The Cogswell-Macy Act Hill Day, February 28, 2018, was an activity of Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), the American Foundation for the Blind, National Association of the Deaf, and other advocacy partners. Our heartfelt thanks go to Barbara Raimondo, Executive Director of CEASD, who helped us coordinate the registration process with participants from schools for the Deaf and other advocacy groups in the Deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) community. In addition, she made office visits, recruited attendees from the DHH community, and facilitated communication—the list could go on. Barbara's leadership was an integral part of making the event so successful.

Our day started bright and early at 8:30 a.m., in the Rayburn House office building on Capitol Hill for a legislative briefing on advocacy issues. From AFB, Mark Richert, Kirk Adams, Rebecca Sheffield, and Sarah Malaier presented.

Rebecca and Sarah ran the registration table with help from volunteers fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and provided each group with schedule information and leave-behind materials for their office visits.

Staff from Rep. McKinley, Rep. Cartwright, Sen. Markey, and Sen. Capito’s offices spoke to the assembled advocates, which included people from the previous Education and Advocacy Summit day as well as community members from across the U.S.

AFB’s Kirk Adams, Adrianna Montague, Rachel Schreiber, Sarah Malaier, and Rebecca Sheffield participated in office visits. Let's look at the visits by the numbers:

  • 70 appointments were scheduled with House and Senate offices
  • 39 visits were made with Senate offices, including several visits directly with Senators—Senator Murray (WA), Senator Hatch (UT), Senator Cantwell (WA), Senator Jones (AL), Senator Cochran (MS), Senator Young (IN), and Senator Warren (MA).
  • 57 adults + 63 students = 120 attendees for the Hill Day

Students with visual impairments from Louisiana (Lighthouse Louisiana) and Utah (Utah School for the Blind) met with their senators and representatives. One Utah student when asked what he found most surprising about the experience replied that he was surprised that the staffers “actually listened to us!” and were interested in what the students had to say!

We are hopeful we will see many new House and Senate sponsors as a result of all the great advocacy efforts from students, parents, professionals, and other advocates. We wrapped up the day with a debriefing "happy hour" at the Thunder Grill at Union Station, where students and adults were excitedly sharing about their meetings.

Thanks again to Sean Tikkun, who volunteered with covering meetings and assisting students, and to everyone who participated in our day of advocacy!

Kirk Adams Speaking at the Education Advocacy Summit 2018

During the event, AFB President & CEO, Kirk Adams, gave a short speech detailing his personal experience of being a student with a visual impairment and the advocacy efforts he encountered along the way.


Kirk Adams: Good morning, everybody! And thanks so much for being here, and for your hard work and dedication to improve the opportunities for education for our kids. I have some very special, personal reasons to support this work.

I was a sighted kid until I was 5 years old and both of my retinas detached when I was in kindergarten. At that point in time, the option was to go to a state residential school. So I went to a state residential school for blind children in the state of Oregon for first, second, and third grades, and had a wonderful education in blindness skills – learned to read and write braille, and use the white cane, and type on a typewriter, and use an abacus, and got the skills I needed so I could begin in public school in my hometown with my brother and sister in fourth grade when I was nine years old.

And I was always the only blind student in the schools that I attended from fourth grade through college. This was prior to the ADA, and I had to fight and scrap and scrape and advocate to get what I needed. I was fortunate that my parents were both teachers, public school teachers, and they were strong advocates for me.

But I talk to lots of parents who have dreams and visions for their children, and don't have a clear path forward, and don't know how to ensure that their child gets the education that they deserve. And these kids—our blind kids or deaf kids or deafblind kids—it's hit or miss. Are they in a school district that has some experience? Do they happen to have a TVI or support person in the classroom who has the skills needed. Are they born into a family that has those advocacy skills and the resources to carry on that fight? And we don't want it to be hit or miss. We want all of our kids to have the same opportunity to receive the education they deserve.

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