Deaf, St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf in Brooklyn, St. Rita School for the Deaf, Statewide Programs for the Deaf, HH, Deaf-Blind; Delaware School for the Deaf, Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), Texas Association of the Deaf, Texas Chargers, The Learning Center for the Deaf, The Programs of Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, The Radical Middle Project, Transformative Deaf Education, Tri-County GLAD, Two Spirits, Usher Syndrome Coalition, Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, VisionServe Alliance, and the Willie Ross School for the Deaf.

“As the representative for the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and as Co-Chair of the Congressional Deaf Caucus, I have advocated for Deaf and hard of hearing Americans throughout my career in Congress,” said Rep. Rutherford. “My experience with Deaf and hard of hearing students across my district has taught me how valuable equitable access to education can be for individuals with disabilities. I am proud to join Representative Cartwright and our colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan, bicameral Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, which would improve education and services for children and youth who are blind, visually impaired, Deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind. Every student deserves to learn in an environment that suits their needs.”

“It’s plain and simple: all students deserve an education system that provides the full support they need to learn and thrive,” said Senator Markey. “The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will ensure that we are following through on the promises of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by guaranteeing deaf or hard of hearing, blind or low vision, deafblind, and deafdisabled students the specialized instruction and qualified personnel they need to succeed in public schools. I thank Representatives Cartwright and Rutherford and Senator Capito for their efforts to ensure that our country’s education system is fair, just, and equitable for all.”

“Accessing the appropriate services can help each student reach their fullest potential,” said Senator Capito. “The Cogswell-Macy Act will help accomplish this goal by helping ensure deaf and blind students and their parents are aware of the services and specialized instruction available. I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that will help thousands of students across the country.”

“The ultimate purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was and is to promote equitable access to education everywhere for children with disabilities, and this bill will address some much needed updates and gaps especially when it comes to addressing the current challenges in achieving age-appropriate language milestones among deaf, hard of hearing, deafdisabled and deafblind children, including increased accountability for educational placements and data collection," said Jeff Bravin, CEO, American School for the Deaf, and President, CEASD.

"As the oldest educational administrator organization in the United States, the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) is committed to ensuring equity in education, language and culture in all deaf, hard of hearing, deafdisabled, and deafblind students, and this latest version of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will be vital in achieving that," said Luanne Barron, EdD, Superintendent of the Kansas School for the Deaf.

“The Cogswell-Macy Act has always been intended to revolutionize special education in this country for kids with sensory disabilities,” said Mark Richert, Esq., President-Elect of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and one of the primary architects of the draft legislation first introduced in the 113th Congress. “It’s long past time for America’s special education law to be modernized to meet the needs of our kids, and the significant refresh of the Cogswell-Macy Act being introduced today makes the bill even more relevant and responsive both to the chronic challenges and the changing times.”

“Helen Keller, the most well-known individual with deafblindness, benefited from the services of Anne Sullivan who gave Helen access to information about people and things in her environment.  That was critical to Helen’s ability to learn, communicate, and function in the world. Today, students who are deafblind can receive similar services from individuals with training and specialized skills in deafblindness called interveners.  The language in Title III of Cogswell-Macy designates intervener services as a related service under IDEA. Recognizing interveners as related service providers will facilitate national awareness of the critical need for intervener services, support systems change at state and local levels, and result in significant and life-changing benefits for children and youth who are deafblind and their families,” said The National Intervener & Advocate Association (NIAA).

“NFADB exists to empower the voices of families with individuals who are DeafBlind,” said The National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (NFADB). “Our families know that we do not have a law to protect our children. Families are at the mercy of their school districts because there is no law that says our children are entitled to qualified personnel trained to teach our children. IDEA currently requires Teachers of Deaf / Hard of Hearing or Teachers of Blind/Visually Impaired but does not require a Teacher of DeafBlind. We need both Teachers of DeafBlind and Interveners. Interveners will provide access to the information provided by the teacher. The Cogswell-Macy Act will meet this need!

The full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

Additional co-sponsors in the U.S. House are U.S. Reps. John Rutherford (R-FL-05), Colin Allred (D-TX-32), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), Cori Bush (D-MO-01), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA-29), André Carson (D-IN-07), John Carter (R-TX-31), Sean Casten (D-IL-06), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30), Donald G. Davis (D-NC-01), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-37), Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-07), Josh Harder (D-CA-09), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (D-GA-04), Summer Lee (D-PA-12), Ted Lieu (D-CA-36), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY-11), Morgan McGarvey (D-KY-03), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Marcus J. Molinaro (R-NY-19), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Joseph Morelle (D-NY-25), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-31), Eleanor Norton (D-DC-01), Scott Peters (D-CA-50), Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08), Deborah Ross (D-NC-02), Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Terri A. Sewell (D-AL-07), Eric Swalwell (D-CA-14), Mark Takano (D-CA-39), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-12), Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), David Trone (D-MD-06), Susan Wild (D-PA-07).

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) are also co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate