All About the Cogswell-Macy Act

Right now, a lot of people in the low vision and blindness community are talking about the Cogswell-Macy Act and how it can help students with disabilities. Today, I am answering common questions people may have about this bill, and explaining why it is so important.

Who is it named for?

The Cogswell-Macy act is named after two incredible women. Alice Cogswell was the first deaf student who helped to pioneer education for deaf and hard of hearing students. Anne Sullivan Macy was a blind student who, after her graduation from Perkins School for the Blind, became the teacher to Helen Keller, as well as her lifelong companion.

What is the Cogswell-Macy Act?

The Cogswell-Mact Act is a proposed bill that will allow for increased identification and education resources for students who have vision and/or hearing impairments. It is a bipartisan bill that was originally introduced in the House of Representatives.

When was it proposed?

The bill was originally proposed February 17, 2017. Many believe it should have been passed by now, however it can take months before a bill is voted on and becomes law.

Where is it being debated?

As of publishing time, the bill is currently in the House of Representatives and if it passes, it will be sent to the Senate. It has only been introduced, not voted on.

Why now?

More students are being identified with hearing and/or vision impairments, and schools need to have increased access to resources to help support these students. The Cogswell-Macy Act will help to make this possible and not only help existing students, but identify new cases of hearing and vision impairments.

Who does it affect?

The Cogswell-Macy Act affects students that are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, blind, or that have low vision, as well as those who are not yet identified. Students with 504 plans and IEPs for these conditions are included.

What does it provide?

The proposed bill would provide:

  •  Increased accountability and identification for students with these impairments- with less people slipping through the cracks
  • Increased monitoring of schools by the Department of Education
  • Resources at the state level for students
  • Students receiving services from qualified personnel
  • For students with vision impairments, there will be a new national collaborative initiative that will help support them

When will it be helpful?

This bill will help students in public schools, both who access the general and adapted curriculum. It will be especially helpful for early identification in grades K-3.

Where is there a difference?

The most noticeable differences will be right in the classroom. With an increase in staff members dedicated to serving students with hearing and/or vision impairments, as well as a national resource for students with vision impairments, this bill isn’t just something that helps states or counties. It directly benefits the students that need these services most.

Why should I call my representatives?

I’m glad you asked! Contacting representatives is a great way to make your voice heard. Elected officials receive far fewer calls about bills like this one, compared to ones like healthcare. Therefore, every call really does matter- your call could be the only one from your area. In case you’re nervous, read my posts on contacting senators here, and talking to politicians here.

The Cogswell-Macy Act is very important for students, and I know my school experience would have been different if these policies had been in place. So let’s pass this bill and help these students of today receive the best educational opportunities, and shape them into the advocates of tomorrow!


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