VT Senate Passes Bill Regarding Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing

On March 18, 2015, the Vermont Senate unanimously passed S.66, an Act Relating to Persons who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing.  Prior to passage, the original draft of the bill was amended and recommended by the Senate Committees on Government Operations and Appropriations.  In its current version, the bill now establishes a Task Force on Persons Who are Deaf, DeafBlind, or Hard of Hearing, whose purpose is to “assess and make recommendations concerning educational services, resources, and opportunities for children within the State who are deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing and their families” and to advise on policy and administration of related programs.  The Task Force will be a 15-member body within the Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living (DAIL).

Nine East Network is happy to see that the membership of the Task Force will include more people will direct expertise and experience with issues relating to this population.  The 15 members of the Task Force will include: 2 parents, 2 persons who provide professional services to this population, a professional Deaf education specialist, a member recommended by the Vermont Association for the Deaf, the Senior Counselor for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at DAIL, designees from the Agency of Education and the Agency of Human Services, a superintendent, and a special education administrator.  We believe this make-up will ensure that the full spectrum of viewpoints and expertise will be considered as the Task Force performs its important work.

The Task Force will need all of the support and resources possible in order to gather all of the necessary information to report to the legislature in January of 2016 as required by S.66.  In less than one year, this body is tasked with making the following:

-a comprehensive assessment of the educational services and resources presently available to children in VT who are deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing, and their families;
-a proposal to restore and expand educational opportunities for these children and their families;
-an evaluation of Austine School financing;
-a recommendation as to whether to adopt a Bill of Rights specific to persons who are deaf, DeafBlind, or hard of hearing;
-recommendations regarding the need for and potential structure of a State agency or division or other staffed entity responsible for overseeing concerns of this population;
-an assessment of whether paraprofessionals working with this population are sufficiently qualified and receive adequate training; and
-an assessment of and recommendations regarding the needs of persons in Vermont who are DeafBlind, including the needs of children who are DeafBlind.

S.66 has now been referred to the House Committee on Human Services.  We will continue to post updates on this legislation as it moves forward.

The full text of the bill as passed by the Senate can be found by clicking here.