Historic Introduction of the Most Comprehensive Special Education Legislation for Blind/Visually Impaired and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students

H.R. 4040: The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act

"We've waited forty years; we're not waiting another forty!"

Last year, on June 27, the Anniversary of Helen Keller's birth, a remarkable event took place. On that day, hundreds upon hundreds of phone calls, emails, and text messages came from all across America from parents, professionals, and people with disabilities; they came to the U.S. Congress with one simple call: Our special education system's promise of a truly appropriate education for students who are blind or visually impaired, and students who are deaf or hard of hearing, can only be kept if we commit now to meeting each of our students' unique learning needs.

Today, as a direct result of your call to Congress, the most comprehensive legislation to enhance and reform America's special education system for students with vision loss and students with hearing loss has been introduced. H.R. 4040, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, once enacted, will ensure that: every child who is deaf and every child who is blind, regardless of whether they have additional disabilities, will be properly counted and served; each of a child's unique learning needs will be properly evaluated; states will engage in strategic planning to be sure that they can in fact meet each child's specialized needs; the U.S. Department of Education will do its part to hold states and schools accountable; students who are deaf will be served by qualified personnel; and students who are blind will receive state-of-the-art services and skills supported through a new major national collaborative initiative addressing their unique learning needs.

Introduced by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Steve Stockman (R-TX), H.R. 4040 combines into one bill two pieces of formally draft-only legislation, the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, named for Helen Keller's beloved teacher and advocated by a broad coalition of national, regional and community-based organizations representing vision loss, and the Alice Cogswell Act, named for the first deaf girl to be educated in a school for the deaf in the United States and advocated by America's leading deafness and hard of hearing organizational voices.

Advocates are urged to contact your member of the U.S. House of Representatives to ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4040 today! Tell them that by doing so, they will be helping to make history by ensuring that America's special education system is worthy of the enormous potential of every child who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. Tell them that by joining in this campaign, they will help us transform a nearly-forty-year-old system from one that has indeed broken down barriers to the school house door to a system that finally ensures that blind or deaf kids will get the education they deserve once they get inside. We've waited forty years; we're not waiting another forty; pass H.R. 4040!

Advocates should stay tuned to this newsletter and to www.AFB.org/MacyAct for more information and regular updates as the Cogswell/Macy Act progresses. Thank you for your advocacy for children and youth with sensory disabilities!

For further information, contact:

Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy, AFB
(202) 469-6833