by Melanie Brunson
On Feb. 12th, ACB was very pleased to issue a statement to the press praising members of the U.S. House of Representatives on their introduction of H.R. 4040, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. The bill was introduced by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Steve Stockman (R-Tex.). H.R. 4040 seeks to improve the delivery of appropriate special education and related services to all students in the U.S. who are blind or visually impaired, as well as students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
ACB president Kim Charlson said of this legislation, "This is a momentous day for the blind community. The introduction of this bill is a critical first step to ensuring that the special education system can be transformed in a manner that will truly allow for blind or visually impaired students to succeed in a 21st-century climate."
H.R. 4040 will:
- Ensure that blind or visually impaired students, regardless of additional disabilities, are properly counted and served;
- Expect states to conduct strategic planning, and commit such planning to writing, to guarantee that all students who are blind or visually impaired within each state receive all specialized instruction and services needed by students with vision loss provided by properly trained personnel;
- Clarify that proper evaluation of students who are blind or visually impaired includes evaluation for students' needs for instruction in communication and productivity (including braille instruction, and assistive technology proficiency inclusive of low-vision devices where appropriate); self-sufficiency and interaction (including orientation and mobility, self-determination, sensory efficiency, socialization, recreation and fitness, and independent living skills); along with age-appropriate career education;
- Ramp up U.S. Department of Education responsibilities to monitor and report on states' compliance with their obligations with respect to instruction and services provided to students who are blind or visually impaired;
- Assist parents and educators of students who are blind or visually impaired through regular and up-to-date written policy guidance from the U.S. Department of Education; and
- Establish a national collaborative organizational resource, the Anne Sullivan Macy Center on Vision Loss and Educational Excellence, to proliferate evidence-based practices in the education of students who are blind or visually impaired, to keep special educators current with the latest instructional methods, and to supplement state and local educational agency provisions.
Finally, a note about the individuals for whom this legislation is named. Anne Sullivan Macy is fondly remembered as having been Helen Keller's teacher, and Alice Cogswell was the first deaf girl to be educated at a school for the deaf in the United States.
If you would like more information about this legislation, feel free to contact Eric Bridges in the ACB Arlington office. His e-mail address is [email protected]. You can call him at (202) 467-5081, or 1-800-424-8666.
It is our hope that a similar piece of legislation will be introduced in the U.S. Senate soon. It has been several years since any concerted effort has been made to improve the special education services provided to students with disabilities in the U.S. Both houses of Congress now have an opportunity to change that trend and pave the way for greater opportunity for many of these students.