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Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, H.R. 1959, S. 813 (117th Congress)

On March 17, 2021, this bill was introduced on a bipartisan, bicameral basis.

This bill would amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to require a state to identify, evaluate, and provide special education and related services to children who have visual or hearing disabilities (or both) and also are, or may be, classified in another disability category. A state must ensure that it has enough qualified personnel to serve children who have such disabilities and that a full continuum of alternative placements is available to meet the needs of disabled children for special education and related services.

Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA-08) and David McKinley (R-WV-01), and U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure that visual and hearing-impaired students receive the best education possible.

The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act would improve services and educational opportunities for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind. The legislation will also enhance reporting and evaluation measures for special education in each state, increase training for teachers and other special education professionals, and reaffirm the Department of Education’s mission and responsibility to ensure an accessible and quality education for all students.

This bill is named after Alice Cogswell, the first deaf student that was formally educated in the United States, and Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s famous teacher.

“Thousands of students are learning with hearing or vision disabilities across the nation, and it’s critical that they have the tools they need to excel in the classroom. I’m proud to work alongside Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate on legislation to provide the equipment, services and training to ensure all students have the chance to reach their full potential,” said Rep. Cartwright.

“No student should feel academically sidelined due to a visual or hearing impairment. As someone who is hearing impaired, I understand how crucial it is to recognize and acknowledge the needs of the people with disabilities,” said Rep. McKinley. “This bipartisan legislation prioritizes supportive services to students who need them, ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn, grow, and reach their full potential.”

“This pandemic has made it crystal clear how challenging and vital it is to ensure that our students receive a quality education to help them develop, grow, and thrive. And few have faced more challenges continuing their learning through this crisis than our deaf, blind, and deaf-blind students,” said Senator Markey. “Our education agenda needs to reflect the nation’s shared belief that a quality education is a fundamental right for every student in the United StatesThe Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will improve access to personalized services and effective education for deaf, blind, and deaf-blind students across the nation and ensure that each is able to meet their fullest potential.” 

“Every child deserves access to a quality education, and students who are deaf or blind are no different,” said Senator Capito. “This legislation would bring much-needed improvements to ensure students who are visually or hearing impaired have access to the specialized educational resources necessary for learning and progress. I’m proud to work with Senator Markey in delivering personalized care to help thousands of students succeed.”

Specifically, the Cogswell-Macy Act would:

  • Require states to identify and evaluate children who are visually and hearing impaired so that appropriate services can be delivered to each student, and report instances when they fall short
  • Help parents and educators stay informed and up-to-date through written policy guidance released regularly from the Department of Education
  • Encourage states to plan for and commit to specialized instruction for all deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind students, provided by trained personnel
  • Establish the Anne Sullivan Macy Center of Vision Loss and Educational Excellence within the Department of Education to function as a national resource to better support students with visual disabilities

This legislation has been endorsed by the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), The National Intervener & Advocate Association (NIAA) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

“The passage of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act would ensure that our Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind and Deaf-Blind students have appropriately qualified and credentialed personnel and receive appropriate services. This bill goes a long way in making differences in the lives of these children and promoting a greater degree of intervention necessary to ensure that they lead successful and independent lives,” said Steven E. Farmer, EdD, CEO of the Programs of Western PA School for the Deaf and Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.

“Despite years of implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), deaf and hard of hearing students do not achieve outcomes commensurate with their abilities. All too often students lack the specialized supports, services, and environments they need. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will clarify what states, districts, and schools need to do to close these gaps. We are thrilled to see the bill re-introduced and are committed to seeing it move forward,” said Dr. David Geeslin, President of CEASD.

“It’s often wryly observed among our teacher members that of course Annie Sullivan was a miracle worker; she only had a caseload of one. But that’s why we’ve named our bill after Helen Keller’s hard working and much loved teacher. Doing right by our kids doesn’t take a miracle; it requires a national-, state-, district-, and classroom-level unrelenting commitment to honor each student’s God-given individuality, and that’s at heart what this bill is all about,” said Mark Richert, CEO of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER).

“We support the Cogswell-Macy Act because it includes language which calls for appropriately trained personnel to work with children and youth who are deaf-blind, including interveners and teachers of the deaf-blind. Interveners are a critical component of a Free and Appropriate Public Education for these children because they provide access to the visual and auditory information about people and things in the educational environment that is necessary for learning, interaction and overall development. The language in Cogswell-Macy designates intervener services as a related service under IDEA, and this is critical to improving outcomes for children and youth who are deaf-blind.” – The National Intervener & Advocate Association (NIAA)

The full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

Additional co-sponsors in the U.S. House are U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09), Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04), Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32), Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), Mike Doyle (D-PA-18), Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28), Mark Takano (D-CA-41), Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15) and Del. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam).

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) are also co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate.