Cogswell-Macy Act (H.R. 1120) Introduced in the House; AFB and Partners Urge Immediate Action from Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 22, 2017 – The most comprehensive bipartisan federal legislation aimed at improving special education for students with sensory disabilities took another historic step toward enactment last week, drawing strong praise from the leadership of the American Foundation for the Blind. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, named for two iconic figures in the hearing and vision loss communities, was re-introduced in the House last week as H.R. 1120 by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and David McKinley (R-WV).

"This bipartisan bill will help the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) keep its promise of a free and appropriate education for all students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind," said AFB Public Policy Director, Mark Richert. "We've done a good job of getting students with disabilities in our nation's neighborhood schools, but we haven't done nearly enough to make sure that students with sensory disabilities have the teachers, tools, and techniques they need to be successful once they get in the schoolhouse door."

In addition to the bill’s strong bipartisan support, the legislation is being promoted by more than 100 major national, regional, and community-based organizations representing teachers, parents, consumers, school administrators, and other advocates.

Once enacted, the Cogswell-Macy Act will ensure that every student with a sensory disability will be properly counted, taught, and evaluated in accordance with their unique educational needs.

“These students are not getting adequately served today,” Richert said. “We congratulate Reps Cartwright and McKinley for bridging the partisan divide in recognition of such a critical unmet need.”

To urge swift action on the bill, leading groups from across the sensory disabilities communities, along with AFB, will be on Capitol Hill on March 1.

AFB and the Virginia Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) have designated the date Cogswell-Macy Act Hill Day and will educate members of Congress on the merits of the legislation. The Hill event will kick off the 2017 AFB-AER joint leadership conference taking place in the nation’s capital from March 2-4.

"It's long past time that we make sure that kids who are blind or visually impaired are provided an education that is worthy of their tremendous potential," Richert said. “We’ve waited for more than 40 years for our special education system to do right by our kids and we’re not waiting any longer."