S.66 Passes Out of House Committee on Human Services

Vermont is one step closer to having an officially-sanctioned Vermont Advisory Council for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind, thanks to the House Committee on Human Services action on S.66.

This week, the House Committee on Human Services received testimony from many of the agency heads who have been involved in the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council meetings since the fall of 2015.

The bill received unanimous support from the Agency of Human Services, Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living, the Agency of Education, and the Department of Health/Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Project.

[Click here to see NEN’s previous blog posts about the work of the Advisory Council.]

The bill establishes the Vermont Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Advisory Council “to promote diversity, equality, awareness, and access among individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or DeafBlind.”

Make-up of the council will include up to 16 individuals, including:

  • DAIL’s VocRehab Senior Counselor for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • an appointee from the Agency of Education
  • an appointee from the Agency of Human Services
  • an appointee from DCF’s Children’s Integrated Services
  • the EHDI Project Director
  • a Vermont Association of the Deaf representative
  • an appointee from the Vermont Superintendent’s Association
  • an appointee from the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators
  • up to 9 people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind.

Under S.66, as passed by the House Committee on Human Services, the Advisory Council will be required to assess services, resources, and opportunities available to deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind children, adults, and elders.

Each January, the Council will report to several legislative committees and the Governor with its findings and recommendations.  By January of 2017, it must also prepare findings and recommendations about regulating interpreters through the Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation.

AOE Secretary Rebecca Holcombe affirmed the dedication of the members of the council who have participated thus far.  She also stated, “It is our hope that this group of committed individuals will be appointed by the Governor to continue the good work that was started this year.”

Bill Hudson, DAIL’s Coordinator for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services, also recognized the commitment of the current members of the Council as follows:

“Throughout this process the Council has recognized the need to take extra steps and go further with our work to not only recognize school age children but to visit the broader picture involved, the lifespan of services from birth to elderly.”

Hudson also noted that “this Council will work with State government and the grassroots community to review and access support to strengthen services for full access, diversity, and to promote awareness for lifespan development.”

All of the pertinent agencies also testified that the costs of the meetings have been absorbed into their individual budgets, and will not require additional budgetary funds to continue the Council’s work.

The bill has now been sent to the House Appropriations Committee.  Given the agencies’ statements about funding, hopefully the Appropriations Committee will approve the bill swiftly, to allow a full House of Representatives vote on S.66 before the close of the session.

 The current text of S.66 can be found here.

Stay tuned on the Nine East Network Blog for more updates about S.66!