Deaf Advocates Urge Senate Gov Ops to Pass S.66

In consideration of S.66, the Senate Committee on Government Operations heard testimony from over a dozen interested persons, including deaf advocates, parents of deaf children, education specialists, and agency officials.  Throughout the testimony, Senate Chair Jeanette White (D-Windham) and the entire committee demonstrated their genuine interest in addressing the challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing community following the closure of the Austine School and the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  The committee took testimony on February 19, February 25, and March 10.

First, the committee heard from experts at the Department of Health regarding early intervention efforts, including Nine East Network’s management of the Parent Infant Program.  Then, managers from the Agency of Education and the Department of DAIL/VocRehab, and special education administrators testified about services for school age children who are deaf and hard of hearing.  They discussed the services that were provided through the Austine School and the VCDHH, and outlined how they have managed to continue services despite the closing.  All of these speakers noted how Nine East Network has collaborated with the state agencies and special educators in operating the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program after the closure of the VCDHH.

Many deaf advocates were present to educate and engage the committee about issues faced by deaf, Deafblind, and hard of hearing children, families, and adults.  Their testimony was genuine, compelling, and effective.  All who testified before the committee encouraged passage of the bill, in order to address their very real concerns about the impact of the closure of VCDHH and the Austine campus on the deaf community in Vermont.  The committee adopted the vast majority of the advocates’ recommendations — making adjustments to address their particular needs and concerns.  Ultimately, the advocates helped shape a bill that marks an important first step in the process of evaluating statewide resources, services, and future needs for the deaf, Deafblind, and hard of hearing community.

To see copies of the handouts submitted to the committee and mark-ups of the bill, click here.