Landmark Legislation to Provide Improved Education for Students with Visual and Hearing Impairments Introduced into U.S. House

The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act to provide special education for every child who is blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing

Feb 14, 2014, 13:30 ET from American Foundation for the Blind

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) announced today the introduction of H.R. 4040­—the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act­, the most comprehensive special education legislation for students with visual or hearing disabilities to date.

"Right now, our schools are not prepared to help children who are visually impaired or hearing impaired develop to their fullest potential, and we are determined to change that," said Paul Schroeder, vice president of programs and policy at AFB. "H.R. 4040 would provide vital resources and establish requirements to help students with visual or hearing impairments excel in the classroom, at home, and in their communities."

The legislation would ensure:

  • Every child who is deaf and every child who is blind, regardless of whether they have additional disabilities, will be properly counted and served
  • Each of a child's unique learning needs will be properly evaluated
  • States will engage in strategic planning to be sure that they can in fact meet each child's specialized needs
  • The U.S. Department of Education will do its part to hold states and schools accountable
  • Students who are deaf will be served by qualified personnel
  • Students who are blind will receive state-of-the-art services and skills supported through a new major national collaborative initiative addressing their unique learning needs  

Introduced by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Mark Takano (D-CA) and Steve Stockman (R-TX), H.R. 4040 combines into one bill two pieces of formally draft-only legislation, the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, named for Helen Keller's beloved teacher and advocated by a broad coalition of national, regional and community-based organizations representing vision loss; and the Alice Cogswell Act, named for the first deaf girl to be educated in a school for the deaf in the United States and advocated by America's leading deafness and hard of hearing organizational voices.

"Children with visual impairments or hearing impairments are slipping through the cracks and not receiving the specialized services and support needed to thrive in the classroom," said Mark Richert, director of public policy at AFB.  "It's been almost 40 years since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted; we're not going to wait another 40 years before the needs of blind and deaf students are met in our schools."   

AFB is urging everyone to contact their member of the U.S. House of Representatives to ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4040. Doing so will help ensure that the nation's special education system is worthy of the enormous potential of every child who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. To locate your representative, visit the House of Representative's contact page and enter in your zip code.

About the Anne Sullivan Macy Act
The Anne Sullivan Macy Act was initially drafted by the American Foundation for the Blind. On June 27, 2013, the anniversary of Helen Keller's birth, AFB held a national call-in day, wherein hundreds of phone calls, emails, and texts poured in from across the nation, from parents, professionals, and people with disabilities, to the U.S. Congress with a simple message: Our special education system's promise of a truly appropriate education for students who are blind or visually impaired, and students who are deaf or hard of hearing, can only be kept if we commit now to meeting each of our students' unique learning needs. As result, the most comprehensive legislation to enhance and reform the country's special education system for students with vision loss and students with hearing loss is now underway.

About the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Headquartered in New York, AFB is proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB.

SOURCE American Foundation for the Blind