Cogswell-Macy Bill (HR 3535) Introduced!

On September 17, 2015, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, H.R. 3535 was introduced in the United States Congress.  Backed by bipartisan sponsors, this bill aims to provide comprehensive improvements to special education services for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, visually impaired, or DeafBlind.  This is a response to a call from special educators, families, and advocates who are concerned that the current special education system is not adequately tracking or addressing the unique needs of these populations of students.

The stated purposes of the Act are:

  1. To better ensure delivery of high quality special education and related services to students with visual disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing or who are deaf-blind through specialized instructional services and methodologies designed to meet their unique language, communication, and learning needs.
  2. To better ensure delivery of high quality early intervention services to infants and toddlers who are deaf or hard of hearing or who are deaf-blind and their families through specialized services and methodologies designed to meet their unique language, communication, and other developmental needs.
  3. To foster the proliferation of research supporting the development and evaluation of effective and innovative assessments and instructional methodologies consonant with the unique learning needs of students with visual disabilities.
  4. To enhance accountability for the provision of such services.
  5. To support the development of personnel serving students with visual disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing or who are deaf-blind.

The act is named for Helen Keller’s noted teacher, Ann Sullivan Macy, and the first deaf woman to be educated in a school for the deaf in America, Alice Cogswell.  2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and H.R. 3535 attempts to correct some inadequacies in the current legislative framework as it relates to deaf, hard of hearing, visually-impaired, and DeafBlind students.

The full text of the bill can be found by clicking here.  Suggestions for taking action in support of the bill are provided by the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf, among others.