Law Passes to Create Official Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council

We are happy to report that the Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council has now been officially sanctioned by law.

Advocates and community members gathered at the Statehouse to celebrate the passage of S.66 on Wednesday, May 4.

It was a time to recognize the efforts of the many stakeholders and legislators who worked together to pass this important legislation.

The final law creates a 25-member body, the purpose of which is “to promote diversity equality, awareness, and access among individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind.”

Up to sixteen people on the Council will be members of the public appointed by the Governor, including:

  • up to nine individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind;
  • parents or guardians of children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind; and
  • professionals who work with children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind.

The additional nine Advisory Council members will be representatives from:

  • state agencies including VocRehab, AOE, AHS, DCF-Children’s Integrated Services, and the Vermont EHDI program;
  • the Vermont Association of the Deaf;
  • the Vermont Superintendent’s Association; and
  • the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators.

The Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council has two primary purposes.

Its first purpose relates to children, and is most significant to Nine East Network’s mission.

The Council “shall assess the services, resources, and opportunities available to children in the State who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind.”  This includes making recommendations concerning:

“(A) the educational rights of children who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind, including full communication and language access in all educational environments and accessibility of qualified teachers, interpreters, and paraprofessionals;

 

(B) appropriate and ongoing educational opportunities that recognize each child’s unique learning needs, including access to a sufficient number of communication or language mode peers and exposure to adult role models who are Deaf; Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind;

 

(C) adequate family supports that promote both early development of communication skills and informed participation by parents and guardians in the education of their children;

 

(D) identification of all losses of or reductions in services arising from the closures of the Austine School for the Deaf and the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and evaluation of the adequacy of existing services and resources, as well as identification of those resources not currently available, adequate, or accessible to children;

 

(E) opportunities to restore and expand educational opportunities to children in the State who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind and their families; and

 

(F) appropriate data collections and reporting requirements concerning students with disabilities.”

 

The Vermont Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program operated by Nine East Network has been serving this population of students in all corners of the state since the closure of the VCDHH in 2014.

We are thrilled that the Advisory Council will bring greater focus and attention on these special students we serve.

The second purpose of the Council is to assess services, resources, and opportunities available to adults and elders in Vermont who are deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind.

We look forward to contributing to the important work of the Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council in the year ahead!